June 22, 2011

DOE Public Comment Period Extended Indefinitely

In response to suggestions from the Northern Pass applicants that a new route from Canada to New England for the proposed high voltage powerline and towers is likely to be presented, the Department of Energy has left open indefinitely the already extended public comment period that was to close June 14. Comments are being solicited from the public about what should be included in a required Environmental Impact Satement as part of the process for a Presidential Permit, which is required for the proposed powerlines to cross the international boundary.

As a reminder, here is how to submit comments:

You may mail, call, fax or email them to:

Brian Mills
Senior Planning Advisor
Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE-20)
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20585
Phone: 202-586-8267; FAX: 202-586-8008
Email: Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov
Or you may email comments to: info@northernpasseis.us

Forest Society Submits Written Comments

In addition to the verbal testimony offered by President/Forester Jane Difley at the DOE scoping hearing in Pembroke, NH, in March, the Forest Society submitted written comments concerning the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement. Those comments can be read here.

June 10, 2011

WMUR: Mega-Utility Project Faces Many Hurdles

Given that Northeast Utilities CEO Charles Shivery stated in an earnings call for investors and industry analysts on May 6 that they "continue to expect to begin construction [of the Northern Pass transmission line] in 2013 and to complete it by the end of 2015", one wonders if Martin Murray's comments at the end of this recent WMUR Channel 9 story signals a realization that their timetable is unrealistic under the best of circumstances.

June 2, 2011

Senate Delays Action on Eminent Domain Bill

The NH Senate voted 14-10 today to re-refer HB648, the bill that attempts to clarify the constitutional protections against the use of eminent domain for private development and the standards that public utilities would need to meet in order to petition for the use of eminent domain for power transmission projects.

This was despite an admirable effort on the part of Sen. Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith) to marshall support for an amendment to HB648 that could have provided landowner relief while minimizing concerns over unintended consequences.

While landowners facing the explicity threat of eminent domain by Northern Pass representatives were disappointed that the Senate did not provide them immediate relief, the debate over the use of eminent domain served to shine a bright light on process and questionable presumption by PSNH that eminent domain will be at their disposal for the proposed. Northern Pass project.

In fact, it would appear more evident than ever that Northern Pass, LLC, and its participant-funded proposal for a 180-mile transmission line would not have a clear path for the use of eminent domain thanks to Article 12a of the state contitution. As Sen. Jeb Bradley R-Wolfeboro) argued, the use of eminent domain by Northern Pass will be fought in the courts for a very long time regardless of the ultimate outcome of HB648. Bradley was among those who voted to re-refer the bill.

But to the extent that landowners should not have to empty their savings to protect their private property rights in the courts against a taking by a corporations such as Northeast Utilities (parent company of PSNH and partner with Hydro-Quebec in Northern Pass), the Senate would do well to follow through with their stated intent to take some time to find the right wording to clarify existing RSAs (notably 371:1) dealing with the use of eminent domain by public utilities.

An AP story by Kathy McCormack can be read here. An editorial on eminent domain and HB648 in the Union Leader can be read here. Paula Tracy's story in the Union Leader previewing the Senate debate on HB648 can be read here.