January 14, 2014

Why Passing House Bill 569 is a Good Idea

HB 569 is a good first step toward recognizing that there are new burial technologies that can mitigate the adverse impacts of large new overhead transmission facilities. It also makes a clear statement that New Hampshire should join with our neighboring states to encourage the use of these new technologies to protect our natural landscapes from degradation.

You can read an op-ed written by Sugar Hill resident Nancy Martland,
HB569: Buried Lines Should Be the Preferred Option about the bill.
The House Committee on Science, Technology & Energy overwhelmingly voted to recommend “Ought To Pass” for HB 569 after considerable public testimony and Committee deliberation. 

The bill as recommended provides the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (established in RSA 162-H) with guidance on siting of new electricity transmission lines, guidance which recognizes the value of New Hampshire natural landscapes statewide. 
Here's the text of HB569:
New Section;  Criteria for Approving Transmission Lines for Certificates.  Amend  RSA 162-H by inserting after section 2 the following new section:
162-H:2-a  Criteria for Approving  Transmission Lines  for  Certificates.  In  determining that  a transmission line  as  described  in  RSA 162-H:2, VII(d)  and  (e) meets  the  criteria for  a certificate under this chapter, the committee shall  take into consideration the following:
I. Use of existing public rights  of way, or, when unavailable, of private rights of way shall be the preferred, but not required, option for locating all new electric transmission lines.
II.  Burial  of electric  transmission lines shall be the preferred, but not required, option for all elective electric transmission lines with supports over 50 feet.
III.   The committee  may  presume  that  any line  not required for system  reliability and  not proposed  to be substantially buried  will have  an  unreasonably adverse  effect  on  aesthetics.    The applicant may, by a preponderance of the evidence, demonstrate that  an above-ground line should be approved   due  to  particular  circumstances, including   but  not  limited   to,  engineering  feasibility, adverse   environmental impact,  substantially  disproportionate cost  factors,   and  lack  of negative impact for the route involved.
HB 569 does not mandate burial of any transmission lines.  Specifically the bill says the SEC shall “take into consideration” in its determination of whether a new transmission project should be permitted the following:

o   The new line should consider using existing publicly owned rights of way for new transmission facilities

o   Burial should be the preferred option for elective transmission lines which would otherwise require above ground towers in excess of 50 feet in height (tree line)

o   Consider the presumption that large new above ground transmission facilities not needed for reliability of the current electric grid will have an unreasonably adverse effect on aesthetics

·        If an applicant for a new transmission facility can demonstrate to the SEC that a preponderance of the evidence warrants that a new elective transmission line should be built above ground rather than underground this bill explicitly provides the authority of the SEC to make such a finding.

·        New Hampshire presently hosts approximately 1400 miles of existing transmission lines.  HB 569 will have no impact on these lines.

·        New Hampshire presently hosts approximately 18,000 linear miles of existing distribution lines, the lines that move electricity to end users.  HB 569 will have no impact on these lines.  

·        HB 569 only applies to new transmission lines, and the burial provision (again not a mandate) only applies to new transmission lines that are elective, those facilities not needed to serve the reliability of the electric grid.