Frequently Asked Questions about Northern Pass

What is Northern Pass?

Northern Pass is a high-voltage transmission line being proposed by Canadian utility Hydro-Quebec in partnership with Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities, which owns Public Service of New Hampshire (PSNH). It would be for the exclusive use of Hydro-Quebec to export electricity.

Who determines whether Northern Pass will be built?

The project would require a Presidential Permit from the US Department of Energy to cross the international boundary. It also would need a Special Use Permit issued by the U.S. Forest Service to cross through two sections of the White Mountain National Forest. The project would also require a permit via the State of New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. Northern Pass has applied for the Presidential Permit and Special Use Permit, but has not yet submitted an application to the Site Evaluation Committee.

Can Northern Pass, LLC, use eminent domain?

Not according to the New Hampshire State Constitution (Article 12a). However, Northern Pass representatives have claimed that they have an unrestricted right to use public roads to bury the line if they so choose, despite private landowners owning the land underneath those roads. According to Northern Pass, they could bury transmission lines on any road, anywhere, at any time. The Forest Society and its attorneys do not agree, believing that such use would require eminent domain. It’s an issue that will likely need to be settled in court.

Is this power needed today?

Northern Pass is an “elective” transmission project, meaning that there has been no determination of need for this project. In other words, it is not needed to keep the lights on in New England. It would be built ‘on spec’—the developers hope that if they are allowed to build it they can compete with local power producers to sell the imported electricity.

Isn’t there already a power line corridor running through New Hampshire from Canada to Massachusetts?

Yes, and it transmits power from Hydro-Quebec. It is controlled by a competitor to the corporation behind Northern Pass (Northeast Utilities).

Is the power destined for New Hampshire?

New Hampshire already generates more electricity than it uses, and projected electricity demand has been trending downward. Potential demand for Northern Pass electricity in the future is in southern New England.

Is this a “green” energy project?

No. Despite Northern Pass’s claims, no environmental organization has endorsed the project. The Conservation Law Foundation, the Appalachian Mountain Club, the NH Chapter of the Nature Conservancy as well as the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests actively oppose Northern Pass.

Will Northern Pass help climate change by reducing carbon?

There is no guarantee that Northern Pass would reduce carbon. PSNH has consistently refused to discuss the potential shut-down of its own coal-fired plants in Bow and Portsmouth, NH. There is no guarantee that electricity transmitted on the proposed line would even be renewable.

Why is PSNH behind this project?

In addition to being a subsidiary of the Connecticut-based Northeast Utilities (which stands to earn hundreds of millions of dollars from the project), PSNH would likely realize revenue from leasing a right-of-way to Northern Pass. For them, it is a real estate deal.

What about jobs?

Interestingly, chambers of commerce along the proposed route have opposed Northern Pass, having concluded that it will harm local tourism, real estate and local energy economies. Alternatives, including burial along transportation corridors, would likely create as many or more construction jobs.

Can this proposed transmission line be buried?

The current proposed route includes 8 miles of underground powerline under state and town roads. Similar projects in New York and Maine are proposed as underground transmission lines. Northern Pass has said that it would be too expensive to bury it—although they have not done an estimate of the cost to bury along state-owned transportation corridors.

Would the state of New Hampshire benefit financially if lines were buried under state roads?

Likely yes, with revenue potentially available to fund ongoing road improvements.

Why have 31 towns voted to oppose Northern Pass despite the promises of tax revenues?

Citizens in towns along the proposed routes have concluded not only that the tax promises are overstated (and fail to consider the loss in property values associated with the more than 1,500 towers that would be built), but that the negatives outweigh any perceived benefits of the project.

Why does the Forest Society oppose Northern Pass as proposed?

As a land trust, the Forest Society has a legal and ethical obligation to defend conserved lands. The Northern Pass transmission line would directly affect the White Mountain National Forest, three of our own Forest Reservations, and dozens of other conservation parcels. The Forest Society has a long history of protecting New Hampshire’s scenic landscapes.