Northern Pass dealt a regulatory blow

NH committee postpones decision on transmission project

A NEW HAMPSHIRE REGULATORY AGENCY said on Thursday it won’t be able to meet its Sept. 30 deadline for making a go-no go decision on Eversource’s Northern Pass transmission project. The agency is now promising an oral decision by the end of February and a written decision a month later.

Eversource, which is vying for an enormous clean energy contract from the state of Massachusetts, has been telling Bay State officials that it would have all its permits for the transmission line in hand by the end of this year and be operational in 2020.

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s postponement raises some tricky issues for the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project, which is designed to carry hydroelectricity and/or wind power from Quebec into New England. Massachusetts officials are planning to select the winning bids for the clean energy contract on Jan. 25 and execute contracts with winners by March 27. While the New Hampshire postponement decision isn’t fatal to Northern Pass, it means Massachusetts officials will have to award the contract without knowing whether the project has cleared its major hurdle in New Hampshire.

Officials with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Commission did not return phone calls.

Kaitlyn Woods, a spokeswoman for Eversource, said the site evaluation committee postponed its decision to accommodate cross-examination requests from interveners. She said some of the cross-examination requests seem to be designed to delay the process, but she said Eversource was heartened by the evaluation committee’s willingness to pursue options to conclude the review earlier.

Despite the setback, Woods said Eversource officials remain confident the project will move ahead. ”

A New Hampshire regulatory agency said on Thursday it won’t be able to meet its Sept. 30 deadline for making a go-no go decision on Eversource’s Northern Pass transmission project. The agency is now promising an oral decision by the end of February and a written decision a month later.

Eversource, which is vying for an enormous clean energy contract from the state of Massachusetts, has been telling Bay State officials that it would have all its permits for the transmission line in hand by the end of this year and be operational in 2020.

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee’s postponement raises some tricky issues for the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project, which is designed to carry hydroelectricity and/or wind power from Quebec into New England. Massachusetts officials are planning to select the winning bids for the clean energy contract on Jan. 25 and execute contracts with winners by March 27. While the New Hampshire postponement decision isn’t fatal to Northern Pass, it means Massachusetts officials will have to award the contract without knowing whether the project has cleared its major hurdle in New Hampshire.

Officials with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Commission did not return phone calls.

Kaitlyn Woods, a spokeswoman for Eversource, said the site evaluation committee postponed its decision to accommodate cross-examination requests from interveners. She said some of the cross-examination requests seem to be designed to delay the process, but added that Eversource was heartened by the site evaluation committee’s willingness to explore ways to conclude the process ahead of the new deadlines.

Despite the setback, Woods said Eversource officials remain confident the project will move ahead. “We remain confident in our ability to achieve a 2020 in-service date,” the company said in a statement. “Further, we are convinced that we have submitted the most mature project into the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP and we continue to believe that we will be in a position to start construction in the second quarter of 2018.”

 

Brian Murphy, business manager for a New Hampshire union representing electrical linemen, said the postponement “highlights a lack of leadership in the state.” He said there is a legal requirement that the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee make its decisions in nine months, but the postponement will extend the decision-making process to more than two years.

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Bruce Mohl

Editor, CommonWealth

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

About Bruce Mohl

Bruce Mohl is the editor of CommonWealth magazine. Bruce came to CommonWealth from the Boston Globe, where he spent nearly 30 years in a wide variety of positions covering business and politics. He covered the Massachusetts State House and served as the Globe’s State House bureau chief in the late 1980s. He also reported for the Globe’s Spotlight Team, winning a Loeb award in 1992 for coverage of conflicts of interest in the state’s pension system. He served as the Globe’s political editor in 1994 and went on to cover consumer issues for the newspaper. At CommonWealth, Bruce helped launch the magazine’s website and has written about a wide range of issues with a special focus on politics, tax policy, energy, and gambling. Bruce is a graduate of Ohio Wesleyan University and the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. He lives in Dorchester.

“These delays continue to hurt the economy and kill jobs in the state,” Murphy said in an emailed statement. “New Hampshire is mired in a regulatory swamp.”

 

  • NortheasternEE

    Closing down resilient and reliable coal and nuclear local power plants, and replacing them with unreliable power all the way from Quebec will give us high rates, frequent power failures, and the loss of clean nuclear power cancels any gain against climate change.