Northern Pass

AMC opposes the Northern Pass Transmission Project as proposed


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The Northern Pass Project

A high-voltage electric transmission line traversing 192 miles through New Hampshire to bring hydropower from Quebec to the New England electric grid.

A transmission corridor two-thirds of which will carry above-ground lines sited on towers up to 155 feet tall, requiring more than 40 miles of new right of way (ROW), and significant expansion of existing ROWs in the North Country and south of Franklin.

A project that is not needed for grid reliability but that cuts a swath through some of New Hampshire's most scenic landscapes, and will degrade natural, cultural, and recreation resources of state, regional, and national significance.

Impacts of the Northern Pass

On New Hampshire

As currently proposed, the project remains above-ground for two-thirds of its route through New Hampshire, and will require 40 miles of new right-of way (ROW) through the forests of Coos County, the widening of existing ROWs further south, and new towers of up to 155 feet tall to carry the lines. The proposed route traverses some of New Hampshire's most scenic landscapes, and will impact tourism and recreational experiences throughout the state.

On the Environment

Northern Pass does not provide "green" power: ″Northern Pass will require massive hydro impoundments in Quebec, the five largest of which would be the equivalent of flooding 50% of New Hampshire alone, and which would not meet US environmental standards.″ The project will divert multiple large rivers, most larger than any river in New Hampshire, with devastating impacts on hundreds of miles of river ecosystems.″ This flooding of boreal forests results in the emission of significant amounts of greenhouse gasses, and releases mercury.

Other Problems

Failure to consider alternative designs and routes

The project applicant has not considered important alternative routes or fully taken advantage of underground transmission technologies. While Northern Pass proposes to bury 60 miles of the 192-mile route, primarily around the White Mountain National Forest, projects in New York and Vermont propose to fully bury comparable high-voltage transmission lines from eastern Canada to southern New England.

Lack of community support

The transmission line would pass through 32 New Hampshire communities, 31 of which have voted to oppose the project (a total of 33 New Hampshire communities have voted to oppose Northern Pass).

Northern Pass Permitting Process

Northern Pass needs three permits in order to be built:

  • A Presidential Permit from the Department of State for the international border crossing between Quebec and New Hampshire

  • A Special Use Permit from the White Mountain National Forest for its use of ROWs in the Forest

  • A Certificate of Siting from the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC)

The US Department of Energy is managing the Presidential Permit process, and in late July 2015 issued a draft environmental impact statement (DEIS). This document is foundational to all three permits, and it assesses the environmental, economic, and social impacts of the proposed project route and a variety of alternatives. However, even if both the Presidential Permit and Special Use Permit are granted, the project cannot be built with SEC certification.

AMC has intervened in the Presidential Permit process, and we will intervene in the SEC process as well. 

The latest

After five and a half years, we have finally reached a critical permitting juncture for the Northern Pass transmission project. On April 4th, 2016, the Department of Energy (DOE) concluded a public comment period on its draft environmental impact statement (DEIS).

Read AMC's comments to DOE on the Draft Environmental Impact Statement (pdf)

DOE will consider comments received as they review and make a final decision about whether to issue the Presidential Permit that Northern Pass needs. The Presidential Permit is required because Northern Pass crosses an international boundary. 

For a brief refresher on the long road for the Presidential Permit to this point, here are the basics:

  • October 2010: Northern Pass submitted an application for a Presidential Permit.

  • July 2015: The Department of Energy (DOE) issued the DEIS which analyzes project impacts and alternate routes. 

  • August 2015: Northern Pass announced it is altering the route by adding 52 miles of buried line around the White Mountain National Forest. This meant DOE needed to supplement its DEIS analysis.

  • November 2015: The DEIS supplement was released.

  • March 2016: Public hearings on the revised DEIS were held in New Hampshire. 

  • April 2016: Public comment period on the DEIS ended