The Battle Of Northern Pass

Protesters including members of the Occupy movement and those opposed to the proposed Northern Pass power project for a transmission line gather outside the sight of the midnight to polling place for the first-in-the-nation presidential primary, at The Balsams Grand Resort, Monday, Jan. 9, 2012, in Dixville, N.H. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

In 2012, the Battle of Northern Pass raged.

As that battle plays out, it might have the unintended consequence of sparking a comprehensive statewide energy policy and legislation that mandates line burial for similar elective projects proposed in the future.

Northern Pass - a venture between Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities, parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire - is pushing clean energy, competitively priced power, tax money to communities and construction jobs as among the benefits.

Project opponents argue Northern Pass is a for-profit project that would destroy the North Country's unique scenic resources, reduce tourism and property values and pose a health hazard to those living near it.

Currently estimated at $1.1 billion, the 180-mile above-ground hydroelectric transmission line would entail more than 1,000 steel towers at least 85 feet high and more than 40 miles of new right-of-way in Coos County.

NU/PSNH would make its money by leasing the lines to Hydro-Quebec and collecting land-based payments. Hydro-Quebec would make its money by selling its power on the New England power grid.

NU has spent the past year buying up parcels and easements in Coos County for the new right-of-way.

Locking horns with NU is the New Hampshire Forest Society, which is likewise buying up parcels in a strategic effort to block Northern Pass in its march southward and compel the company to look at other alternatives, namely line burial.

Northern Pass has said its new right-of-way is near completion and the permitting process will be completed in 2014, with construction finished and the line ready for service in 2017.

Opponents such as the Forest Society and Conservation Law Foundation, say Northern Pass is publicly expressing confidence to convince Coos landowners to sell and to reassure investors.

In reality, however, they say the company is having difficulty completing its right-of-way, and the permitting process, which requires at least two dozen state and federal approvals, will take at least five years.

Portions of the line would also pass through the White Mountain National Forest, requiring a widening of the existing right-of-way and an approval that opponents say is a high hurdle.

In its 10K filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, NU called Northern Pass a non-reliability project.

In early 2012, the Legislature passed a bill prohibiting utility companies from using eminent domain to take private property for projects not needed for system reliability.

Three bills are now being proposed in 2013 that would mandate line burial along existing transportation corridors for elective transmission projects like Northern Pass.

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