Groups clash over NH hydropower project

BANGOR, MAINE - Groups supporting and opposing the Northern Pass hydropower project in New Hampshire filed statements Friday in advance of a state committee’s meeting next week on whether it should rehear the project.

The Site Evaluation Committee rejected Eversource’s project last month over concerns about potential negative impacts. It is scheduled to deliberate Monday on Eversource’s request for a rehearing.

The $1.6 billion project would deliver hydropower from Canada to customers in southern New England through a 192-mile transmission line in New Hampshire.

If the Northern Pass project fails to ultimately win New Hampshire approval, the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources has announced it will begin negotiating with a team led by Central Maine Power Co. for a $950 million project through Maine as an alternative.

The Business and Industry Association voted last month to endorse the project after remaining neutral on it since it was first proposed in 2010. A letter sent to the committee Friday urges it to resume deliberations. The association said it is concerned about the severe impact the committee’s decision could have on New Hampshire’s economic future.

“The BIA believes this decision was premature and puts New Hampshire’s economy at risk,” organization President Jim Roche wrote. “New Hampshire’s electrical energy prices are consistently 50-60 percent higher than the national average. This has forced employers to explore options outside New Hampshire and new England to obtain lower electricity prices. Businesses from outside New Hampshire and others now here are reversing plans to grow in New Hampshire due to the Site Evaluation Committee’s decision.”

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers and the Coos County Business and Employers Group also filed a statement in support of rehearing the project.

The Society to Protect New Hampshire Forests, which is opposed to the project, said Eversource’s request is premature because the committee hasn’t issued a final written decision yet. It also said Eversource hasn’t proven committee members “made an unlawful or unreasonable decision or mistakenly overlooked matters it should have considered.”

As part of its request for reconsideration, Eversource said it is offering up to $300 million in reductions to low-income and business customers in the state.

It also is offering to allocate $95 million from a previously announced $200 million community fund — $25 million to compensate for declining property values, $25 million for economic development and $25 million to promote tourism in affected areas. Another $20 million would fund energy efficiency programs.


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