NOW is the time to intervene at SEC

Northern Pass‘s application for New Hampshire state siting approval has just been accepted by the state Site Evaluation Committee (SEC).  The SEC “docket” (with links to the application, public comments, intervention requests and other filings) is here.

The state siting approval is the most important government permit process for the project.  The SEC is required to consider the full range of New Hampshire factors relating to the proposed transmission line, including environmental impacts, aesthetics, property values, tourism, regional development and the public interest.  The SEC gathers all the relevant state agencies into a single, unified process for reviewing the Northern Pass transmission lines.  The SEC’s process is independent of the Department of Energy‘s presidential permit review.

If you want to have your voice heard at the SEC as they consider Northern Pass, the best way to do this is to file as an “intervenor.  This makes you a party to the proceedings and puts you at the table with Northern Pass.

A audio presentation by REAL of how and why to intervene is here.

The deadline for intervention is February 5, 2016.  The SEC’s announcement of the timeline is here.

To become an intervenor, you need to file a “petition for intervention” with the SEC.  This is a simple document that can be in the form of a letter.  It says who you are and why you want to intervene.  Some examples used in other SEC proceedings are:

To successfully intervene, you will need to show that you have a specific interest in the matter — something that’s more direct than just being a member of the public with an opinion on the project.  Such interests may include having Northern Pass’s lines cross your land (whether above ground or below ground) or come close to your land or be visible from your property.  Or perhaps you feel Northern Pass will adversely affect your business or recreational activities, your health, your property value or affect you directly in some other way.  Or perhaps you have specific information or expertise that could aid the SEC in its deliberations.  Individuals, businesses, governmental bodies, environmental groups, charities, clubs and other organizations can be intervenors.

A form of letter that can be filled out with your own facts and used for intervention is here.  You may submit the letter by email to the SEC administrator, Pamela Monroe, at Pamela.Monroe@sec.nh.gov.  Please note: You must also send copies (cc’s) to everyone else on the SEC’s distribution list for Northern Pass.  The SEC updates the distribution list frequently and the format makes it difficult to extract the email addresses for CCs.  Fortunately, REAL hosts a separate web page that provides the entire list of email addresses in a format that you can easily copy and paste directly into your email application.

CLICK HERE to get the latest SEC email distribution list to copy and paste into the copy (cc) field of your email to Ms. Monroe.

Finally, once your request has been emailed to the distribution list, print a hard copy and mail it to:

New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee
Pamela G. Monroe, Administrator
21 South Fruit Street, Suite 10
Concord, NH 03301

REAL can’t provide legal advice on the intervention process.  If you are unsure whether you qualify to intervene, have a complex situation or otherwise need help, please contact a lawyer!

 

IS IT AFFORDABLE FOR NORTHERN PASS TO BURY ALL THE LINES?

 Yes!

  • But the case hasn’t been made politically or in the press, and is not ready to be made at the SEC
  • Will show affordability
  • Talk about process to make the case
  • Project cost w/60 miles buried:  $1.4 billion
  • No idea what changes went into that number, and no breakout of line burial costs
  • Assume (conservatively) full burial will cost $600MM more — $2 billion
  • This is roughly $5MM additional cost per additional buried mile (125 miles x $5MM)
  • Roughly same as DOE’s full burial cost estimate
  • How do we get $600MM more out of the Northern Pass transaction structure and still leave it “affordable”?

  • STEP 1:  SAVE THE $200MM BRIBE MONEY AND USE IT FOR CONSTRUCTION INSTEAD
    • $200MM fund for payouts to influence the process (“Forward New Hampshire”)
    • If the lines are buried top to bottom, should be no need to buy off stakeholders
    • Now all we need is $400MM

  • STEP 2:  PUT THAT $400MM IN TERMS A POLITICIAN CAN UNDERSTAND
    • Northern Pass is a 40-year transaction
    • It’s based on Hydro-Quebec’s credit
    • So let’s use HQ’s credit to get a family-style 40-year “mortgage” for the $400MM we need for full burial
    • HQ’s cost for 40-year debt would currently be around 3%
    • A 40-year mortgage for $400MM at 3% costs $17MM a year
    • So:  full burial “costs” the transaction only an additional $17MM per year
    • Now all we need to do is allocate that additional $17MM to HQ, Eversource and one other player

  • STEP 3:  HYDRO-QUEBEC
    • HQ stands to make $600MM a year over Northern Pass even at today’s low electricity prices
      • 2015 YTD average real time Hub price:  $50/MWh
      • 1090MW
      • Electricity sales = $475MM
      • Capacity markets (2015 $9.55/kWMonth) = $125MM
    • Impose a surcharge of 1.5% on HQ revenues:  generates $9MM/year
    • Half-way there!

  • STEP 4:  EVERSOURCE
    • $2 billion cost for Northern Pass
    • Under FERC’s approval, $1B is financed by debt, $1B by equity
    • E$ gets guaranteed 12.56% return (profit) on the $1B of equity
    • This means Eversource will earn $125 million per year
    • Let’s take just 9/10ths of 1% off that return — down to 11.7%
    • That frees up $9MM/year
    • Add that to HQ’s modest contribution, and we have more than we need to pay the $400MM for full burial

  • STEP 5:  EVERSOURCE EXECUTIVES
    • Tom May, CEO, made $19MM last year
    • If you pay him based on performance on Northern Pass, he should take a 25% hit, or $5MM a year
    • That’ll pay for another $100MM of “mortgage”, or enough to bury 20 more miles (all the way to Massachusetts!)
    • If we reach out to the other key E$ execs, we’ll have enough to bury to Boston

PROCESS

  • Full burial is almost certainly affordable
  • We’re not even considering other subsidies likely to come:  regional governors’ initiative, southern New England state RFPs
  • We need to work to get the message out:  full burial is affordable

  • FORCE THE POLITICIANS AND THE PRESS TO ENGAGE IN THIS — IT’S SO WRONG FOR THEM TO SELL OUT NH BEFORE UNDERSTANDING THE NUMBERS

REAL Seeks Information on Northern Pass Poll

Responsible Energy Action LLC (REAL) has filed a Right to Know request with the Survey Center of the University of New Hampshire, Durham. We are seeking the release of all records pertaining to the poll that the Center conducted on the Northern Pass Transmission project for the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce in February, 2014. The Nashua Chamber released the poll results on March 24, 2014, at a briefing for lawmakers that included lobbying against legislation providing for the burial of transmission lines that is currently under consideration in the state Senate.

REAL’s request for information grows out of our specific concerns over the genesis and execution of the poll’s question on burial of the Northern Pass transmission line. It is especially important for lawmakers now considering burial legislation to have full background information on how the poll was constructed and administered in order to gauge its credibility. We have reason to believe that the question related to potential burial of the line improperly inflated the cost of burial and incorrectly imputed responsibility for the excess cost to ratepayers, New Hampshire residents, and businesses:

“Some have raised concerns about the visual impact the Northern Pass transmission lines will have on New Hampshire’s landscape and recommend burying the entire transmission line. Doing so would cost roughly 5 to 10 times more than stringing the lines overhead and these expenses could be paid for by residents and businesses through their monthly electric bill.”

 “Do you favor or oppose Northern Pass burying its entire transmission line or don’t you know enough about this to say?”

 IF FAVOR “Would you be willing to pay more in your electricity bill to pay for it?”

Burial costs have been professionally estimated, including in testimony to the New Hampshire legislature, as comparable to or only modestly more than above-ground costs.  Several HVDC projects in the New England/New York area (including Champlain-Hudson Power Express, which is substantially further advanced than Northern Pass) propose line burial.  These projects demonstrate that other transmission developers – serving the same or similar markets — find burial to be financially attractive, which would clearly not be the case if it cost 500%-1000% more to build an underground line.  But the poll presents the “5 to 10 times more” figure as fact when this is manifestly not the case.

Northern Pass is not a traditional “reliability” transmission line but rather a merchant (specifically, participant-funded) project.  Northern Pass’s sponsors regularly tout that because the project is participant-funded, all of its costs will be paid for by Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities, without any recourse to ratepayer funds.  Indeed, as a regulatory matter, a participant-funded project such as Northern Pass has no legal ability to collect from ratepayers.  The federal rate approval for Northern Pass is based on 100% sponsor financing, and the regional regulator, ISO-New England, does not authorize ratepayer cost recovery for “elective” transmission lines such as Northern Pass.  Thus, the suggestion in the poll that costs could be passed to ratepayers is manifestly false under Northern Pass’s regulatory design.

REAL plans to share on this site relevant information it receives through the Right to Know request.

 

Make Your Voice Heard

Speak Out at This Week’s Public Meetings on Reforming New Hampshire’s Transmission Line Siting Process

The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) has sole in-state decision-making authority on the siting of the Northern Pass transmission lines.  The SEC will decide whether to approve the proposed transmission lines, and if so, where they should go, whether they should be above-ground or underground, and all other location and design matters.  Under the New Hampshire process, the affected towns and regions have no authority whatsoever over the siting decision.

We can’t overemphasize the importance of the SEC to the outcome of Northern Pass.  In New Hampshire the “buck stops” with the SEC, and the SEC’s determination may be the “make or break” for the project.  The US Department of Energy (DOE) has a separate, much more limited federal process and takes great care to make it clear that siting decisions inside New Hampshire (versus the international border crossing) are up to the state (that is, the SEC), not federal authorities.

New SEC Study

In response to deep concerns about the fairness of the SEC process voiced by New Hampshire citizens, the state legislature adopted legislation (SB99) requiring a broad-ranging study of the SEC and its process and potential reforms.  The study is being done by the New Hampshire Office of Energy and Planning (OEP).  The OEP’s information page on the SEC study is here.

The study includes interactive “Citizen Workshops” in several locations around the state, as well as hearing-style “Listening Sessions” where the public can provide input.  These public meetings start this week.

The Listening Sessions are December 2 (Colebrook), December 11 (Lebanon) and December 17 (Plymouth).  The Citizens Workshops (which require advance sign-up) are December 3 (Manchester), December 4 (Groveton), December 5 (Keene), December 9 (Newington) and December 10 (Plymouth).  Times, locations and sign-up information are on the OEP information page.

Call to Action

We urge you to attend one of these sessions to make your views known.  Let our state officials know that the SEC process as currently designed stacks the deck in favor of transmission developers and does NOT protect the public interest. Demand that the process be fixed.

Just as you would expect from a fox guarding the henhouse, Northern Pass and its supporters will try to paint the picture that the SEC process works just fine and there are no problems at all.  They’ll likely take the position that the process should be made even more developer-friendly.  It’s up to the public to stand up, tell the truth and demand changes.

REAL’s Suggested Changes

We recommend fundamental changes to the SEC’s jurisdiction and process.  Without major reforms, the SEC fails to serve the public interest. We call for a basic distinction in the treatment of “non-need” and “needed” energy projects.

#1:  The Special SEC Approval Process Should NOT Be Available to “Non-Need,” Private Energy Projects

The SEC process boils down to a special, streamlined, industry-slanted regulatory approval process for siting energy facilities (power plants, transmission lines) in New Hampshire.  The SEC is a state approval committee that preempts all existing local and regional land use approval requirements and sharply limits the opportunity for meaningful public participation.  In other words, if a developer wants to build any major energy facility in New Hampshire, the developer gets a free pass from local and regional land use rules and meaningful public debate.  The project is considered only at the state level, and under a set of procedural rules that rush the approval process forward, short-change public input and clearly favor the industry developers.

What’s remarkable is that the energy industry has gotten this special deal just for itself.  Our guess is that the energy lobby was able to capitalize successfully on fears associated with the decades-old oil crisis.  The lobbyists were able to paint energy as a critical public need and convince legislators to hand out exceptional “breaks” in the SEC process.

The world has changed.  Most energy projects today have nothing to do with public need and are all about private, corporate profit, like any other business.  But the special SEC giveaways for all large energy projects continue, even for private, for-profit, non-need, “merchant” transmission developments like Northern Pass.

This is neither fair nor sound policy.  In today’s world, most energy projects are just another private, corporate investment.  There is no reason why a transmission line or generation plant sponsored by a big company just to make more money should have any special breaks in the approval process.  Why should a new private energy project from Hydro-Quebec, Northeast Utilities and PSNH have a streamlined, project-slanted approval process with limited public input and a full exemption from local land use rules, when a new private hospital (health), new private university (education), new private food processing plant (food), or new private manufacturing business (jobs) will be 100% subject to full and customary state, local and regional review and public comment?

REAL does not believe that private, for-profit energy projects should be entitled to any special treatment.  We recommend that the SEC process be changed so that private, merchant energy projects (that is, projects for which there is no determination of “need” by the applicable federal, regional or state regulator) no longer fall within the jurisdiction of the SEC.  Private, merchant energy projects should be subject to the same New Hampshire state, regional and local approval rules as any other private development project.

We would specifically limit the SEC’s jurisdiction to energy projects that have been formally determined by the appropriate federal, regional or state regulator to serve a “public need.”

#2:  For “Needed” Energy Projects, the SEC Process Should Be Changed to Make It More Fair for the Public

Where the SEC will still have jurisdiction (“needed” energy projects), the process must be changed to level the playing field for the public.

  • Affected towns must approve project:  The SEC process is a carte-blanche pre-emption of local and regional authority.  Yes, the SEC is supposed to hear the views of affected towns and regional bodies, but there is nothing in the rules that prevents the SEC from granting approval even if every single affected town and region overwhelmingly says “no” to a project on the official record.  The weight of local voices should be increased in the SEC procedure.  The SEC should be prevented from granting approval if the town affected, by official vote, disapproves the development.  For multi-town projects, if a majority of the affected towns, by official vote, disapprove the project, the SEC should be required to reject it.
  • Local participation in approval process:   Only state agencies sit on the SEC.  There is no local or regional voice.  To ensure that local and regional points of view are really taken into account, the SEC membership should “float” on a project-to-project basis, with at least one-third of the membership for any given application representing the affected towns and regional bodies.  This would ensure a more fair and robust debate at the SEC and more airtime for local public concerns.
  • Replace subjective standards with required determination of “net public benefit”:   The standards for SEC approval are unclear, subjective and highly judgmental.  They employ terms such as “unreasonable” or “undue” when referring to harms to the public interest, with no definitions, references or quantification.  This approach should be replaced by the clear requirement that the SEC, to grant approval, must determine that the project produces a net public benefit, taking into account all applicable benefits and costs.  The statute should provide a non-exclusive list of the factors to be considered.  There should be no presumption that any and all energy projects somehow generate substantial net public benefits, and the SEC process should be held to the higher standard and rigor of a qualitative, and to the extent practicable, quantitative net cost-benefit analysis.
  • Give more weight to property rights.  Nothing in the current SEC legislation requires the SEC to consider and give specific weight to a project’s harm to property values and the use and enjoyment of private property.  Private property rights are strongly protected in New Hampshire’s political traditions as well as in our state constitution.  Surely the legislature did not intend to subjugate property rights to energy project incentives (the SEC approval process is in substance nothing more than an incentive handed out to energy companies).  The SEC should be prohibited from approving a project if it entails material, measurable harms to property values or property rights, unless the developer reaches a consensual agreement with affected property owners to mitigate or compensate the harms.
  • Require consideration of alternatives.  The SEC rules do not require the applicant to lay out alternatives such as different routes, designs or other variations that may lessen harmful impacts.  This leads to a high-stakes, take-it-or-leave-it posture that tilts the playing field toward the project as proposed.   The SEC process should be revised to require applications to present detailed analysis of reasonable alternatives, and the SEC should have the authority to require a serious alternatives analysis if it is not presented by the project sponsor.
  • Level the evidentiary playing field.  The SEC purports to make its decisions based on an evidentiary record, where the project developer and members of the public can present formal reports, professional assessments, valuations and the like.  This once again stacks the deck in favor of the developer.  The developer has the budget to hire experts to provide testimony.  The public generally does not.  As a result, on matters as fundamental as whether a transmission line will adversely affect property values, the developer can slap an expert study on the table saying “no impact”, the public can’t afford a fully competing study (that is, the public presents no comparable evidence, just appraisals of several affected properties), and the SEC is left to decide the property value point in favor of the developer, because the public has failed to prove its point with comparable evidence.  The public point of view gets overwhelmed by the developer’s wall of money.   We recommend two fixes.  First, the developer should be required to fund expert studies undertaken for the public’s side of the debate.  Second, on points that may not be fully covered (in an evidentiary sense) by the competing studies of the developer and the public, the SEC itself should be required to commission objective expert input.

Members of REAL will be attending several of the Citizens Workshops and Listening Sessions.  Please join us in bringing the public’s point of view to these meetings.

 

Northern Pass’ Highest Hurdle

Northern Pass must obtain a myriad of permits from both Federal and State agencies in order to build a 187 mile long High Voltage Transmission line from the Canadian Border to Deerfield, NH.  Each of these permits has a set of criteria upon which the application is evaluated in order to determine if the proposal meets the requirements for the permit. The most stringent application requirements belong to the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) Special Use Permit (SUP) which is required because the proposed route crosses the WMNF.

At first glance it would seem that the goal of preserving the beauty and solitude of the WMNF and the construction of Northern Pass’s proposed high voltage transmission lines are at such crossed purposes that no such application would ever even be considered.  Not so.  The US Forest Service regularly entertains applications for Special Use Permits covering a variety of activities and construction projects.  In fact, PSNH is allowed to maintain a transmission line through the WMNF today under a SUP last renewed in 2006 for a thirty-year term. This transmission line is modest in comparison to the line proposed for Northern Pass – the existing lines are supported by wooden poles standing 40-50 feet high with taller trees on either side.

The proposed Northern Pass project will not only add steel lattice towers averaging over 90 feet tall to the existing corridor, it will remove the wooden poles and replace them with steel poles averaging over 90 feet tall.  The new lines will extend above the surrounding treeline in many areas. In all, there would be 184 new steel structures as tall as 115′ in the WMNF.  The AMC conservatively models the visual degradation they would cause to the Easton-Lincoln-Woodstock portion of the WMNF in this Flyover Video.

In a letter (see link below) to Tom Wagner, the Forest Supervisor for the WMNF, REAL shows that Northern Pass does not meet the requirements for a permit and formally requests that the US Forest Service summarily reject the Northern Pass application for a SUP to cross the WMNF.  Second, if the SUP is not rejected, REAL formally requests that the US Forest Service consider the alternative of burying both the new transmission lines as well as the existing transmission lines along I-93 and the Franconia Notch parkway to avoid damage to the WMNF.  Finally, REAL requests the US Forest Service not to consider any special exemptions (site-specific amendments) for Northern Pass to allow the transmission lines to be built even though the WMNF requirements are not met.

(Download and read REAL’s Letter to Tom Wagner

REAL’s Northern Pass Project Reference

Information about the proposed Northern Pass Transmission Line exists in many locations.  For example, details about the physical locations and types of structures that the project proposes to build are spread across 179 separate files on the Northern Pass web site.

This dispersal of information effectively hides the project details in plain sight.  Nowhere to be found, for example, is the fact that there are over 2,300 new structures (1,219 HVDC, 319 HVAC, and 747 relocated HVAC) in this proposal.  Also missing is the fact that the new HVAC structures on the southern section of the route are actually TALLER than the HVDC structures on the northern section of the route (100′ vs. 90′ on average).  Using this tactic, project sponsors  meet the requirement for disclosing project information while making it virtually impossible for the casual observer to comprehend the magnitude of the project.

REAL has completed a comprehensive analysis of the available project information.  The result is a single project reference that contains all of the details about the physical structures in the proposal.  The REAL project reference also includes key computations such as number of structures and average structure height for each aspect of the project.

The REAL project reference also includes individual town information as well as a section dedicated to the White Mountain National Forest.

Version 1.0 of the REAL Northern Pass Project Reference is an Excel Workbook.  You can download the free Excel viewer here.

Download the project reference using the link below:

Download Version 1.0 of the REAL Northern Pass Project Reference (7MB)

A NH Revenue Opportunity

Lease State-Owned ROWs for Transmission Lines

  • State-owned highways and rail beds (ROWs) offer key siting advantages for buried lines
  • Technically and financially feasible (SB361 Commission)
  • State government gets:  revenues, avoided damages/problems/costs
  • Developer gets:  less risk, more certainty, easier process
  • Regional innovators already pushing ahead:  New York, Maine

How big is the state’s potential revenue opportunity?  Highlights from an indicative [1] analysis…

Assumptions

  • 200 mile north/south route, from Canadian border to southern NH
  • 1200MW line used exclusively by Hydro-Quebec

Approach #1:  use value benchmark from Northern Pass’s land buys in Coos County

  • $400-$1,000[2] per linear foot of ROW, or $2 million to $5 million per mile
  • Capital value of $400 million to $1 billion for 200 miles of state-owned ROW
  • Model annual rent at 5% of capital value
  • Annual rent to state:  $20 million to $50 million

Approach #2:  apply 10%-20% land rights “royalty” to HQ’s revenues from the line

  • Royalty rate from shale gas precedents
  • 1200MW = 10.5TWh/year, or $430 million/year at HQ’s 2012 export pricing[3]
  • Annual rent to state:  $40 million to $90 million

Approach #3:  use New Jersey’s new state ROW rental guidelines

  • Rentals calculated per square foot used (assume 30’ width for line area)
  • Range from $0.15 to $1.40 per square foot[4], or $25,000 to $220,000 per mile
  • Annual rent to state:  $5 million to $45 million

Approach #4:  make state-to-state contact with New York, Maine to get their estimates

Approach #5 (most reliable):  NH runs an open “tender” for use of state ROWs

  • Open to HQ directly as well as full range of transmission developers

 

 

 


[1] Contact REAL for more detail on the analysis.
[2] Some land buys were priced at up to $4,000/ROW foot, but we exclude these to be conservative.
[3] HQ’s 2012 exports produced net revenues of 4.1 cents/kWh (2012 Form 18-K).
[4] Low end of range is an “outlier” because it is only for small, low-value projects. New Jersey is working on updates that will likely raise the recommended rental ranges. Contact REAL for a summary of New Jersey’s guidelines.

 

 

What is a Section 106 Review?

How You and Your Selectboard Can Participate as Consulting Parties in Considering the Effects of Northern Pass upon Historic Properties in Your Town

Do you live in or on an historic property? Are there historic properties in your town? (“Historic properties” are loosely defined as structures, sites, natural features, buildings, objects, etc., more than fifty years old that retain some degree of original features and have social, cultural, or other significance.) Are they important to your sense of place, community, heritage? Are you concerned about the possible adverse effects that the proposed Northern Pass transmission project may have upon these properties?

If you want a seat at the table when discussions begin about how to identify eligible properties and to avoid, minimize, or mitigate adverse effects that Northern Pass may have upon them, the federal government gives you, as well as historical societies, museums, and related non-profit organizations, the right to request “consulting party” status in the upcoming Section 106 Review, which is explained in this blog. Local governments are entitled to consult but they must notify the Department of Energy (DOE) of their interest in doing so now. Please bring this important matter to the attention of your selectboard and any relevant non-profit organizations in your town. They will not receive notification from the DOE or the State of New Hampshire that the Section 106 Review is beginning. Template letters requesting consulting party status are provided in the information that follows.

What is a Section 106 Review?

A Section 106 Review requires federal agencies to consider the effects of projects they carry out, permit, or fund upon historic properties. It is part of the National Historic Preservation Act (1966). In conjunction with the New Hampshire Division of Historical Resources (NH-DHR) and as part of the Environmental Impact study, the DOE must conduct a Section 106 Review of Northern Pass. The early stages of this review have begun. See the correspondence between the DOE and NH-DHR defining its parameters – and Northern Pass’s intervening effort to lower the bar.

The American Council of Historic Properties (ACHP) specifies the regulations governing the Section 106 review. The regulations are published in the Code of Federal Regulations  at 36 CFR Part 800, “Protection of Historic Properties” and may be found on the ACHP’s website.

For purposes of the 106 Review, “historic properties” are broadly defined. They include prehistoric or historic districts, sites (which includes natural features having cultural significance, such as the Indian Head rock profile in Franconia Notch), buildings, structures, or objects included in or eligible for inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places, as well as artifacts, records, and remains that are related to and located within these National Register properties. The classification also includes properties of traditional religious and cultural importance to an Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization.

ACHP provides for and encourages broad citizen participation in Section 106 reviews. This includes the requirement that the lead agency (DOE) interact with local governments and certain types of organizations and individuals who are granted “consulting party” status. A representative of a local government (e.g., selectboard) with jurisdiction over the area in which the effects of an undertaking may occur is entitled to participate as a consulting party. Historical societies, museums, and related organizations, and individuals with a demonstrated interest in the project may also be eligible to participate in Section 106 review as consulting parties “due to the nature of their legal or economic relation to the undertaking or affected properties, or their concern with the undertaking’s effects on historic properties” (36 CFR 800.2(c)(5).)

Interaction between the DOE and consulting parties is specified in 36 CFR 800. 4 -7. In particular, the DOE is required to provide all consulting parties with the proposed finding of “no adverse effect” and the documentation specified in 36 CFR 800.11(e) at the same time it is provided to the NH-DHR for their 30-day review. Each consulting party has the right to disagree with the finding within that 30-day review period. If the DOE cannot resolve the disagreement, it must seek ACHP’s opinion, which is binding upon the DOE.

For more information on the role of consulting parties, see “Influencing Project Outcomes” in the ACHP’s “Citizen’s Guide to Section 106 Reviews”. NH-DHR’s information on 106 Review is here.

How to Request “Consulting Party” Status

Selectboards of towns on Northern Pass’s proposed route or a previously identified alternative route are entitled to participate, and individuals and relevant non-profit organizations on the currently proposed or previous alternate routes may also be eligible. All must request consulting party status to participate.

A sample letter requesting consulting party status for a town is here; for an individual, historical society, museum, or related organization, here. Email your request to Brian Mills at  Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov, with copies to Richard Boisvert, Deputy New Hampshire SHPO and State Archeologist, at richard.boisvert@dcr.nh.gov, and to Lee Webb, Energy Liaison, Advisory Council on Historic Preservation, at lwebb@achp.gov.

What Happens if the Proposed/Alternate Route Changes and My Town is Suddenly On It? 

If the remainder of the route in Coos County is identified or there are other changes, additional individuals, groups, and towns will become eligible for or entitled to consulting party status. The ACHP notes that the Agency Official, in this case, the DOE, should “be sensitive to the need to involve additional consulting parties at later stages in the process, as potential project impacts become better understood and the interests of other parties become clearer. The objective is to ensure that the Federal agency has adequately consulted with those who have significant interests in historic preservation issues. Doing this early is in everyone’s best interest, to avoid having problems emerge later in the Section 106 process.”

 

 

 

REAL’s Testimony on SB 99

Testimony on SB 99
Energy and Natural Resources Committee
New Hampshire State Senate
March 20, 2013

When is a temporary moratorium appropriate?

  • When major new activities or circumstances arise…
  • That are not contemplated or fully addressed by existing laws…
  • And threaten important public values…
  • Or risk overwhelming the state’s normal regulatory processes…
  • Making it appropriate to take a “time out”…
  • To preserve the status quo…
  • And give the state a window of time to get public input and do the necessary research, policy and institutional development…
  • To implement a sound, orderly regulatory approach…
  • That carefully balances relevant policy considerations…
  • And protects the public interest

Temporary moratoria are common, widely-used government tools

  • They’ve been specifically approved by the US Supreme Court
    • “[M]oratoria … are used widely … to preserve the status quo while formulating a more permanent development strategy. In fact, the consensus … appears to be that moratoria … are an essential tool of successful development.” (Tahoe-Sierra Preservation Council, Inc. v. Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, 535 U.S. 302, 304 (2002), footnotes omitted.)
  • Temporary moratoria have been recently used on the national scale on high-profile issues
    • Temporary federal moratorium on offshore oil drilling (2010)
    • Various temporary state moratoria on fracking (current)
  • This essential government tool is employed in a broad range of policy contexts
    • Google “temporary moratorium” to see the multitude of current examples
    • Recent subjects of temporary moratoria include: single family home development, oil and gas projects, mining, road construction, wireless facilities, Walmart, substance abuse centers, adult care centers, pawn shops, payday lending, tattoo shops, foreclosures, food trucks, gun sales, internet cafes, alcohol service, skating rinks, collection of certain taxes … and many more!
  • Temporary moratoria are a longstanding part of New Hampshire practice
    • When towns with outdated or incomplete land use ordinances are faced with sudden new development pressure, RSA 674:23 authorizes a temporary one-year moratorium on all new development, giving the needed time for the town to update its land use regulations
    • This temporary moratorium provision balances the interests of private developers and the public in the critically important New Hampshire context of property development

And temporary moratoria don’t “chill” business. Look at the key examples above. When the temporary moratoria expire, offshore oil drilling, natural gas fracking and NH property development move forward under appropriate rules designed to protect the public interest…

Temporary moratoria have been successfully used in other states to encourage responsible electric transmission line development

  • In recent years temporary moratoria on electric transmission lines have been enacted in Maine, Connecticut, New York, Florida, Washington, Georgia and Wyoming
  • Maine’s moratorium, approved in 2009, is an instructive example for New Hampshire legislators. The moratorium’s intent was to ensure that Maine would benefit from new merchant transmission lines designed to move electricity from Canada to southern New England, rather than just bear the costs. This is exactly the challenge facing New Hampshire today
  • From a press report on Maine’s temporary moratorium:
    “Maine Legislature Votes in Favor of Energy Corridor Moratorium”

    “The Maine Legislature has overwhelmingly voted in favor of placing a moratorium on a controversial, massive energy corridor, which would use right of ways on Maine highways to deliver Canadian-produced energy to lucrative markets in southern New England.
    “The legislation will go into effect immediately …. The bill contains … a moratorium on large new transmission lines until a newly created study commission reports and the Legislature acts on its report. …
    “Members of the Maine Jobs First coalition, a group of Maine-based manufacturers, labor unions and energy developers who joined forces to make sure the project would not leave Maine saddled with unintended consequences, has raised concerns regarding the corridor’s lack of benefits for Maine’s workers and citizens.
    “We are relieved that the Legislature clearly heard our concerns and acted accordingly” said John Hanson, Executive Director of the Maine State Building and Construction Trades Council. “This proposal was seriously flawed and put Maine in the back seat ….”
    “The proposed energy corridor, first announced in March, would be four times larger than any other transmission line in New England and would serve as a conduit, connecting New Brunswick’s growing energy hub to more profitable markets in Connecticut and Massachusetts. “
    Soon after the idea was announced, representatives including Maine-based manufacturers, labor unions and energy developers formed the Maine Jobs First coalition to make sure the project would not leave Maine saddled with unintended consequences.
    “To us, the original proposal made no sense whatsoever,” Hanson explained. “We … didn’t believe that Maine should bear the costs while Canada gets all the cash.”
    “The next 18 months will determine a great deal about Maine’s energy future.” Buxton explained. “Are we a through-way with parking lots, or are we a community with industry? Are we a producer of renewable energy or a passive bystander?” …
    Why should Maine people pay to build energy facilities in Canada instead of Maine?” said Glenn Poole, president of the Industrial Energy Consumers Group and member of the Maine Jobs First Coalition. “A huge energy corridor with no off ramps and only one on-ramp would seriously jeopardize pending energy projects right here in Maine.
    “With Maine’s energy future at stake, we should not be sacrificing opportunities on our side of the border,” Poole said. “We’re glad to see that this massive corridor will get more scrutiny, because Maine simply can’t afford to get this wrong.
  • Maine’s temporary moratorium was lifted in 2010 by new legislation that took into account the results of the legislative study conducted during the moratorium period
  • The legislation adopted a new “Maine first” policy requiring analysis of impacts on Maine’s own renewables sector and other Maine benefits prior to approval of new transmission corridors

And transmission line moratoria don’t “chill” business. Transmission development is highly active in all of the states mentioned above…

New Hampshire needs a temporary moratorium on elective, private, for-profit, non-need transmission lines

  • New Hampshire is under threat from multiple “merchant” transmission proposals so significant in scale that they may forever change the character of our state
  • These projects are NOT “necessary” additions to the electric grid in New Hampshire or the region. They are NOT required (or even asked for) by any federal, regional or state regulator. They are NOT infused with public purpose. They are simply about making money for private developers. Think of merchant transmission projects as just like another Walmart, car dealership or gas station. It’s private business, nothing more, nothing less…
  • New Hampshire is in the way. The private transmission developers typically want to make money by moving electricity from generation facilities north of our borders to demand load centers south of our borders. Our state would just be a doormat for the new, private, for-profit extension cords
  • New Hampshire is targeted for these projects because of our old, undeveloped regulatory structure. In technical jargon, it’s called “regulatory arbitrage”. Developers pick the jurisdictions with the most backwards regulations because they’re the easiest to exploit
  • New Hampshire’s current regulatory approach to merchant transmission has at least five “Achilles’ heels”:

(1) The state has no tools in our regulatory tool box to ensure that the state benefits from these projects, financially or otherwise
(2) We have no tools to protect the state’s interest in developing our own strong, vibrant renewables energy capacity
(3) We have no tools to effectively limit the imposition by project developers of massive external costs on the public (damage to property values, businesses and communities)
(4) Our regulatory approach fails to draw the critical policy distinction between “needed, regulated” transmission and “unneeded, merchant” lines. Surely elective, private, for-profit, non-need transmission lines should be given much less latitude to impose costs on our families and communities
(5) The state’s siting authority – the Site Evaluation Committee – is overworked, under-resourced, lacks critical elements of state-of-the-art technical expertise, and runs the risk of being overwhelmed by future projects

  • Because of these critical regulatory gaps and holes, the public has little confidence in the state’s ability to protect the public interest in approving and siting merchant transmission lines
  • SB 99’s one-year moratorium will give the state breathing room to study these challenges, hear from stakeholders and the public, and design new regulatory improvements that protect the state and the public interest
  • SB 99’s temporary moratorium is carefully targeted at the problem. The temporary moratorium on merchant transmission will NOT affect, in any way, the usual transmission upgrades that are necessary to keep the lights on

IT’S TIME FOR NEW HAMPSHIRE TO TAKE A PAUSE. WE HAVE TO GET THIS RIGHT. WE CAN’T AFFORD TO GET IT WRONG. SURELY THE PUBLIC INTEREST IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN DEFERRING PRIVATE DEVELOPERS’ PROFITS FOR ONE SHORT YEAR?

A temporary moratorium will encourage responsible transmission investment that protects critical state interests

  • Sound regulation and sound investment go hand in hand
  • SB 99’s temporary moratorium will allow for the necessary studies, public input and policy development to form the foundation for a sound New Hampshire approach to merchant transmission development
  • Responsible long-term developers should prefer a carefully-developed, thoughtful, balanced regulatory structure as opposed to a faulty one that may be exploited today but may cause a broad backlash tomorrow
  • We understand that political theater requires transmission developers to “cry wolf” and claim that even a one-year moratorium will somehow seriously damage their businesses or “chill” the New Hampshire business climate
  • This is simply untrue, and fortunately there are recent case studies to prove it. Let’s look just at our region:
    • Maine adopted a temporary moratorium on transmission. Did this stop transmission development in Maine, such as the merchant Northeast Energy Link project?  NO!
    • New York adopted a temporary moratorium on transmission. Did this stop transmission development in New York, such as the merchant Champlain-Hudson Power Express project?  NO!
    • Connecticut adopted a temporary moratorium on transmission. Did this stop transmission development in Connecticut, including the Cross-Sound project? NO!
  • Another element of political theater is for a transmission developer to claim “SB 99 is unfair because it targets only my project!
  • This is obviously untrue. As regards transmission, SB 99 addresses a broad policy issue – the gold rush of merchant transmission, and the need to update and upgrade the state’s regulatory approach

SB 99’s temporary moratorium, by allowing for the development of a sound regulatory approach to merchant transmission development, will ultimately create a fairer balance between the interests of transmission developers and the public. This will foster more regulatory certainty and less regulatory risk and will improve New Hampshire’s business climate and reputation