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September 09. 2013 10:09PM

DOE gears up for hearings on Northern Pass project

Supporters and opponents of the Northern Pass hydroelectric project will have a chance to make their case as the Department of Energy gears up for a series of public hearings, known as scoping meetings, at four locations from Sept. 23-26.

Thousands of New Hampshire residents turned out for the first round of scoping hearings in March 2011, based on the proposed route at that time for the 1,200-megawatt power lines designed to bring electricity from Quebec into the New England grid, via New Hampshire.

Since then, Northeast Utilities and its New Hampshire subsidiary, PSNH, have proposed a new route that calls for burying about eight miles of the line through some of the most contentious areas in the North Country. The new route means a new round of hearings as regulators gather information for an environmental impact statement.

The following hearings have been scheduled:

• In Concord on Monday, Sept. 23, from 6 to 9 p.m. at the Grappone Conference Center, 70 Constitution Ave;

• In Plymouth on Tuesday, Sept. 24, from 5 to 8 p.m. in Plymouth, at Plymouth State University, Silver Center for the Arts, Hanaway Theater, 17 High St.;

• In Whitefield on Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m. at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa, Presidential Room, 101 Mountain View Road, and;

• In West Stewartstown on Thursday, Sept. 26, from 5 to 8 p.m. at The Spa Restaurant, 869 Washington St. (this location may change).

Since the 2011 round of scoping hearings in Pembroke, Franklin, Lincoln, Whitefield, Plymouth, Colebrook, and Haverhill, the Department of Energy has received more than 3,000 comments.

According to the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, an active project opponent, more than 2,000 people attended the 2011 hearings, and hundreds voiced their concerns about the project’s potential impacts. “Fewer than 20 people expressed support for Northern Pass,” according to the society website.

Whether that pattern holds true in the next round of hearings remains to be seen, as Northern Pass partners have been on an aggressive public relations push since announcing the new route in late June, including a round of statewide informational hearings and a multi-media ad campaign.

Speakers get three minutes each before the DOE panel, and can register in advance or on the day of the meeting. Requests to speak or to be added to the mailing list to receive a copy of the draft EIS should be addressed to Brian Mills, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE-20), U.S. Department of Energy, 1000 Independence Avenue SW., Washington, DC 20585;

Mills can also be reached by email at Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov, or by fax at 202-586-8008.

Requests to speak received by Sept. 18 will be given priority in the speaking order, even though requests can be made at the meetings.

Northern Pass partners do not testify at these hearings, but will be present to answer questions before or after the event. PSNH is expected to set up a trade-show style display at each hearing location.

Jim Dannis a North Country resident and member of Responsible Energy Action, is among those who have pre-registered to speak at the Whitefield meeting. He said he will focus on the White Mountain National Forest, where Northern Pass is requesting a waiver or “project-specific amendment” to restrictions on commercial development in the conservation area.

“We are very concerned about that, and are going to urge the forest supervisor to not even consider giving the Northern Pass a one-off pass through the Whites,” he said.dsolomon@unionleader.com


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