The state's Congressional delegation on Tuesday asked the Department of Energy to change the location of a hearing scheduled on the Northern Pass, and within hours the request was granted.
A "scoping session" for the project, designed to help the DOE obtain public input for an environmental impact statement, has been moved from a restaurant in West Stewartstown to Colebrook Elementary School.
The delegation, which has been particularly active on Northern Pass issues recently, issued a joint statement around 3 p.m. on Tuesday, urging the DOE to relocate the hearing "to give constituents and all stakeholders a reasonable opportunity to raise concerns and comment on the Northern Pass Transmission proposal."
The state's two senators and two representatives wrote that constituents had raised concerns about insufficient capacity at the West Stewartstown venue, where one of four sessions was to be held.
Within three hours, the DOE announced that the Thursday, Sept. 26, meeting previously scheduled for West Stewartstown had been moved to a larger venue — Colebrook Elementary School, 27 Dumont St., from 5 to 8 pm.
The other three sessions remain as previously scheduled: in Concord at the Grappone Conference Center, 70 Constitution Avenue, on Monday, Sept. 23, from 6 to 9 p.m.; in Plymouth at Plymouth State University, Silver Center for the Arts, Hanaway Theater, 17 High St., on Tuesday, Sept. 24, 5 to 8 p.m.; and in Whitefield at the Mountain View Grand Resort & Spa, Presidential Room, 101 Mountain View Road, on Wednesday, Sept. 25, from 5 to 8 p.m.
Thousands of residents turned out at scoping hearings held for the original route in 2011, and a strong turnout is predicted for the upcoming sessions as well, given the controversy surrounding the plan to bring hydro power from Quebec into the New England grid, through New Hampshire.
In a letter to U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz, U.S. Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, along with Congresswomen Carol Shea-Porter and Annie Kuster, requested that the fourth scoping hearing be moved from West Stewartstown to the larger venue in Colebrook.
"It has been brought to our attention that the current location for the hearing may not have the capacity required to accommodate what is likely to be a strong turnout at the hearing and poses some logistical challenges to attendees," the delegation wrote. "In order to ensure the public has an opportunity to meaningfully comment, we respectfully request that you consider moving the hearing to a larger venue such as Colebrook Elementary School gymnasium in Colebrook, New Hampshire."
The new round of four hearings was scheduled at the request of the delegation, which in recent weeks has also sought clarification from Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack regarding the terms of the Connecticut Lakes Headwater Conservation Easement.
In a letter to Energy Secretary Moniz, the delegation also asked whether a federal environmental review process can move forward before Northern Pass demonstrates that it can legally pursue construction on the route it submitted.
Information about the Northern Pass Environmental Impact Statement can be obtained from DOE's website at www.northernpasseis.us. Information on the public scoping meetings is available from Brian Mills at 202-586-8267 or by email at Brian.Mills@hq.doe.gov.