The Northern Pass transmission project is currently in the permitting and siting stage. In July 2015, the U.S. Department of Energy released its draft Environmental Impact Statement. This launched a public comment period giving members of the public an opportunity to comment on the project. Northern Pass filed an application with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee in October 2015 and that application was accepted in December 2015. The state process will also provide opportunity for public comment.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) is required to review all applications for the siting and construction of large-scale energy facilities, including natural gas pipelines, electric generating facilities, and high-voltage transmission lines like the Northern Pass project. After an extensive adjudicative proceeding, the SEC decides whether to issue a Certificate of Site and Facility (Certificate). It will do so if it finds that an applicant has adequate financial, technical, and managerial capability, that a project will not interfere with the orderly development of the region, that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety, and that the project will serve the public interest. RSA 162-H:16, IV. The SEC may also impose reasonable terms and conditions as part of a Certificate, establish procedures to monitor construction and operation, RSA 162-H: 16, VI and enforce the terms and conditions of a Certificate, RSA 162-H: 12.
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee is made up of 9 members:
The SEC conducts its review of an application through a formal adjudicative process. Site 202.01. It begins the process with a procedural order and notice that schedules a public meeting in order to consider petitions to intervene and scheduling issues. Persons seeking to intervene must file a petition that demonstrates that the "petitioner’s rights, duties, privileges, immunities or other substantial interest might be affected by the proceedings.” Site 202.11 and RSA 541-A:32.
Counsel for the Public, appointed by the Attorney General, participates as a party to the proceeding in order to "represent the public in seeking to protect the quality of the environment and in seeking to assure an adequate supply of energy.” RSA 162-H:9. The SEC may employ consultants to assist itself and Counsel for the Public, the cost of which is borne by the applicant. RSA 162-H:10, V. The SEC is advised throughout the process by outside counsel engaged for the proceeding. Site 103.05.
The applicant and others who are granted intervention submit expert testimony through witnesses who are under oath and subject to cross-examination by the parties as well as questioning by members of the SEC. Site 202.21. The SEC must consider and weigh all evidence presented at public hearings and written information submitted by members of the public. RSA 162-H:10, III. It is required to issue a decision granting or denying an application for a Certificate within 365 days of its acceptance. 162-H:7, VI-d. The SEC may temporarily extend this time frame if it is in the public interest to do so. RSA 162-H:14. The applicant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence that a Certificate should be granted. Site 202.19. Within 30 days of an SEC decision granting or denying a Certificate, a motion for rehearing may be filed with the SEC. Site 202.29 and RSA 541:3. Within 30 days of an SEC decision on rehearing, an appeal may be filed with the New Hampshire Supreme Court. RSA 541:6.
Ex parte rules apply to SEC proceedings. RSA 162-H;3. IV. As a result, SEC members may not "communicate directly or indirectly with any person or party about the merits of an application or petition unless all parties are given notice and an opportunity to participate in the communication.” Site 202.30. Members of the public who have not been granted intervention as a party to a proceeding may submit comments in writing, which will be posted on the SEC website, and may state their position at a hearing or prehearing conference. Site 202.25.
Click here for a step-by-step description of how energy projects obtain a Certificate of Site and Facility from the SEC.
Requests for access to the public files and records of the SEC, may be directed to:
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) conducts two primary evaluations in determining whether a proposed project is consistent with the public interest.
1. Environmental Impact: DOE must determine the environmental impacts
associated with issuing or denying a Presidential Permit. For the Northern
Pass, this will include a full Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) as required
by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). As part of this process, DOE
will conduct scoping, public comment and public hearings in New Hampshire. The
public, municipalities, and other interested parties will be notified of public
hearings and opportunities for public comment when they are scheduled.
Upon completion of the NEPA analysis and evaluation of the electric reliability criteria, DOE must obtain concurrence from the Secretary of State and the Secretary of Defense before a permit may be issued. The time required to process an application for a Presidential Permit is usually determined by the extent of the environmental analysis.
2. Impact on Electric Reliability: DOE considers the effect that the proposed project would have on the operating reliability of the U.S. electric power supply system; i.e., the ability of the existing generation and transmission system to remain within acceptable voltage, loading, and stability limits during normal and emergency conditions. The standards DOE applies include those of the North American Electric Reliability Council (NERC) and of the member regional councils, ISO New England, and the Northeast Power Coordinating Council (NPCC).
Northern Pass Transmission, LLC filed an amended application for a Presidential Permit in July 2013. DOE determined that an EIS would be required for the Northern Pass, and on July 21, 2015, DOE issued a draft EIS for public comment. On August 10, 2017, the DOE issued the Final EIS on Northern Pass. No sooner than 30 days thereafter, it will issue a decision document based on the Final EIS, and, if the decision is favorable, DOE will issue the Presidential Permit shortly thereafter.
While DOE is taking the lead on the preparation of the EIS, several other federal agencies coordinate and participate in the NEPA process, including, but not limited to:
You can also subscribe to get federal permitting process updates by going to http://www.northernpasseis.us/.