Northern Pass 2 ? Looks like its getting closer

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peakbagger

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Northern Pass Two?

Things are starting to line up for another run at running Hydro Quebec Power down through NH. Various politicians have long memories and the Site Evaluation Commissions (SEC) voting to stop the project made a lot of enemies that have been slowly trying to find a work around to the SEC which long ago was intended to try to get politicians out of the process. NH is the least progressive for encouraging renewable in the region and the PUC has routinely put waivers in place requested by Eversource and other utilities to diminish renewable power goals set into law previously. During this past years political rhetoric regarding the big rate increases for power and natural gas, Governor Sununu brought up that it was time to take “another look” at importing Canadian hydro through Northern NH. The governor got elected late in the Northern Pass project and attempted to yield some influence on the vote by replacing two members but it was not enough to change the outcome. He expressed his disappointment in the press numerous times. Keep in mind that his father was no friend of land conservation efforts in NH having been on the wrong side of the Nash Stream purchase until he figured out a way for his developer buddy to make a big profit.

The other issue is that Mass still wants "green" hydro power as the offshore wind power proposals are getting stalled with a major lobbying effort against them. The reports of whale deaths due to wind power development are largely hyped by pro fossil groups despite evidence that the majority of the deaths are related to increased shipping to the NE as result of Covid and west coast congestion. Clean Power Connect in Maine is on its last legs with ongoing legal issues not resolved and key environmental permits running out. The public power referendum is going to take a lot of CMPs time and political will to fight and the carcass of CPC may be offered up in sacrifice.

There was always the question what Eversource was going to do with the large blocks of land purchased with ratepayer money in the north country for the right of way. It really had no logical use except for a convoluted power line right of way yet they retained the land after taken a significant write off of project costs. For those familiar with the north country, Eversource has been spending significant dollars completely replacing and upgrading the transmission system one stretch at time under the guise of reliability since soon after NP was thought to be dead. These same upgrades were held hostage by Eversource for several years and at one point were used as an inducement to approve NP.

The problem with giving it another try is the SEC process is still on the books and its open to public scrutiny and very difficult to control as it uses objective judging of legislated criteria. Back-room deals are harder. So now the other shoe is dropping which is eliminate the SEC and hand the process over the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Tensions run high over future of energy facility siting in New Hampshire – New Hampshire Bulletin . The state PUC has been notorious at being the lapdog of the utilities for decades. It is mostly staffed by lawyers and insiders that jump back and forth between the commission and the utilities that they are supposed to be regulating. Public input is minimal except for one public advocate that tries to have some impact but mostly is set up as a figure head to make the process look transparent. Many of the groups that opposed NP are opposed to this change but to date the legislative majority is working their own agenda.

Anyone watching the news will have noticed that the state legislature has swung towards a very conservative agenda with some references to “the Florida of New England” starting to be used to describe the legislative direction. The state executive council, a little known but very powerful political entity in NH has also gone ultra conservative.

Given the recent run of sky-high electric bills which are primarily a result of natural gas prices impacted by lack of regional supply and LNG price hikes tied to the war in Ukraine there is going to be more public support for anything that will reduce power costs. It will also provide political cover for supporters of NP under the guise of power cost reduction.

The issues with a NP like project remain, it’s a right of way down through rural Coos Country and then right through the more prosperous eastern Grafton County. Franconia, Easton, Sugar Hill, Littleton and Plymouth are all areas of relative wealth and power compared to northern Coos and the towns on the east side of 93 are also opposed to the major expansion of the right of way. Unlike the prior NP proposal which directed power to Mass, my guess is this NP 2 will include some distribution of power to state demand with plenty of capacity for Mass.

So, line up the clues, A governor on his way out heading to national public office that would welcome support from Eversource who has spent a lot of money regionally making political donations, a legislature with their hands out for a portion of a billion dollar project and stinging from the SEC vote that they could not control, a voter base who is upset by high power bills and ability to greenwash Hydro Quebec power (which would really be renamed fossil) and it adds up to a new project reappearing. My guess is it would have already been back on the table but the presidential election results upset the progress.
 
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Thanks for catching it, I always get those counties confused ;) I edited the post.
 
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