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Hassan to Connecticut: Curb your Northern Pass bill

Governors Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut.

Governors Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire and Dannel Malloy of Connecticut.

Citing unresolved concerns about Northern Pass, Gov. Maggie Hassan yesterday urged Connecticut’s governor to oppose a pending rewrite of that state’s renewable energy plan that would reclassify large-scale Canadian hydropower for that state’s renewable energy goals.

The proposed Northern Pass, which would bring hydropower from Canada to the New England power grid by crossing New Hampshire, would qualify under the bill. The bill, which passed the Connecticut Senate last week, 26-6, could come up for a vote in the House as early as today.

Connecticut has a goal of purchasing at least 20 percent of its power from renewables by 2020. The legislation would allow large-scale hydropower from Canada to account for up to 5 percent of that goal.

“Many in my state believe that the impetus for Connecticut’s legislation is your state’s desire to benefit from the Northern Pass project,” Hassan wrote in a letter to Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy, a fellow Democrat. “As you know, Northern Pass raises many questions for New Hampshire. That project could have an impact on some of our state’s most important natural resources, such as the White Mountain National Forest, which are critical to the success of our tourism industry.”

Hassan noted that New Hampshire has not yet received a permit application for Northern Pass or had a chance to fully discuss it. The project has not yet applied for required federal permits either. Nor have state officials or residents been told what course the proposed 180-mile power line will take.

Northern Pass officials have repeatedly delayed releasing the northern section of the proposed route as they’ve struggled to buy enough contiguous pieces of land for the new power line. Two conservation easements block the likely route at strategic places, prompting some lawmakers to question whether Northern Pass will try to cross state land or conservation land.

Officials from the governor’s office, the state Department of Transportation and the Department of Resources and Economic Development said they have not been contacted by Northern Pass officials about crossing those properties.

Malloy’s office didn’t tarry yesterday in responding to Hassan’s comments.

Malloy is maintaining his enthusiastic support for the legislation because it’s a “win-win for Connecticut and the region,” said Mark Ojakian, Malloy’s chief of staff, in an email.

“We strongly disagree with Gov. Hassan,” he wrote. “Accessing hydroelectric power is a win-win for Connecticut and the region because it will lower rates for Connecticut residents and increase our supply of renewable energy.”

Hassan also questioned the harm such a rewrite of renewable energy standards could have on the larger New England region. Currently, small hydropower projects, as well as other developing technologies such as biomass, solar and wind power qualify but large-scale projects don’t.

The idea is to give new, alternative energy sources a guaranteed market as they grow.

“For years, the New England states have worked together to ensure that our (renewable energy) policies provide appropriate incentives for renewable energy investments in our region,” Hassan wrote. “These incentives are aimed at keeping consumer costs as low as possible, while also ensuring that our states reap the economic benefits of renewable energy production.”

Hassan’s letter to Malloy continued: “The . . . policies excluded large-scale hydro – even within the region – because these plants don’t need incentives to stay in operation,” she wrote. “To include large-scale hydroelectricity in your (renewable portfolio) undermines our common goal of fostering new and small-scale renewable resources here in New England.”

Ojakian disagreed.

“Connecticut residents pay among the highest prices for energy in the country, and Gov. Malloy believes our consumers deserve some much needed relief,” he wrote. “This proposal does just that. The purchase of more expensive and less clean biomass is simply not an option.”

After seeing Hassan’s letter yesterday afternoon, a Northern Pass spokesman said that project will not need subsidies or a rewrite of renewable energy projects to compete.

“A distinguishing and substantial benefit of Northern Pass is that it can compete with other fuel sources without a subsidy or the need for legislative changes to existing (renewable energy) laws,” Michael Skelton said in an email.

“There is growing demand for an increased supply of renewable energy sources across New England, and this is a point on which most states agree,” Skelton continued. “For this reason, we believe that all forms of renewable energy need consideration. How each state goes about structuring laws and policies to determine how best to meet their needs is up to them. There’s no question, however, that we view the biomass plants here in New Hampshire as important sources of renewable energy.”

Dan Dolan, president of the New England Power Generators Association, which opposes the project as proposed, has been following the Connecticut legislation closely.

He said he agrees with Hassan’s assessment that the Connecticut bill is intended to give Northern Pass, and its Canadian partner Hydro-Quebec, a long-term contract. Dolan said the bill guarantees that contract because it excludes any large-scale Canadian hydropower built before 2003.

Dolan said only Hydro-Quebec is the only large-scale Canadian hydropower generator that can meet that requirement
Dolan said he had shared his concerns with Hassan before yesterday.

“Connecticut is attempting to provide a benefit for a highly controversial project that has to cut through . . . New Hampshire and is incredibly controversial before New Hampshire has even had a chance to weigh in on it,” Dolan said. “And that for us is incredibly troubling.”

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323, or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

Legacy Comments4

Bravo to Governor Hassan for reminding Gov. Malloy that NH doesn't care to be CT's slave energy colony, thank you very much. The days of colonial exploitation are long gone in this country. If Malloy really wants Northern Pass, he should lean on NU to make a deal with NH to bury it on state ROWs. He seems to forget that NH holds the trump card here regardless of what the CT legislature votes. If anyone else wanted this damaging overhead transmission project - Maine or VT - they'd have spoken up by now.

Governor Hassan is protecting New Hampshire jobs from Connecticut Governor Malloy's plan to subsidize foreign big hydro power from Quebec. We should be grateful. Under Malloy's plan, NH's biomass power industry and related working forest jobs would be devastated. At the same time, Malloy's plan would send Connecticut ratepayer dollars to Quebec to support jobs there and to improve the chances for Northeast Utilities' Northern Pass transmission line project that would erect transmission towers and HVDC transmission cable across 180 to 200 miles of NH's landscapes. Why would Malloy do such a thing? Is it explained by the background of Malloy's energy czar, Daniel Esty, and Esty's wife, Representative Elizabeth Esty? Mr. Esty received $205,000 in consulting fees from Northeast Utilities before he became Connecticut's energy czar; and Mrs. Esty received campaign contributions from Northeast Utilities' executives after her husband was picked by Malloy to be Commissioner of the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection. Representative Esty has recently agreed to give back those contributions because of the appearance that they were buying favors from her husband. Not surprisingly, the Connecticut bill that Governor Hassan has criticized was drafted by Daniel Esty's office and supported by him in testimony before Connecticut's legislative bodies. Also not surprisingly, Daniel Esty is keeping his $205,000 in fees received from Northeast Utilities and representing that those fees and his wife's political contributions will have no impact on the performance of his duties. You be the judge.

Hassan should hear what Gov. Malloy said, he does care what NH thinks, what NH wants or what is best for NH. He only cares about Conn. Ignore him and just do not allow this power through NH. There is more talk that NP could be looking to use Connecticut Lakes conservation land. If NP is allowed to use this land then the state can expect to see lawsuits as to why other private ventures can't use it. A nice resort along the lake would be an asset to the local town too, jobs and taxes. A dangerous road to go down in our lawsuit happy society.

Green Energy Northern Pass is such a great idea it is hard to imagine it not being completed. The National Security issue is that we need the power to overcome the doldrums of the Obama Economy and ensure America's future supply of abundant inexpensive reliable power. For the Greenies there is the reliable renewable energy issue that they should worship.

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