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Proposal would raise application fees for major utility projects like Northern Pass



Last modified: Friday, May 22, 2015
Energy developers will have to pay hefty application fees to start the state’s permitting process, if a bill passed by the Senate yesterday becomes law.

The state Site Evaluation Committee is charged with approving large-scale energy projects in New Hampshire, including the Northern Pass project and any future wind farms.

Currently project applicants don’t pay an up-front fee, but cover the costs for counsel, court reporters and travel, among other things.

The legislation aims to self-fund the evaluation committee, whose members are paid through a mix of state and federal money.

“The whole reason for this bill is that taxpayers should not be funding the cost of an applicant in these large energy proposals,” said Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley, a Wolfeboro Republican.

The legislation outlines a series of application fees specific to each type of energy project. An applicant seeking a permit for an electric transmission project, for example, would pay a $50,000 base fee plus $3,000 for each mile of line.

Part of that fee could be returned if the developers back out of the permit process midway through.

The legislation will now go to the Senate Finance Committee for review.

Lawmakers recently reorganized the Site Evaluation Committee, cutting the number of members from 15 to 9 and adding new public representatives.

The committee, primarily made up of energy regulators and state officials, is still adopting a new set of rules. The SEC will likely review project applications for the Northern Pass electric transmission line and the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline in the upcoming years.

Senators also signed off on legislation yesterday to begin implementing portions of the state’s 10-year energy strategy, released last September.

The legislation calls for the Public Utilities Commission to establish an electricity peak time reduction goal, meant to help lower usage during times of high electricity consumption, and asks the PUC to study electric grid modernization.

It also calls for state energy officials to examine options for public charging stations along major highways in New Hampshire.

The energy strategy, issued by the state Office of Energy and Planning and an advisory council of lawmakers and officials, called on New Hampshire to modernize its electric grid, increase energy efficiency and transportation choices, and diversify the fuel supply.

The strategy doesn’t contain mandates, but it is meant to serve as a blueprint for state agencies and the Legislature as they draft future energy policies.

“There have been a few things,” said Meredith Hatfield, director of the Office of Energy and Planning. “But, we still have more work to do.”



(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or amorris@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @amorrisNH.)