My Turn: Where does the Northern Pass confidence come from?

For the Monitor
Thursday, November 16, 2017

In a third-quarter investment call by Eversource’s Lee Olivier, the executive vice president stated: “We have a very strong governor in New Hampshire that supports this project. The Legislature supports this project, including the senior members of the Legislature. The Site Evaluation Committee chairman has been very efficient and very judicious in the process, so we don’t see any delays there. A number of the interveners had tried previous litigation ... all of which have failed.”

“I’m very confident we will get our decision,” he said. He also stated, “No other project that exists is as far along as we are and has the certainty that we have.”

Olivier can’t be talking about the same Northern Pass I know.

There are two items to consider in Olivier’s statement: Is the Northern Pass project well done and further along than other projects, and is Northern Pass relying on Eversource’s behind-the-scenes influence for its permit?

“ ‘Certainty’ would hardly be the word New Hampshire opponents and most of Eversource’s competitors would use to describe Northern Pass,” stated Bruce Mohl in Commonwealth Magazine. Mohl is correct. Olivier’s assertions would be laughable if the consequences weren’t so devastating.

Why is Olivier so confident of the decision when his project is totally inept and incomplete? County attorney Laura Saffo filed a motion requiring a new application, so much has changed since its filing. Northern Pass seems to create plans as it goes. Is he assuming because these “leaders” support the project, they can help overcome its failures? Is that why Olivier is “confident and certain?”

No other project is as far along as Northern Pass, Olivier claims. Ridiculous. The New England Clean Power Link has public approval and all its permits, including plans for full burial and avoiding town centers. Northern Pass has not achieved one of those criteria.

Northern Pass surveys have been deemed unacceptable. Northern Pass originally requested almost 190 exemptions and then requested a blanket exemption for all roads. Northern Pass doesn’t even know which side of the roads it will use.

The Department of Transportation refused to address any further exemption requests because its surveys are so inaccurate and incomplete. Even the Eversource project manager stated under oath there were inaccuracies. New surveys have begun but could take months.

On Oct. 20, Stephan Nix, an attorney and licensed land surveyor, testified Northern Pass had failed to meet many required criteria in its surveys. When asked if the new surveys being done were acceptable, he replied, “No.” Nix explained most companies establish correct surveys first, then build their plans upon those surveys. Northern Pass is doing the reverse.

Regarding the influence of Eversource on Northern Pass, does Gov. Chris Sununu’s support have anything to do with the thousands of dollars he received from Eversource? Eversource is known for its quid pro quo way of business.

Sununu obviously recognized the implications of Olivier’s statement because his office immediately issued a press release stating the governor cannot influence the decision. Oh, really?

1) Three of Sununu’s appointees, in the positions they now hold, could influence their agencies’ decisions.

2) Sununu attempted to have wording from Senate Bill 128, a bill Northern Pass desperately needed and was tabled, added to Senate Bill 129.

3) The governor made a trip to Washington to speed up permits. The federal White Mountain National Forest’s permit was granted and the Department of Energy accepted Northern Pass’s plan, recommending it for the presidential permit.

4) “Our” governor and Northern Pass have routinely called for speed at the SEC. His own words speak loudly to his bias. Sununu said it was “completely inappropriate” that state regulators of the SEC once again delayed their final written decision on the project. “They’ve had more than enough time to provide an answer,” Sununu said. “What’s going on over there? . . . In case you can’t tell, I’m a little frustrated.”

Sununu has, once again, shown his lack of knowledge of the project. Northern Pass isn’t remotely close to having a sufficiently completed project. If the decision date hadn’t been postponed, there should have been a rejection of their permit request.

Why did Northern Pass submit plans and surveys they knew were inaccurate? Is it because this project is beyond their expertise or is it because they are relying on their influence? As has been heard repeatedly regarding Northern Pass, “The fix is in” and “It’s a done deal.”

The governor’s job is to reflect the concerns of the people. One greedy, inept, negligent, unethical and irresponsible company that has contributed sizable monies to his campaign has his support. Eversource is more concerned with its “friends in high places” than a complete and accurate project. This project is far from complete; it is nowhere near ready for a permit or for the Massachusetts RFP.

Mr. Olivier needs to get his facts right.

(Dolly McPhaul lives in Sugar Hill.)