U.S. Markets closed

Northern Pass route being announced

Norma Love, Associated Press

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Northern Pass is announcing Thursday a new route for its proposed 180-mile, high-voltage power line originating in northern New Hampshire.

The privately funded $1.2 billion Northern Pass project plans to build a line that would transmit 1,200 megawatts of Canadian hydroelectric power into New England, but it has run into strong opposition. Critics argue the power line's towers along the route — especially in the North Country — would rise above the trees and would damage New Hampshire's environment, lower property values and make the state less attractive to tourists.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests bought conservation easements in an attempt to block Northern Pass from securing a route.

The project will announce a new route on Thursday.

Former Sen. Judd Gregg, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Gov. Maggie Hassan recently added their voices to those opposing any attempt to traverse the Connecticut Lakes headwaters that Shaheen and Gregg worked to protect.

The Legislature debated a series of bills this year aimed at slowing down or stopping construction. None that would stop the project survived. New Hampshire businessmen objected that passing laws aimed at hindering Northern Pass could affect unrelated projects.

Supporters argue the Canadian power would reduce the need for electricity from fossil fuel sources that produce carbon emissions and would provide property tax revenue from Northern Pass facilities to the communities the line passes through. They also say it would provide jobs for New Hampshire.

Lawmakers did agree to take another look at the criteria a special siting committee uses to evaluate projects like Northern Pass as well as wind power projects that critics argue also damage New Hampshire's image as a tourist state.

A coalition opposed to Northern Pass wants lawmakers to increase the site evaluation committee's power to do the following: perform a more rigorous review of large transmission projects that are for power beyond what is needed in the region; consider burying the power lines or other alternatives; take into account the cumulative environmental, visual and economic impacts of multiple energy projects; give municipalities a more direct role in the permitting process; consider how the proposed projects will meet New Hampshire's energy needs as well as the region's; and set criteria for addressing sizeable additions to the facilities.

Northern Pass declined to comment on its pending announcement.