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DOE issues environmental impact statement on Eversource's Northern Pass line

The U.S. Department of Energy has issued a favorable final environmental impact statement greenlighting Eversource Energy's application for a permit for its Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission project crossing the U.S.-Canada border.

The DOE found that the Northern Pass project's 192-mile route from the border at Pittsburg, N.H., to Deerfield, N.H., is the "preferred alternative" and the proposed high-voltage direct-current line will provide substantial benefits with minimal impact on the environment and "low" to "very low" average impact on scenic views. More than 80% of the power line will be located along existing transmission corridors or buried along roadways in order to preserve scenic views in the White Mountain National Forest area.

Along with diversifying ISO New England's electricity supply, the Energy Department said the line, which is capable of carrying 1,090 MW of low-carbon hydropower generated by Hydro-Québec in Canada, will help New England states meet public policy goals by reducing regional greenhouse gas emissions by 9%, or 2.5 million metric tons a year. Eversource and Hydro-Québec also recently bid the $1.6 billion Northern Pass project into Massachusetts' clean-energy request for proposals. While one proposal would see the Northern Pass line transmit only hydropower, a second proposal would also deliver hydropower-backed wind generation from wind developers Boralex Inc. and Gaz Métro LP.

In addition, the DOE said Northern Pass will create nearly 7,000 jobs in New Hampshire during construction as well as approximately 900 permanent jobs, contribute more than $734 million to the state's economy during construction and boost annual statewide property tax revenue by more than $37 million once built.

Bill Quinlan, president of Eversource operations in New Hampshire, welcomed the Energy Department's conclusions in a news release and said Northern Pass will help New England address its "serious energy challenges, including having some of the highest prices in the continental United States."

The final environmental impact statement is the result of a years-long undertaking by the DOE, as required by the National Environmental Policy Act, and is needed before the agency can issue a Presidential Permit allowing Eversource subsidiary Northern Pass Transmission LLC to construct, operate, maintain and connect a new transnational power line.

The project will also require a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service and a Section 404 permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. New Hampshire's Site Evaluation Committee is holding a series of hearings on Northern Pass before a Sept. 30 deadline for a siting decision on the project. Eversource expects the remaining permits to be issued in 2017, with substantial completion of the project's construction by the third quarter of 2020 and the line going live by the end of 2020.

A comprehensive construction deal to build Northern Pass was announced Aug. 7 between Eversource, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers labor union, transmission and distribution contractor Quanta Services Inc. and HVDC line installer and converter station developer ABB Inc.