Transmission company files for underwater, underground power line across U.S./Canada border

MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — An energy project developer formally asked the U.S. Department of Energy on Tuesday for approval to build a 1,000 MW, underwater and underground power line to bring Canadian power to New England by way of Vermont.

TDI New England said it has filed a presidential permit application with the DOE for a $1.2 billion project it is calling the Clean Power Link. The company hopes to complete the project in 2019.

The power line would bring hydroelectric and wind power from energy-rich Quebec to the energy-hungry cities of southern New England.

 

"The presidential permit process is quite extensive, relying on input from various experts and stakeholders to ensure all potential impacts and benefits are understood," the company's CEO, Don Jessome, said in a statement.

The project also will need approval from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Vermont Public Service Board.

"We'll literally be doing hundreds of public meetings for this project," Jessome said in an interview.

Presidential permits are required when energy is moved across international borders. Electricity and natural gas applications go through the DOE, Jessome said. Oil pipelines, like the Keystone XL pipeline proposed to run through the Great Plains from Canada to Texas, go through the State Department.

If approved by regulators, the power line's route will run from the Canadian border near Alburgh, 3 to 4 feet under Lake Champlain for nearly the entire length of the lake — about 97 miles — and then turn southeasterly at Benson, crossing Rutland County to Ludlow in western Windsor County.

"It's an all buried project, which is important to us from a community perspective," Jessome said. "It's important to be respectful of the communities we traverse."

Direct current power from Canada would be converted to alternating current power at a newly built facility in Ludlow, then sent about a third of a mile to connect with a high voltage power line operated by the Vermont Electric Power Co., or VELCO, in neighboring Cavendish.

VELCO, which handles bulk power transmission for Vermont's retail utilities, is connected with the New England power grid.

Christophe Courchesne, a Concord, N.H.-based lawyer with the Conservation Law Foundation, which has been tracking power line projects proposed for northern New England, had encouraging words Tuesday for the project — but not an outright endorsement. Courchesne said the developers had met with the foundation and other groups to outline their plans months ago.

"It's encouraging that they were taking a collaborative approach with stakeholders," he said, adding that he hoped and expected it would be subject to "robust environmental review."

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