CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A utility's application to string power transmission lines from Canada to southern New Hampshire is complete, the state's Site Evaluation Committee ruled Monday, rejecting arguments from opponents who argued that questions over land use rights should be addressed first.
The panel voted 6-0 to accept the application by Eversource to build the Northern Pass transmission project. In a statement, the company said it was eager for the siting process to continue.
"The SEC's thorough review process continues with a series of public information sessions and other hearings early in the year that will allow people from across the state to comment and directly participate," the company said. "We look forward to continuing our conversations with New Hampshire residents, and working together to secure our energy future."
Hartford, Connecticut-based Eversource wants to run a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield, carrying 1,090 MW of Canadian hydropower to Southern New England markets. Sixty miles of the line will be buried. Backers say it will create jobs and lower costs in a region that routinely pays the nation's highest average cost for electricity. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that New England consumers will pay 19.29 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2015, more than 50 percent higher than the national average of 12.56 cents.
The $1.6 billion project would tap into Canada's biggest hydropower producer, HydroQuebec.
Opponents have argued that the project will hurt property values, tourism and the environment.
The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and New England Power Generators Association had asked the SEC to declare the Eversource application incomplete, saying the company hadn't proved it had full control of the land to be used for the power line.
The forest society has also sued, claiming Eversource doesn't have the right to use a highway right-of-way that goes through land owned by the society. The state's Department of Environmental Services also submitted comments saying it believed the application was incomplete.
"The SEC's action was disappointing but not altogether unexpected," society spokesman Jack Savage said. "As they acknowledged, certain property rights are in dispute. The question is when and how those property right issues are taken into consideration by the SEC, and the answer to that question remains."
Once the SEC issues its written decision on the completeness question, expected by Dec. 18, a one-year clock starts ticking for the SEC to complete its review. Steps along the way include more public hearings in each of the five counties touched by the project. If a federal permit is issued and the state SEC approves the plan, Eversource said it expects construction to begin in 2017 and the power to start flowing in spring 2019.