New Hampshire U.S. Senators Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte are asking the Department of Energy to clarify procedures that are being used to prepare for an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) related to Northern Pass Transmission's proposal to construct energy lines across the US-Canadian border into northern New Hampshire. The Senators made this request yesterday in a letter sent to the Department of Energy.
In the letter, Shaheen and Ayotte specifically cite concerns from landowners in Grafton County regarding DOE contractors using pre-existing easements held by the Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) to enter private property and conduct EIS activities on behalf of Northern Pass.
New Hampshire residents have contacted both Senators requesting increased and improved communication from DOE officials and contractors. They have specifically asked if these EIS activities go beyond the scope of the PSNH easements and should be subject to official approval by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission. Impacted landowners have also inquired about the DOE research and data collection actions to see if they are appropriate since Northern Pass does not currently have an active Presidential Permit application pending with the Department.
The Senators are calling for DOE to address these pressing concerns, writing that the comments from local landowners "illustrate the need for DOE to provide clear guidance and reasoning for any actions the agency and its contractors take related to this application process."
The full text of the Senators' letter to Department of Energy Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman is included below.
March 11, 2013
The Honorable Patricia Hoffman
Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability
United States Department of Energy
1000 Independence Avenue SW
Washington, DC 20585
Dear Assistant Secretary Hoffman,
We write to request clarification regarding the procedures utilized by the Department of Energy (DOE) for preparing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). As you know, such a statement is required for any application from Northern Pass Transmission, LCC (Northern Pass) to obtain a Presidential Permit to construct and maintain an electric transmission line across the U.S.-Canada border into northern New Hampshire. We are committed to ensuring that DOE provide the necessary safeguards to ensure objectivity, transparency and public confidence in the application process.
Recently, several landowners in Grafton County, NH have contacted our offices to express their concern that DOE contractors are using pre-existing easements held by the Public Service Company of New Hampshire (PSNH) to enter their property to conduct EIS activities on behalf of Northern Pass. It is our understanding that affected landowners initially believed the EIS contractors had a right to be on their property based on a DOE "Authorization to Conduct Field Research and Scientific Data Collection" form they received, which was signed by Jon Worthington, Deputy Assistant Secretary within the agency's Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability.
While PSNH granted such permission to the DOE contractors, our constituents question whether work related to preparing an EIS goes beyond the scope of the easements held by PSNH. It is also unclear whether an assignment of any such property right by PSNH to Northern Pass, a completely different corporate entity, is subject to official approval by the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission. Our constituents have also inquired about whether conducting research and data collection in support of the project is appropriate at this juncture, given that Northern Pass does not currently have an active Presidential Permit application pending before DOE that identifies the proposed route.
These concerns are raised by New Hampshire stakeholders who would be directly affected by the Northern Pass project. We are sure you will agree that they illustrate the need for DOE to provide clear guidance and reasoning for any actions the agency and its contractors take related to this application process.
We appreciate your attention to these important issues, and look forward to your response. Should you have any questions regarding our request for information, your staff may be in touch with Robert Diznoff (Shaheen) at 202-224-2841 or Emily Lynch (Ayotte) at 202-224-3324.
Jeanne Shaheen, United States Senator
Kelly Ayotte, United States Senator