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home : top news : top news May 22, 2015

3/29/2013 9:58:00 AM
Northern Pass: Senate Kills Transmission Line Moratorium
Robert Blechl
Staff Writer

Those hoping to apply the brakes to Northern Pass were disappointed Thursday after the New Hampshire Senate passed a bill that removes the proposed one-year moratorium on new large-scale electric transmission projects.

Senate Bill 99, passed in a 23-1 vote, now reverts to its original intent to study how the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) performs its function and to recommend improvements and efficiencies. To that end, it seeks to establish two study committees.

"We put up a good fight," said state Sen. Jeff Woodburn, D-Dalton, a sponsor of SB 99 and proponent of the electric transmission line moratorium. "It was a complicated series of votes today."

Last week, when the bill was in committee, state Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, successfully proposed an amendment that while keeping the moratorium on large-scale wind farms exempted elective transmission line projects like Northern Pass from a moratorium.

In the end, the final SB 99 vote also removed the proposed one-year moratorium on wind farms. The bill now proceeds to the House for review.

The aim of the moratoria had been to give SEC regulators additional time to thoroughly review all proposed transmission line and wind projects and stemmed from concerns that the SEC was burdened with proposals.

"The crux of this was that the SEC process needs to be beefed up," said Woodburn.

Before the final vote Thursday, Woodburn and state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, R-Meredith, put forth an amendment to restore the electric transmission line moratorium.

But the amendment was not something the majority of the Senate members wanted to put back in the bill, he said, and it died in a 4-20 vote.

Removing the transmission line moratorium but keeping the moratorium on wind farms was giving Northern Pass special treatment, said Woodburn, and the ultimate Senate decision was not to impose any moratoria at all.

"It was disappointing, but this is going to be a victory of many wins and losses and we will keep inching forward," said Woodburn, who opposes the overhead Northern Pass Transmission line as currently proposed.

Also disappointed was Easton resident Susan Schibanoff.

"Moratoria are a standard tool of good government and would have served a very useful purpose in New Hampshire now," said Schibanoff. "They have been used in New Hampshire and are nothing unusual and it seems very appropriate to stop and think and plan given how new the phenomenon of renewable energy projects is and given the number of new elective projects that are suddenly facing us.

"The Site Evaluation Committee has said it is at the breaking point and a moratorium would give the committee a chance to sort things out and get a solid procedure in place," she said.

On the upside, Woodburn said the Senate unanimously passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, which declares that the U.S. Forest Service consider the unique characteristics of the White Mountain National Forest (WMNF) when reviewing and deliberating any special use permit for property in the national forest.

Northern Pass, if it is ultimately approved, would need a special use permit for a portion of transmission line it plans through the WMNF.

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