May 07, 2014WASHINGTON, DC — The U. S. Department of Energy (DOE) released the Scoping Report Alternatives Addendum on Thursday summarizing the alternatives, including maps, which the Department has identified to date for analysis in the draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) on the proposed Northern Pass Transmission (NPT) line project.
The alternatives described include the proposal presented by the proposed NPT in its amended application to DOE, as well as alternatives identified by DOE, the cooperating agencies, and from public scoping comments.
The document was prepared in response to requests that DOE provide an update on the status of the consideration of alternatives between the scoping period and when the draft EIS is issued, now slated by year's end.
"DOE and the cooperating agencies will use this report in their ongoing review of alternatives," the federal agency states.
The Alternatives Addendum report briefly discusses alternatives that will, as of this time, be included in the draft EIS, DOE points out. However, the federal agency notes: "This ongoing review may generate new information that results in changes or additions to, or reorganization of, the information presented. DOE will use the information gathered during this process to identify which of the alternatives are reasonable. The range of reasonable alternatives will be analyzed in detail in the draft EIS, including discussion of design specifics and an analysis of potential environmental impacts. DOE also will identify those alternatives that are not reasonable and, in the draft EIS, will briefly discuss the reasons those alternatives were eliminated from detailed study."
"All members of New Hampshire's Congressional delegation pushed hard to have this Alternatives Addendum issued, and we're glad that it's now available," said Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Conservation Director Susan Arnold on Friday morning. Arnold said that she had not yet had time to study the document in detail, but she noted that it appears to include a comprehensive list of available alternatives to both the route and the many above-ground towers that Northern Pass is proposing.
"In the end, however, it's how the DOE and other agencies use this document that will really count — the extent to which they will dig in and closely examine all these alternatives and others that may arise during the study," Arnold said.
NPT spokesman Lauren Collins said, "The release of the DOE's Alternatives Addendum marks another important step in the rigorous permitting process for the proposed Northern Pass project.… The careful evaluation of these alternatives helps to ensure a robust review of the Northern Pass project and moves the region closer to addressing its critical energy needs. We appreciate DOE's thorough consideration of public comments, environmental issues and alternatives, and look forward to seeing them addressed in the draft EIS."
Collins also pointed out that the document's release shows "just how thorough the agency must be in order to accurately assess the environmental, technical, and economic impacts of various construction options."
Those working on the Northern Pass project, she said, continue to believe that the now-proposed route "is the best option that uses existing transmission corridors for almost 80 percent of the route. In the northern-most part of the state where a new 40-mile corridor is needed, the project is proposing eight miles of underground construction, with the remaining 32 miles to be built using structures that are designed and located as much as practicable to minimize visibility, that is, behind the tree line."
AMC Director of Research Dr. Kenneth Kimball said on Friday morning that, ultimately, the usefulness of the Alternatives Addendum depends on the seriousness and depth of the questions that DOE and cooperating agencies ask when each alternative is scrutinized. These alternatives are not a question of "if," but rather of how many resources — dollars and landscapes — will be allocated to any proposal to bring hydropower from Quebec to Connecticut, Kimball explained. "We need to look at shaving peak demand, since that is what sets the amount of electricity that DOE considers a necessity," he said.
Kimball urged that New Hampshire residents, stakeholders, and policy makers read "Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) report and proposal, issued on April 25 by the staff of the New York State Department of Public Service.
"New York is looking past the old model of large-scale transmission and centralized energy projects, including many that compromise our diminishing open spaces, by incorporating the need for better grid stability and safety as well as the fact that technology today makes environmentally better choices — that is, distributed generation — more than 'pie in the sky,'" Kimball said. "It is our business models and utilities, rate structures and politics that are the anchor in the sand (hold us back by keeping us in place) at the moment," he said.
In searching for an analogous situation, Kimball said, "It is not unlike when IBM tried unsuccessfully to control and throttle the PC (personal computer) revolution to protect their mainframe business decades ago and almost sunk, before adapting (to the new technology and realities)."
Gov. Maggie Hassan issued her reaction to the release of the Alternatives Addendum on Friday afternoon.
"I am encouraged that the U.S. Department of Energy has heard the concerns of New Hampshire citizens and has agreed to examine a wide range of options on the proposed Northern Pass project, including several underground options," Hassan said in a prepared statement. "The people of New Hampshire deserve a transparent, thorough and rigorous review of the proposed routes, as well as a serious examination of alternatives.
"Many questions remain about the impacts that the proposed project could have on the White Mountain National Forest, as well as on New Hampshire's communities, economy, and natural resources. I continue to believe that, with any energy project, New Hampshire deserves the latest technologies in order to protect what we all love about our state, and that any project must provide real benefits to the people of our state."