A conclusion made by federal officials that electrical shocks that could occur under proposed Northern Pass transmission lines would not be harmful to people has been questioned by state environmental officials.
The state Department of Environmental Services raised that question and others in its 20-page formal comments document filed with the U.S. Department of Energy’s draft environmental impact statement on Northern Pass.
Other issues raised by the state involved the possibility of earthquakes near the proposed Franklin Converter Station along with health and pollution issues.
The federal draft said that “beneath HVAC lines, microshocks, possibly at annoying levels, may occur with individuals who touch vehicles or other large conductive objects that are parked beneath the lines.”
But then concluded that “any such shocks would be below harmful levels…”
The state comments filed April 4 with the U.S. Department of Energy stated: “It is not clear why receiving electrical shocks would not be considered harmful.”
Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray declined to comment on the state filing on the controversial plan to bring hydroelectric power from Hydro Quebec through 192 miles of transmission lines from Pittsburg to Deerfield. The plan was proposed by Eversource.
“We are not commenting on any of the ‘final comments’ on the DEIS submitted to the DOE. The DES’ comments are one of many and it serves little purpose at this point to comment on comments that the DOE is now considering as it develops the ‘Final’ EIS,” Murray said in an email response.
“Certainly, feel free to report on the project’s own comments to the DOE. They are filed separately, per issue, (“property value impact” … “tourism and land use impact” etc…) and you can access them here,” Murray said.
Gov. Maggie Hassan’s spokesman William Hinkle said: “The Governor has made clear that if Northern Pass is to move forward, it must propose a project that protects our scenic views and treasured natural resources while also reducing energy costs for our families and businesses.” See Hassan’s full statement below.
The state comments were also critical of the federal draft’s conclusion that there is “no foreseeable impact of the DC or AC fields from the Project on implanted devices such as pacemakers or implanted cardioverter-defibrillators.”
But added there have been rare instances of “(shocks to the heart) to patients with implanted ICDs due to contact with electrical equipment under ordinary domestic situations, and there is the theoretical chance that such events might occur to an individual beneath one of the Project lines upon touching a conductive object.”
The state’s comment said: “Similar to preceding comment. It isn’t clear why receiving an electrical shock to the heart, especially for a heart patient, would not be considered harmful.”
The state focused on potential impacts to public health and the environment, according to the submission letter filed by Timothy Drew, administrator for public information and permitting for the state Department of Environmental Services.
Drew declined comment Friday saying, “Being a regulatory agency, we have to remain impartial.” The state Department of Environmental Services and several other state departments have representatives who sit on the Site Evaluation Committee, which will ultimately decide if Northern Pass will be built.
Northern Pass has applied to the federal energy department for a Presidential permit that is required to build a transmission line across the United States border with Canada.
The state comments detailed a number of other concerns with the federal draft impact statement, one that questioned expert reviews of potential health effects.
It involved the statement that since the “Northern Pass lines will chiefly pass through lightly populated areas, it is highly likely that no cases of childhood leukemia would occur in populations close to the lines due to magnetic field exposure …”
The state comment asked: “What is the basis for this conclusion?”
The state comments also cautioned about a zone of increased seismic activity from north of the Lakes Region south along the Merrimack River into Massachusetts.
“The ‘probability’ of earthquake events is rated as low, but the ‘severity’ and ‘overall risk’ are both rated as high,” the state said. “Consideration should be given to the possible impact of such an event on the sustainability of the proposed project, particularly given the location of the proposed Franklin Converter Station.”
It also said the route has direct wetlands impacts that exceed the criteria for compensatory mitigation.
“Given the reduction in operational capacity and the likelihood that the new sections of overhead transmission corridor from Canada to the existing transmission corridor in Dummer, NH, would account for a substantial amount of the projected permanent and secondary wetlands impacts it would now seem prudent to consider additional alternatives to determine if that would reduce the total overall wetland impacts,” the state said.
“Additional consideration should be given to the burial of the section or sections of line from Canada within existing roadway corridors to the overhead corridor just off of Route 110 in Northumberland,” the state said.
The state said it is not clear why the transmission line is crossing into the United States at the proposed location.
“What is the basis for choosing the current crossing location? Are there lesser impacting alternatives for the border crossing (e.g., entering the US further south through Vermont along Route 253 to Route 3 in New Hampshire)?”
The U.S. Department of Energy said the U.S. Forest Service, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Army Corps of Engineers and the state Office of Energy Planning cooperated in compiling the federal draft environmental impact statement.
The U.S. Department of Energy has a range of decisions it could make on the Presidential permit including No Reasonable Alternative in which the line couldn’t be built.
Gov. Maggie Hassan’s full statement Friday from her spokesman William Hinkle:
“From the very beginning, Governor Hassan, along with many other Granite Staters, has pushed Northern Pass officials to listen to communities’ concerns. The Governor has made clear that if Northern Pass is to move forward, it must propose a project that protects our scenic views and treasured natural resources while also reducing energy costs for our families and businesses. New Hampshire deserves the latest technologies in order to protect what we all love about our state, and any project must provide real benefits to the people of the Granite State. Governor Hassan is encouraged that Northern Pass officials have begun to listen and are taking meaningful steps forward in attempting to address those concerns. That process of listening – and making further improvements – must continue as the state Site Evaluation Committee begins its important process of reviewing the impacts and potential benefits of this project.”