By GARRY RAYNO,
CONCORD — Experts hired to assess Northern Pass’s impact on scenic resources failed to ask for the public’s opinion, the Counsel for the Public’s attorney charged on Monday.
While other studies done by Terrence J. DeWan Associates included surveys of those potentially affected by changes in scenery, attorney Doreen Connor said not one survey was done for the Northern Pass Transmission project.
DeWan said his landscape architecture and planning firm obtained a good overview of the public’s opinion by attending public hearings, reading hundreds of letters and reviewing the potential impact of the project.
The study done by the company found that only about 20 of 525 scenic resources within three miles of the 192-mile, high-voltage transmission line would be impacted, and none significantly.
However, Connor claimed DeWan’s methodology failed to identify all of the potentially affected scenic resources and minimized the visual impact to those areas.
She claimed DeWan used his professional judgment instead of users’ opinions in making his determinations. “Instead of evaluating the viewer effect,” Connor said, “you evaluated visual effect.”
The Counsel for the Public represents the interests of the public in the Site Evaluation Committee proceedings.
Connor listed a number of surveys DeWan’s group had done for wind farm projects in Maine with several “intercept studies” of people visiting the scenic resources like hikers, skiers, snowmobilers or people fishing.
“You did not do one survey in this project,” Connor said. “Yet you relied on public input in a large number of other studies.”
DeWan said his company has done about 80 studies for utility projects, but most of the projects Connor mentioned were wind projects.
DeWan said he was not aware of any surveys done for transmission projects. But Connor alluded to surveys indicating people dislike transmission line views more than wind project views.
She said that during early meetings on the project, DeWan had recommended a survey be done on Northern Pass, but it was rejected by Eversource, the project developer.
DeWan said he did not recommend a survey, but did raise the issue, saying the company felt the public had been aware of the project for many years and had already made up its mind.
“It was decided not to do one for a lot of reasons,” he said, noting it “was not required under SEC rules.”
DeWan said the Maine reliability project was over 400 miles going through 80 communities and not one user survey was done.
“If you had done (surveys), you would have information to present to this panel how the public views changes to the landscape from this project,” Connor said, “rather than what you believe the public view would be.”
Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray, who attends most of the hearings, but doesn’t testify, told InDepthNH.org that no surveys are required.
“The SEC requires extensive study and information gathering of any applicant. It does not require an intercept study,” said Murray. “Such a study has never, to our knowledge, been conducted for any transmission project. In fact, the ‘Boyle’ group that the intervening attorney cites has never conducted such a study for a transmission project.”
DeWan used a ranking method similar to Maine’s to determine the visual impact of the transmission line, Connor maintained, but was modified to minimize the effect.
“If you use the form in Maine, you come up with higher impact ratings than what you did with rankings in New Hampshire,” Connor said. “New Hampshire citizens expect the impact on their scenic resources (to be) no less than the same ranking in Maine.”
Maine has four designations while New Hampshire has three, DeWan noted. “We looked for a way to evaluate the entire project through the impact on specific resources.”
And he noted the Site Evaluation Committee rules had not been finalized when the ranking was done.
Connor also questioned the process used to reduce the number of scenic resources from 525, indicating computer modeling reduced the number to 200 and cultural significance made another large reduction in the areas and structures analyzed for visual impact.
Scenic resources are publicly accessible places recognized by local, regional, state or national authorities for their scenic or recreational quality and are used for observation, enjoyment and appreciation of natural, cultural or visual qualities.
The 1,090 megawatt, $1.6 billion transmission project to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity to southern New England was first proposed seven years ago. The Site Evaluation Committee recently delayed making its final decision for five months. Instead of making a decision at the end of this month, it will now be delayed until the end of February, 2018.
The committee also added 31 more adjudicative hearings to be held at 49 Donovan St., in Concord from October through the end of the year.
Eversource had hoped to have all federal and state permits by the end of the year with construction to begin next year and the transmission line finished by the end of 2020.
Members of the subcommittee that will decide Northern Pass by a majority vote are Chairman Martin Honigberg, PUC, presiding officer; Commissioner Kathryn Bailey, PUC; Dir. Craig Wright, Department of Environmental Services; Christopher Way, Department of Business and Economic Affairs; William Oldenburg, Department of Transportation; Patricia Weathersby, public member; and Rachel Dandeneau, alternate public member.
Northern Pass’ website explains the hearings process as follows:
The SEC holds adjudicative hearings to consider and weigh evidence. The
applicant has the burden of proving by a preponderance of the evidence
that a Certificate should be issued. Expert witnesses submit testimony under
oath and are subject to cross-examination.
Persons seeking to intervene must file a petition which demonstrates that the “petitioner’s rights, duties, privileges, immunities or other substantial interest might be affected by the proceeding.”
According to Northern Pass’ website: After an extensive adjudicative proceeding, the SEC will issue a Certificate of Site and Facility “if it finds that an applicant has adequate financial, technical, and managerial capability, that a project will not interfere with the orderly development of the region, that the project will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety, and that the project will serve the public interest.”
Garry Rayno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
InDepthNH.org’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC hearings on Northern Pass.
April 13, Day 1: Eversource NH Chief Quinlan On The Hot Seat At Northern Pass Hearing
April 14, Day 2: Eversource Chief Questioned About ‘Clean’ Energy Claims And Northern Pass Costs
April 17: Day 3: Eversource: Hydro-Quebec Revenues Could Fall Short In Northern Pass’ First Year
April 18: Day 4: Northern Pass’ Potential Health Concerns Debated At Hearing
April 19: Day 5: Concerns Raised About Northern Pass Affecting Health of Sherburne Woods Residents in Deerfield
April 30: Is NH Getting ‘Hoodwinked’ on Health and Safety By Northern Pass?
May 1: Day 6: Testimony: 44 New Access Roads Needed To Build 192-Mile Northern Pass in NH
May 2: Day 7: Northern Pass Expert: 3 Months of Construction Likely In Downtown Plymouth
May 3: Day 8: Project Official: Northern Pass Construction Limited To 7 am to 7 pm, Noise Assessed Daily
May 3: Eversource’s Chief Quinlan Listed as ‘Host’ For Sununu Fundraiser
May 4: Day 9: Grafton County Attorney Grills Northern Pass Experts On Land Buys
May 5: Day 9, story 2: Common Man’s Alex Ray: Northern Pass Disruption in Plymouth Would Be ‘Fatal’ To Business
May 8: Forest Society Calls Northern Pass Inflated Land Buys a ‘Shell Game’
May 25: Hydro-Quebec Explores Opportunities in New England, New York
May 31: InDepthNH.org, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
June 1: Day 11: Applicant: Northern Pass Would Mitigate Impact On Endangered State Butterfly
June 8: Day 12: Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass Financial Expert’s Perspective ‘Unnaturally Optimistic’
June 9: Day 13: Portions of Northern Pass Hearings Held In Closed Session, Again
June 12: Public Statement Hearings On Northern Pass Begin June 15
June 13: Day 14: Analyst: Customer Using 300 kw Would Save $1.50 a Month With Northern Pass
June 14: Day 15: Regulator: Committee Could Consider Conditioning Approval for Northern Pass
June 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
June 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
June 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
June 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
June 23: Day 20: Northern Pass Seeks 15 More Hearing Days For Total of 57
June 26: Day 21: SEC Members Quiz Northern Pass Experts On Wetland Protection
July 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
July 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
July 20: Day 24: Pessamit Innu, Lawmakers, Citizens, Businesses All Have Their Say on Northern Pass
July 21: Day 25: Deputy Solicitor: Northern Pass’ Tax Breaks Not So Great for Concord Property Owners
July 27: More Competition & Northern Pass Commits $10M To Help Low-Income Mass. Customers
July 31: Day 26: Public Counsel Grills Northern Pass Expert On Property Value Impact
Aug. 1: Day 27: Northern Pass’ Real Estate Expert Questioned About Data Accuracy
Aug 2: Day 28: Northern Pass Real Estate Expert Concedes Power Lines ‘Thin The Market’
Aug. 3: Day 29: Northern Pass Expert Asked How 1,284 ‘Significant’ Properties Pared Down to 6
Aug. 9: Day 30: No End In Sight For Hearings on Northern Pass’ Controversial Plan
Aug. 29: Day 31: Intervenors Grill Northern Pass’ Historic Preservation Expert
Aug. 30: Day 32: Passionate People From Concord to Clarksville Speak Against Northern Pass
Aug. 31: Day 33: Panel Postpones Northern Pass Decision For Five More Months
Aug. 31: Committee Blasts Eversource For Late Access To ‘Crucial’ Northern Pass Agreement
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at email@example.com or call 603-738-5635