August 12. 2017 6:35PM
The plan to bring more than a thousand megawatts of clean, renewable hydropower from Canada into the New England grid cleared a key regulatory hurdle last week when the federal Department of Energy released its final environmental impact report on Northern Pass.
The DOE recommends that Northern Pass receive a presidential permit. The project still needs approval from the U.S. Forest Service to cross through the White Mountain National Forest, and from the state Site Evaluation Committee.
The DOE report finds that the power line project wouldn’t harm protected animal species, and would have minimal impact on people living nearby.
What it would do is increase the height of some existing power lines. This remains the only real objection to the project.
Sure, some existing power producers don’t want low-priced imported power coming into the grid. There’s a debate over how many jobs Northern Pass would create, and how much power should stay in New Hampshire. But the only real downside to building the project is aesthetic.
Power lines aren’t pretty, and the people who would have to look at them don’t want them built. They also argue that 155-foot towers would drive away tourists, who don’t want to see power lines marring New Hampshire’s landscape.
There’s not much evidence to support this claim, given that 160 miles of the project’s 192-mile route are along existing corridors.
New Hampshire needs more power, and it needs cheaper electricity. There is no way to do that without upsetting somebody. Putting a local veto on every energy infrastructure project could leave us like California last decade, subject to rolling blackouts when we can’t meet peak energy demand.