Northern Pass — the Zombie Project That Wouldn’t Die

Northern Pass — the Zombie Project That Wouldn’t Die

But combined with Eversource's statement that it remains "fully committed" to Northern Pass and Eversource’s work on legislation to "reform" the SEC, you’re left with the sickening feeling that you’re watching the opening scenes of a horrifying zombie movie entitled ‘The Project That Wouldn’t Die’.

Eversource indeed is “fully committed.” It’s become apparent that it is pursuing a two-front war to get a giant extension cord from one end of New Hampshire to the other built to bring Canadian hydropower to southern New England.

One front is its appeal of the SEC’s unanimous decision to deny Northern Pass a site certificate. Ordinarily this wouldn’t be a cause for concern. In case after case the Supreme Court has upheld SEC decisions, emphasizing the great deference it must give to the SEC's factual findings. Even Eversource’s executive vice President Lee Olivier told stock analysts last year, “we think from our long experience with the SEC process that it’s, quite frankly, long.  It’s very judicious.  It’s very comprehensive.  But when it’s complete, it has always withstood legal challenge.”  

The only way to put an end to this Northern Pass madness is for all of us to remain fully committed to its defeat. 

But the makeup of the Supreme Court has changed over the past two years, and earlier this year the Court overturned a Public Utilities Commission decision, finding that a state statute requiring electric utilities to divest all of their generating assets doesn’t preclude utilities from buying generating assets. It’s reasonable to have concern about what this Supreme Court will do with the Northern Pass appeal.

If the Supreme Court overturns the SEC’s decision, the Northern Pass case will go back to the SEC for further consideration. More SEC hearings on Northern Pass? Talk about the walking dead. But there would be a twist in the plot, because Gov. Sununu will have had the opportunity to replace several of the SEC members by then with new members who may have a different perspective.

The other front Eversource is pursuing is legislation to make it easier for projects like Northern Pass to get SEC approval. If the Supreme Court upholds the SEC’s 7-0 vote to deny a site certificate to Northern Pass, you can expect “fully committed” Eversource to file a new application with the SEC for a slightly different project, Northern Pass II (the sequel). With new members of the SEC, it’s conceivable that Northern Pass II could be approved.        

The only way to put an end to this Northern Pass madness is for all of us to remain fully committed to its defeat.