Countless taxpayer dollars and the resources of nonprofit organizations, businesses, and scores of individual people are being expended in Concord on the Site Evaluation Committee proceedings to determine whether Northern Pass Transmission will be granted a site certificate in New Hampshire, but the fate of Northern Pass may actually be decided in Massachusetts.
It’s widely understood that Northern Pass will not go forward unless its bid in response to the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP is successful. Even Lee Olivier, executive vice president of Eversource Energy, reluctantly admitted in the company’s recent quarterly investors' call that if they don’t win the Mass RFP they would have to sit down with Hydro-Quebec and decide whether to proceed with Northern Pass.
And there are serious deficiencies in the bid proposal submitted by Northern Pass, including significant omissions.
Hydro-Quebec Hedging Its Bets
Hydro-Quebec certainly isn’t putting all of its eggs in the Northern Pass basket. Along with its joint bid with Northern Pass, the Canadian hydro power producer also submitted competing bids in response to the Mass RFP with two other transmission line developers, TDI in Vermont and Central Maine Power in Maine. The details of all of the bid proposals can be found here.
While all of the proposals are heavily redacted, with the bid prices and other financial information kept from the public, the proposals are still quite revealing.
Though Northern Pass claims its transmission line is “shovel ready,” the company admits not only does it not have a Presidential permit or the SEC site certificate, it also lacks necessary easements and permits from the Army Corps of Engineers and a special use permit from the U.S. Forest Service. In contrast, TDI in Vermont has already secured all of its necessary permits.
And while Northern Pass dances around whether it has site control over its proposed transmission route (it doesn’t, and litigation is anticipated over its lease of rights of way from sister Eversource company PSNH, though they don’t mention that possibility), TDI does have complete site control over its planned route.
Conflicts of Interest
As discussed in a previous blog, one advantage Northern Pass has over TDI and Central Maine Power is representatives of two of its sister Eversource companies are members of the team that will evaluate bids. Its proposal states we need not worry about this conflict of interest, though, because “Eversource Energy has established separate teams for bidding and evaluation. Each person involved with either team receives a copy of the Utility Standard of Conduct….” Very comforting, don’t you think, particularly since another section of the proposal argues that the fact it’s all one big Eversource family is a strength: “Eversource Energy will participate in the Project through NPT, an indirect wholly owned subsidiary of Eversource Energy. NPT has access to Eversource Energy's financial resources. Similarly, most personnel involved in managing NPT are employees of a service company affiliate of Eversource Energy.”
Lying by Omission
But for anyone following the Northern Pass saga in New Hampshire, the most vexing part of its proposal is its claim of broad support in the state and its failure to mention any opposition, despite the fact that section 7.4 of the RFP expressly requires bidders to “[i]nclude information on specific localized support and/or opposition to the project of which the bidder is aware.”
Are we to believe Northern Pass Transmission executives are not aware that municipalities and local commissions up and down the route, scores of individuals appearing pro se, and environmental groups are actively opposing Northern Pass before the SEC?
Not aware that written public comments submitted to the SEC are running 12 to one against Northern Pass?
Not aware that people who showed up to speak at the three public statement hearings held by the SEC were overwhelmingly opposed to Northern Pass?
Not aware that more than twenty thousand signatures in opposition to Northern Pass have been presented to the SEC?
And the company couldn’t even be fully transparent in describing support for Northern Pass.
Take Les Otten, for example. Eversource must think the evaluators are impressed by Les Otten, because his support is touted prominently and more than once in the bid proposal, though he’s probably best known in Massachusetts for his cringe-inducing behavior as a short-lived minority owner of the Red Sox: “His sometimes-clumsy attempts to involve himself in team governance - arriving uninvited for management meetings, and even showing up at spring training in full Red Sox uniform to take grounders from Johnny Pesky - made him persona non grata, and his eventual severance from the team was awkward and a bit messy.” (Red Sox Confidential, Doug Bailey, Boston Magazine, January 2012)
In any case, neither the text of Northern Pass’s bid proposal or the attached letter from Mr. Otten bother to mention that he has been the major beneficiary to date of the company’s so-called Forward NH Fund, receiving millions in loans from the fund for his plan to redevelop The Balsams in Colebrook.
Given the level of lying by omission in its proposal, one wonders whether Northern Pass should be disqualified from bidding on the Massachusetts Clean Energy RFP. Certainly the bid evaluators should be made aware of the deep opposition to Northern Pass across New Hampshire.