Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Normandeau Redux: They're Baa-ck!

Or did they ever really leave?

Remember the sorry episode of Normandeau Associates, the environmental consultants hired to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for the Department of Energy (DOE) at Northern Pass's expense? There was incredulity that a consultant group with such historically close ties to PSNH and that had, in fact, promoted the project for Northern Pass Transmission LLC (NPT) as early as June 2010 and would also represent it at the state level was selected. Ultimately, it took intervention at the federal level, with Energy Secretary Chu, to force NPT to withdraw Normandeau, although there was never any admission of the clear conflict of interest. As Senator Shaheen argued, NEPA regulations require that the DOE avoid "any conflict of interest" in the choice of an EIS contractor.

After Normandeau was forced out in March 2011, it took six months until Northern Pass and the DOE reached agreement on a new contractor, actually a team of three, during which time Normandeau personnel continued to manage the EIS website for the DOE.

When the new team (SE Group, Environment and Ecology, Inc., and Lucinda Low Swartz) took over in August, 2011, presumably it assumed administration of the EIS site and Normandeau finally cleared out. (Normandeau still links to what they call the "Northern Pass EIS," a revealing slip of the tongue, to puff their "public involvement" web design portfolio.)

But what happened to all the environmental material that Normandeau had already collected for NPT? Presumably it was considered invalid and inadmissible for the EIS.

Think again.

Late last month, a 2012 NPT winter tracking map was posted in the document library of the EIS site. The map identifies two areas of lowland spruce-fir forest for winter tracking in 2012; this is the habitat of state and federal endangered and threatened species such as Canadian lynx and marten. The two areas are on the Stratford-Colebrook border and on the Coos loop PSNH right-of-way in Stark and Dummer.

Who prepared the map and selected the tracking areas?

Legend on NPT's Tracking Map (EIS site)

Normandeau -- still in the saddle?

Is there no shame at all?

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

For the Truth about Northern Pass from Its Sponsors, Go Out of State

 "Under this structure, Connecticut can only win."
     --Raymond Gagnon, Northeast Utilities
Connecticut Power and Energy Society

Eleven months ago, March 8, 2011, Raymond Gagnon made a power point presentation to a group called the Connecticut Power and Energy Society (CPES). Mr. Gagnon is (or was) director, transmission projects, Northeast Utilities. The title of his presentation was simply "Northern Pass." The presentation was made to a Connecticut audience.

CPES describes itself as "Connecticut's leading association of energy professionals." Its mission is to "share the latest insightful and unbiased information about energy in Connecticut."

Let's see how Mr. Gagnon scored in both categories: lack of bias, which we'll extend to include accuracy of statements, and insight.

Accuracy and lack of bias

Mr. Gagnon earns an "F" here. For starters, his presentation is captioned "Bringing clean power to the people of New England." Hydro power from Quebec's impoundment dams is not "clean" by U.S. standards, nor does it qualify as renewable in NH, and it's not going to the people of New England. It's going to the people of Massachusetts and Connecticut. Two big Pinocchios right on the title page.

Mr. Gagnon's projected in-service date of 2015 and other landmarks (page 8) are wildly off the mark, both a year ago when he made them and now.

And we'll have to leave it to others to calculate whether 1200 MW of "New England energy that doesn't come from fossil fuels" is really equivalent to 800,000 car emissions, 4.8MM tons of CO2 emissions avoided, and so forth (page 5).


Here Mr. Gagnon earns an "A." In his discussion of economic implications for customers and market participants, Gagnon remarks that under Northern Pass's participant structure, "Connecticut can only win." Hydro Quebec will pay the project costs, and Connecticut won't have the towers on its backs. (Indeed, Connecticut has outlawed such towers.) Mr. Gagnon is not forthright in how he states this win-win situation for Connecticut, but it's clear what he means when he says that Connecticut would have "no assets to site in the state": Connecticut would have no towers scarring its landscape.

  "Connecticut can only win" (page 4)

In terms of the "insight" that he provides for New Hampshire readers, who were not his intended audience, Mr. Gagnon ranks second only to PSNH's Patrick McDermott, who famously went to Atlanta in spring 2010 and confided to his professional colleagues what a tough sell Northern Pass would be back in New Hampshire. It would not yield much tax revenue, it would not classify as "renewable," it would have to go through the White Mountains, it would compete with indigenous projects, it would be environmentally objectionable -- and NH didn't need the power. Because of myriad negatives, PSNH had worked hard to perfect its sales pitch and would overcome the resistance before it even got started, McDermott boasted. "Make friends before you need them," McDermott advised his audience, political friends.

We don't have the full text of Mr. Gagnon's presentation, but we'll give him an A+ for an additional insight even though it's a painfully obvious truth rather than sage perception. Two slides after his remark on how Connecticut would "only win" with Northern Pass, he showed this slide with the caption "Resident Opposition":

Resident Opposition (page 7)

Page 7 is a collage of Opposition resistance genres and motifs: the "KMA" sign, Stop the Northern Pass's facebook avatar, and an Opposition member's truck with a "Bury the Northern Pass" bumper sticker (left) and a "Live Free or Fry" bumper sticker (right, with arrow).

It doesn't take rocket science to figure out why there is opposition to Connecticut's "win-win" project in New Hampshire, and it's not just the "residents" who oppose it. As the Forest Society's "Save the Balsams Landscape" campaign demonstrated, people from all over the country and from Europe joined together to conserve the area and to stop Northern Pass from completing its destructive plan in New Hampshire.

The "Resident Opposition" collage that Gagnon's Connecticut audience saw is unique. It is the sole occasion on which Northern Pass has been candid about the reaction here: New Hampshire does not want, New Hampshire does not need, and New Hampshire will not have this project. If you want the truth about the Northern Pass from its sponsors, go out of state--to Hartford, Atlanta, and elsewhere. You won't find it expressed here.


If Mr. Gagnon plans to update his March 2011 talk, we offer him this postscript to the "KMA" sign for the "Resident Opposition" collage: