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?