Chamber President Tracy Hatch started off the week with another visit to the Legislative Office Building in Concord, this time to reassert the Chamber's opposition to HB 626, the legislation that is designed to create certain electrical transmission corridors along interstate highways and Route 101 for the burial of electrical transmission lines. The Chamber strongly opposes this bill, because we think it is obvious that it will result in higher electric rates for New Hampshire customers, and our belief in that regard was greatly strengthened by the information that was produced at the meeting on Monday in front of Division I of the House Finance Committee. In response to questions that had been posed by the Committee, Donna Gamache of Eversource informed the Committee that, if the Northern Pass project had to comply with this new corridor burial requirement, the additional costs to the project would be $300 million.
The subcommittee seemed to doubt whether in fact the bill actually creates a mandatory requirement, given that the bill is written in terms that look on their face to be optional. However, Eversource walked the Committee through the text of the bill, and it seems evident that the bill would have the effect of creating what amounts to a mandate for burial in these restricted corridors.
To make matters worse, Ms. Gamache informed the committee that because this is a new requirement that is unique to New Hampshire, it is likely that ISO-New England (the Independent System Operator that oversees the electrical grid in New England) would require those additional costs to be paid only by New Hampshire ratepayers, and that the costs would not be able to be spread out among all of the customers on the grid.
There are other cost impacts that look to flow out of this bill if it were to become law. For one thing, the installation of these lines along interstate highways would have to be done on the extreme edges of the highways, and that would require wholesale cutting of trees along the rights of way and would also require additional wetlands mitigation.
All in all, it is crystal clear to us that a vote in favor of HB 626 is a vote in favor of higher energy costs. End of story. We hope that every legislator in the Greater Nashua area will stand up for ratepayers and vote down HB 626.