CONCORD, N.H. (AP) -- Despite two requests by New Hampshire’s congressional delegation and a third by the project backer, the U.S. Department of Energy said Monday it can’t answer questions about alternative routes for the contested Northern Pass transmission project.
The DOE is preparing an environmental impact study on the proposed $1.4 billion project that would transmit 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Hydro-Quebec into New England.
U.S. Sens. Kelly Ayotte and Jeanne Shaheen and Congresswomen Annie Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter want the department to issue a preliminary report on alternatives before finishing the study, to allow people more time to study the effects. Northern Pass Transmission followed that request with a letter to DOE requesting the information be made public.
In an email exchange, DOE Public Affairs Specialist Allison Lantero told The Associated Press the department "is unable to respond" to questions about the alternative routes. She did not explain why.
In their Jan. 14 letter to Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, the state delegation members asked for a "thorough, transparent and effective EIS study." It was the second time the delegation had asked for more information, following a request made in August.
"Given the public’s immense interest in studying alternatives, we are compelled to emphasize and renew our request that DOE provide a preliminary report detailing which alternatives will be studied," they wrote.
Delegation members still have heard nothing from DOE.
"Senator Ayotte is awaiting a response from DOE and continues to believe that the agency should make a report on the alternative routes available to the public for review and input prior to the completion of the Environmental Impact Study," said Liz Johnson, a spokeswoman for the first-term Republican.
Shea-Porter, a Democrat, said New Hampshire residents deserve to know all the options.
"It’s in the interest of transparency and public trust," she said. "The Department of Energy should release this information as soon as possible."
Last week, Northern Pass Transmission also asked for the details to be made public. The company said it was important to keep the process open and that, after review, the route it proposes would be selected as the best.
The current route proposed by Northern Pass goes from Pittsburgh, in the far north at the Canadian border, to Deerfield in the southeast and includes 8 miles of buried lines.
A spokesman for Northern Pass declined to comment Monday.
The 1,200 megawatts that Northern Pass could carry is enough to power 1.2 million homes. The project is expected to take three years to finish. Backers say $300 million a year would flow into the state and some 1,200 construction jobs would be created through regions hard hit by the closure of several paper mills.
Critics worry about scarring the landscape and chasing tourism dollars away. They also question whether the power would help in New Hampshire and not just be passed through to southern New England.