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Delegation asks feds to give public more time to digest Northern Pass environmental report


CONCORD, New Hampshire — New Hampshire's congressional delegation is asking the federal Department of Energy to extend the time the public has before commenting on what is expected to be a voluminous environmental impact report on the proposed Northern Pass power transmission project.

Sens. Jeanne Shaheen and Kelly Ayotte, along with Reps. Annie Custer and Frank Guinta, have written to energy officials in anticipation of the release this spring of a report they say will exceed 2,000 pages. They say it's "imperative" that DOE allow more than the usual 60-day period before the start of public hearings on the report.

They are asking for a period of at least 90 days after the release of the draft report before hearings begin. They are also requesting that the public be allowed to have at least 90 days after the final public hearing to file additional comments.

"This will ensure that New Hampshire stakeholders will have the necessary time to analyze, process and comment on the draft," they wrote to DOE Assistant Secretary Patricia Hoffman on Friday.

There is no set date for the report's release.

Northern Pass is Northeast Utilities' proposal to construct a 187-mile electrical transmission line across New Hampshire to carry 1,200 megawatts of electricity — enough to power 1.2 million homes — to power-hungry southern New England markets

Northeast Utilities says if the proposal is approved, construction could begin on the $1.4 billion Northern Pass in 2016. Power from Canada could begin flowing by the second half of 2018.

Opponents say the mostly overland lines would scar the landscape, cut property values and hurt tourism. They want the company to bury the lines.

Project backers say it would create jobs and provide clean hydropower. They say burying the lines would be too expensive and impractical in a rugged state.

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