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Energy department OKs Canadian hydro line in New England

The Department of Energy on Thursday issued the final environmental impact statement for the New England Clean Power Link, recommending approval of a presidential permit for the cross-border project, which would transmit 1,000 MW of Canadian hydropower into New England.

The 154-mile, $1.2 billion HVDC project was proposed in early 2014. The final report includes changes made in response to comments on the department’s draft EIS in June. (See Lake Champlain Cable into New England Progresses.)

Among the changes were updated technical information; alternatives included in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers 404 permit; additions to water resource analyses requested by the Environmental Protection Agency; and details on the project construction period and impacts on the long-eared bat and wetlands.

The merchant line, which would be entirely underwater or underground, is still undergoing permitting review by Vermont.

Transmission Developers Inc. New England, a unit of The Blackstone Group, anticipates that all major federal and state permits will be granted by the end of the year and the project would be in service in 2019. Ninety-eight miles of the cable would be buried under Lake Champlain, and most of its land-based route would be underground to Ludlow, Vt.

TD-NE began an open solicitation on Oct. 15 for customers to buy capacity on the line, with expressions of interest due by Dec. 4.

“We are confident that, once built, the New England Clean Power Link will deliver environmental and economic benefits to the people of Vermont and New England and do so in a way that minimizes impacts to communities and helps meet the region’s growing energy and environmental challenges,” TDI-NE CEO Donald Jessome said in a statement.

The Northern Pass line, which would deliver 1,090 MW to New England from Canada, has an agreement between its U.S. sponsor, Eversource Energy, and Hydro-Quebec. That $1.6 billion project has generated much more controversy because most of it is above ground. It also is not as far along in the regulatory process as the Clean Power Link. (See Northern Pass Files for Siting Approval, Revises Cost.)