- Associated Press - Friday, March 14, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - Thousands of people have weighed in on New Hampshire’s proposed Northern Pass electric transmission proposal, many to suggest alternative ways to build the project, according to a report released Friday by the U.S. Department of Energy.

More than 6,400 individuals submitted more than 4,700 substantive comments either online, by mail or in person at a series of public meetings about the $1.4 billion proposal, the report shows. The DOE considered a comment substantive if it was specific to the project, within the scope of the review and included supporting reasons. They’ll all be considered when the department completes its environmental impact statement. Comments that were opinion or too general won’t be considered.

Northern Pass would run 187 miles from Canada to southern New Hampshire, carrying 1,200 megawatts of electricity to southern New England markets. Opponents say the mostly overland lines would scar the landscape, cut property values and hurt tourism. Project backers say it would create jobs and provide clean hydropower.

The report released Friday did not identify specific comments, only broad topics.

Alternative routes composed 17 percent of the total comments and most of those called for burying the lines. Of the 187 miles proposed, only about eight would be buried; the state is considering legislation that would press for burial of lines.

After alternative routes, most of the comments were related to economic concerns, whether the project is needed, health and safety, and tourism.

“The scoping report is straightforward, and its issuance seems to indicate that the permitting process is on schedule,” said Lauren Collins, spokeswoman for Northern Utilities, which has proposed the project. “We expect the DOE will issue its draft environmental impact statement later this year.”

If the DOE issues a permit for the project, it would still need state approval.

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