MONTPELIER, Vt. (AP) — A power line planned to run under Lake Champlain and link suppliers in Canada with consumers in southern New England has won a key federal permit, clearing its last big regulatory hurdle.
Transmission Developers Inc. announced Monday its TDI-New England subsidiary had received a presidential permit from the U.S. Department of Energy for the 154-mile, $1.2 billion power line, dubbed the New England Clean Power Link. CEO Donald Jessom said construction could start in late 2017 or early 2018.
"This interconnection is a vital link that will unleash low-carbon, cost-effective electricity from Canada for the benefit of New England, replacing fossil-fuel generators and lowering energy prices," Jessom, who's also CEO of the parent company, said in a statement.
The company, which is owned by the New York-based Blackstone Group, said it hopes a key market for the power will be utilities in Massachusetts, where Republican Gov. Charlie Baker in August signed legislation calling for a request for power supply proposals that will close April 1.
It said it's the first of about a half-dozen firms planning projects to carry abundant Canadian hydropower to New England to clear all of its key regulatory hurdles.
Vermont utilities already make extensive use of Canadian power, which originates at the massive power dams run by the provincial utility Hydro-Quebec and enters the state at Highgate, near the northern end of Lake Champlain. Jessom would not identify the New England Power Link's Canadian supplier.
The TDI project previously had won needed permits from the Vermont Public Service Board, the Agency of Natural Resources and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, company officials said.
The power line would run north to south under Lake Champlain, which sits between northern New York state and Vermont and extends into Quebec. Jessom said it would be placed on the lake bottom in deeper parts of the lake and would be buried underneath the bottom where the water is shallower, with the goal being to avoid entangling boat anchors and fishing lines.
It would come ashore in Benson and be buried under public rights of way for the 55-mile trip southeast toward Cavendish, where it would connect with the New England power grid at the Coolidge substation.
Gov. Peter Shumlin, a Democrat who leaves office in January, called the New England Power Link "a well-designed, innovative transmission project" the state looks forward to hosting.
"The project will help reduce carbon emissions in our region, provide ratepayer benefits for Vermont and will fund important Vermont-based programs, including support for our Clean Energy Development Fund and the cleanup of Lake Champlain," he said.
The power line also won kudos from one of Vermont's leading environmental groups. Sandra Levine, a senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, said, "TDI-NE's buried transmission line in Vermont shows that the facilities needed to transport electricity can meet high environmental standards and be developed in a responsible, cooperative manner."
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