My Turn: The ugly truths about Northern Pass project

For the Monitor
Saturday, March 04, 2017

You’ve probably heard a great deal about the proposed Northern Pass transmission project over the past several years. Much of what you’ve heard has been promoted by PSNH – the large out-of-state-owned corporate utility now known more benignly as Eversource – and its investors, who have spent countless tens of thousands of dollars trying to convince you that Northern Pass is a good deal for ratepayers and the environment.

They would like us to forget about the devastation to our land and communities caused by 192 miles of towers and transmission lines or the fact that it is designed to benefit Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island not New Hampshire, which already produces more electricity than it uses. And they really want us to forget about the negative impact this giant transmission line will have on our economy.

It’s time to focus on these ugly truths that Eversource would have us forget. And it’s not too late to stop this project in its tracks. In just a few weeks the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee hearings on whether to approve Northern Pass will begin.

Recently, Protect the Granite State, a grassroots organization with nearly 2,000 activists across the state who oppose Northern Pass, released a detailed study that critiques the economic impact analysis commissioned by Eversource to help justify the project.

Prepared by the highly regarded Analysis Group, this new report underscores how Eversource is utilizing flimsy assumptions and flawed methodology and is ignoring the negative impacts of Northern Pass. Additionally, the Eversource study hides from the public significant amounts of information. The author of the Analysis Group study, Dr. Sue Tierney, the former secretary of environmental affairs for Massachusetts, called the amount of information hidden from the public “highly unusual.”

It should come as no surprise then that Eversource’s so-called “cost/benefit report” failed to discuss the significant costs of Northern Pass to our residents and ratepayers.

Eversource doesn’t want you to know about the potential adverse impacts on tourism, our second largest industry, from having a 192-mile extension cord strung through the heart of our state. The Eversource study may conveniently omit this concern, but it’s never far from the minds of the small businesses along the proposed route.

Nor does Eversource want to tell you about the potential for lost jobs and property taxes from the closings of other power plants in New Hampshire because of Northern Pass. Why? Because the number of permanent jobs Northern Pass will support in New Hampshire is a relative handful compared to the hundreds of high-quality, good-paying jobs with existing power generators. And who knows how many new power plants would never be built in New Hampshire, each of which would support local jobs and construction dollars?

For years Eversource has been promising that Northern Pass would ensure cheaper electricity for New Hampshire. Does that sound too good to be true? It should. The truth is Northern Pass is an expensive transmission project, likely costing 5.5 cents per kWh above and beyond the expected cost of power to New England customers. Eversource wants you to believe that this cost will be paid for by Eversource customers outside of New Hampshire. The Analysis Group review indicates that this wishful outcome, designed to convince you Northern Pass is a good deal, is unlikely. And of course because Eversource is keeping so much vital information from public view, as Dr. Tierney states of the Eversource study, “it makes it virtually impossible for the public to test and verify” its claims.

Eversource and its investors are hoping that Granite Staters will be lulled by misleading promises and rosy predictions into backing Northern Pass. But facts are stubborn things, and they tell us while Northern Pass might be good for southern New England, it will be bad for New Hampshire.

We can’t sit idly by and hope for the best. Now, more than ever, is the time to re-engage, rise up, get involved, ask tough questions and fight Northern Pass. If it’s built, it will forever change the landscape of the state we love.

If you want to read the Analysis Group study, learn more about Northern Pass or sign up to join the fight to protect New Hampshire, please check us out today at protectthegranitestate.org.

(Judy Reardon is senior adviser to Protect the Granite State, and formerly served as legal counsel to Jeanne Shaheen.)