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My Turn: Northern Pass continues down a dead-end road

In January, we published a piece pointing out Northern Pass’s refusal to take seriously the objections of affected residents. We wrote that “this refusal dooms Northern Pass to travel a long, uncertain and potentially dead-end road. It dooms New Hampshire to protracted conflict over this issue, perhaps resulting in much that is lost and nothing that is gained.”

Now, half a year later, the Northern Pass bus is stalled near the end of that dead-end road.

PSNH President Bill Quinlan’s recent public acknowledgement of the seriousness of the aesthetic impact is an important change. Northeast Utilities, PSNH’s parent company and the developer of Northern Pass, should seize this opportunity to offer real, innovative solutions capable of addressing the fundamental divide between them and affected communities and private property owners.

Like most opponents, Nancy Martland would accept a buried line, despite questioning the notion that Hydro-Quebec’s massive dams flooding millions of acres of carbon-absorbing trees would actually help us fight climate change. Privately funded buried projects are moving forward all around us in Maine, Vermont, New York and Quebec. And yet, Northern Pass continues to insist that burial is problematic and will not consider using it except in very limited special circumstances.

Granite is not the problem. Laying cable along a softened highway or rail corridor removes that issue. There is buried fiber-optic cable along Interstate 93 between the Massachusetts border and Concord. There is a buried gas pipeline on the PSNH right-of-way across northern New Hampshire. The argument that burial can’t be done on a larger scale simply does not ring true.

Proponents such as Mayor Paul Grenier worry about projected electricity shortfalls and are left to wonder why Northeast Utilities is unwilling to do what is necessary to bring this power to southern New England.

The original plan was to begin construction in 2013 and deliver power next year. Because of Northeast Utilities’ intransigence, this project will deliver no power to southern New England next year. In fact, we have no idea when or if any electricity will ever reach us from this project. Surely a slightly higher construction cost is worth it to both Hydro-Quebec and to Northeast Utilities to bring this power south.

New England faces serious challenges to our energy system. Northeast Utilities should be acting in our best interest by finding a responsible way to provide the needed power as soon as possible. Their unwillingness to bend all but guarantees that southern New England will be waiting many years before seeing any Northern Pass power.

In fact, it may never be seen it at all. Other projects in other states, facing little if any public resistance, will likely bring their electricity to market while Northern Pass is still tied up in court. The developers of those other projects are taking advantage of the smoother path enjoyed by designs that eliminate the collateral environmental damage associated with overhead transmission lines.

What needs to be done?

Our advice remains the same as it was six months ago:

“We both believe that Northern Pass must recognize legitimate objections from affected communities. We are convinced that a responsible solution can be found, but only in the presence of honest dialogue among all the stakeholders involved, and a willingness by the developer to address key objections in a real and meaningful manner. Otherwise, Northern Pass is headed for a brick wall of public resistance, drawn-out litigation, permitting disputes, legislative remedies and other roadblocks.”

There is still an opportunity for Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec to see reason and avoid the years of all-consuming conflict that await them if they refuse to propose a buried project, but the window is closing.

This time, we hope that Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec will heed our advice. Time is running out.

(Paul Grenier is the mayor of Berlin. Nancy Martland is a member of Sugar Hill Tower Opponents.)

Since neither Ms. Martland nor Mr. Grenier is a "stakeholder," I doubt Northern Pass would either know how to or agree to talk with them, talk seriously, that is, about breaking the impasse that has locked up New Hampshire for almost four years. Northern Pass talks only to "stakeholders." No, that's not "stockholders" but close enough.

Northern Pass (NP) tries to impress NH with its plan to spend, $1.4 Billion, and they say it would be too expensive to bury the cables. They are not telling the whole truth! They haven't said the existing lines on low wooden poles will now be replaced with new, higher steel towers alongside the even taller NP towers. That cost and the aesthetic damage from two new sets towers and cables in the ROW isn't being publicly discussed. The revised NP Project will now be well over $2 Billion making burying the NP down softened ROW's like I-93 far less expensive. The NP never tells us the whole truth like; 1.Right now, no power from NP will be coming to NH. 2.NP is not green. Covering hundreds of thousands of acres of trees and vegetation in Canada with water causes rot sending massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane gasses into NH while also killing huge numbers of fish and wildlife and destroying native Indian homelands. 3.The NP power is heading to Southern New England, not NH. 4.Only five new jobs will be created for Franklin, NH 5.The promised $28 Million in new taxes for towns along the ROW will be depreciated down to a token sum in ten years. The $850K each town gets on average in Year 1 will soon be dwarfed by losses in tax yields from properties severely impacted by NP.

Recently drove through parts of Canada. All underground utilities but they want to wreck our scenic areas! If they are willing to spend what it take to retain scenery as well as dependable utilities for their citizens - surely they can understand how we would feel the same. If they can't -its all about greed.

Visual Purists ..... while all around them telephone poles and cell towers cover the landscape. Anybody remember the fake early arguments like the power was not needed, it is not green power, etc etc etc. Amazingly time alone made the false tales disappear. Now we are down to simple visual purism as the only argument VS a National Security Issue. It is un-American to battle this crucial project. Readers can be guaranteed that NP will be built maybe in some hybrid form. This letter is a well written but 100% insincere attempt to sway public opinion. NP is a National Security Issue and will be built because that trumps "opinions".

"collateral environmental damage associated with overhead transmission lines.".... Berlin presently receives all its electricity from overhead transmission lines. All of it. Would the mayor have the state remove these environment damaging lines?

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