My Turn: Wanted: Leadership on Northern Pass
The New Hampshire Legislature has become a leaderless Northern Pass muddle.
Our overworked lawmakers are considering, by last count, a dozen bills dealing with the Northern Pass: bills to bury the lines (one if they are not needed for the public good, another if they are not needed for system reliability); a bill to place the lines in state transportation rights of way; a bill requiring economic studies in affected towns; a couple bills establishing a moratorium (one for one year on new transmission facilities, another barring wind and transmission projects until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan); a bill requiring economic studies and recommendations from local planning boards; bills establishing an energy council to develop an energy plan (one made up of state political appointees, another made up of legislators, utility industry employees and ratepayers); a bill empowering the Site Evaluation Committee to assess the public energy needs of New Hampshire and the region; a bill making it easier for towns to challenge transmission line siting before the Site Evaluation Committee; and a bill requiring public approval before the Site Evaluation Committee can approve a transmission project.
Some of these bills are good ideas; some are bad ideas. The issue is much bigger than the authority of the Site Evaluation Committee.
What’s missing here is real leadership: leadership from our governor, legislative leaders and the business community, that part of the business community that does not have a stake in the construction of Northern Pass.
The Feb. 22 Monitor included a front-page story about “leadership,” “DRED contender grilled.” The governor has nominated Jeffrey Rose to be commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development. He will, if confirmed, be a large player in the Northern Pass issue, both in his duties as commissioner and as a member of the state Site Evaluation Committee.
Rose’s leadership position, as he stated during his confirmation hearing before the Executive Council: He has an “open mind.” Worse, his “open mind” policy garnered the enthusiastic endorsement of former commissioner George Bald.
The pusillanimous “open mind” policy of Rose and Bald is not leadership; it is politics at its worst.
The large leadership issue here: What is good for New Hampshire in the long run? Is New Hampshire to be the right of way for large electrical transmission projects and the site for a plethora of small power generation projects, all needing connector wires and transmission facilities? Does New Hampshire need this power, or is New Hampshire just the facilitator of the power demands of Massachusetts, Connecticut and beyond, states that don’t want generation and transmission in their back yard?
Will somebody step forward and lead?
(Arthur B. Cunningham lives in Hopkinton.)