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My Turn

Burying Northern Pass up to New Hampshire

Our state leaders need to demand it

In 2010 Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec proposed a new 180-mile overhead transmission line they call Northern Pass, with new towers well above tree line through two-thirds of New Hampshire. After reviewing what was presented by the developers, the board of trustees of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests voted to oppose the project as proposed. A recent amendment by Northern Pass LLC to its original proposal tinkers at the edges of a deeply flawed project that has failed to acquire a legal contiguous route.

We believe today, as we did then, that this proposal threatens our scenic landscapes and existing conserved lands, including the White Mountain National Forest, our own forest reservations and dozens of other lands protected by other organizations. This is unacceptable.

Our position accepts that there may be reason to consider allowing Hydro-Quebec to export additional power in the future. There is already one 2,000-megawatt line from Hydro-Quebec that runs through New Hampshire to Massachusetts, bringing electricity to the New England grid. This line is presently not used to its capacity. The Forest Society, along with many others, has consistently pointed to other viable alternatives for transmission of more electricity from Quebec to southern New England, where the demand for this power may some day exist. But today the power is not needed to keep the lights on in New England, and today New Hampshire is a large net exporter of electricity to the rest of New England.

After nearly three years of debate, widespread public opposition and repeated efforts by Northern Pass to manufacture public benefits, the Forest Society believes today that if the Northern Pass transmission line is to be built at all it should be buried – from beginning to end – preferably along existing state-owned transportation corridors such as state highways and rail beds.

This option addresses most of the objections that so many New Hampshire landowners rightfully share while presenting the opportunity for the state to realize much-needed revenue through the leasing of those underground corridors.

To be sure, there are still serious questions about the wisdom of allowing Hydro-Quebec yet another tentacle into our region. We should consider carefully the consequences of enabling the vast flooding of forests in Quebec, and be particularly skeptical of the carbon reduction claims. Energy flowing south means dollars flowing north, and has the potential to undermine regional energy conservation and the development of home-grown renewable power generation. A study of the “no-build” option – or what would happen if Northern Pass is never built – is warranted.

Northeast Utilities and subsidiary PSNH, for their part, have acknowledged that burial is possible; in fact they have now proposed to bury 8 miles, or 4 percent, of their now 187-mile-line. But they have complained mightily about the additional cost – even though it is Hydro-Quebec that would foot the bill (as it should, for Northern Pass is a private line for its exclusive use). The implicit suggestion from Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec is that scarring New Hampshire’s landscapes is an acceptable subsidy to their bottom line.

For an underground alternative to become a reality, New Hampshire must act. First, we must demand that at least one underground alternative be included as part of the Department of Energy’s Environmental Impact Statement, which will inform all the required permitting for Northern Pass. Second, we must enable the state Site Evaluation Committee to require an underground option. Third, the state must act now to fast-track the responsible use of existing transportation corridors for transmission developers. We call on our state leaders to make this a priority today. New Hampshire should determine its own future and make the better option into the easier option.

In New Hampshire, we cherish our natural landscape and the economy it supports. We must defend ourselves from those who would sacrifice those values for their own profit. We do that by not only making the right choices, but by making the right choices easy.

(Jane A. Difley is president/forester and Carolyn Benthien is chairwoman of the board of trustees for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.)

Legacy Comments8

With the help or tacit approval of lawmakers and regulators, a certain utility has written it's own ticket in NH for far too long but those days are over. The entire state is outraged by this latest attempt to profit by trashing our state and property values. Governor Hassan, like the rest of NH, isn't fooled by the lame no. pass claims of benefits or their fear mongering and we are fortunate to have her support. no. pass can drink their own kool-aid if they want but we aren't having any. It's time for our lawmakers to stop stalling and follow the Governor's lead and stand up for the people and state of NH by taking the advice recommended in the article and fast track instead of derail the required legislation. There is no doubt about where the people of NH stand and what doing the right thing entails so it's high time for action. A big turnout at the DOE scoping hearings, especially the one in Concord tomorrow night will send a clear message. We can make a positive difference if we refuse to be conned and demand underground transmission for the good of all NH. See you there.

VISUAL PURIST NIMBY's are simply unpatriotic. This is a national economic security issue and needs to be built NOW - democrats have already shut down Vermont Yankee and 100's of other power plants across the east. Cheap reliable abundant renewable power like this are critical to the future of America. NP & Keystone Pipeline should already be under construction

I'm not against NPass bringing energy through NH, I am against letting them do it any way they want just to make a few extra bucks for the shareholders and CEO bonuses at the expense of NH property owners. Why should all these people lose value in their homes? Will you be one of those citizens that won't be able to sell their home or have to sell at a reduced price? Will you sign a legal document that says you will reduce your homes value by the same percentage (some say up to 50% next to the towers) so that NP can build it the cheapest way possible or are you too unpatriotic? It is easy to use the NIMBY cry, when you are not the one that suffers the financial loss.

which part of highly regulated PUBLIC Utility dont you understand?

If a person wants to build a house in NH, open a restaurant , a gas station or even get a drivers license the state tells you what you must have and do. Why is it when big business comes in, big business tells the state the way they are going to do it and then the state "squirms and talks" about if they can even change something in the plan. Why does the state not just say, you want the power line in NH then here is what you must do??? A bit more evidence that big business is taking over the government.

"Why does the state not just say, you want the power line in NH then here is what you must do???" ... because they dont have a clue.

If a reader does not believe that BIG Govt is destroying the America we know that it is evidence that the reader only consumes liberal propaganda like this rag

Where have you been? I think what you meant to say was - "A bit more evidence that big business has taken over the government. " Only the most naive American could actually believe that their single vote can actually make a difference. Lobbyist's and special interest PACS spend untold millions to advance their agenda. They accomplish this by polarizing the electoral process and scaring people into voting their way. They have us so busy fighting between ourselves that they have a free hand once in power. People fail to understand that political boundaries play no part in the world of big business and big money and government. Politics is merely the process used to control us.

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