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More than 100 state legislators join opposition against Northern Pass

  • Mark McCullock of North Stratford speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Geoff Daly of Nashua (left to right), Lynn Woodard of Concord, and Walter Carlson of Concord applaud a commenter in opposition to Northern Pass during a public comment hearing in front of the site evaluation committee in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • The Rev. Carol Meredith of Deerfield Community Church speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • David Dobbins of Gilford speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Mary Parker Worthen of Bristol speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Stephen Pascucci of Franklin speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Susan Ford of Easton speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Martha Richards of Holderness speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • John Jones of North Sutton speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)

  • Lee Ann Moulder of Holderness speaks to the site evaluation committee during a public comment hearing regarding Northern Pass in Concord on Thursday, July 20, 2017. (ELIZABETH FRANTZ / Monitor staff)



Monitor staff
Thursday, July 20, 2017

More than 100 current and former state legislators stand in opposition to Northern Pass as it’s currently proposed, according to a petition delivered to the committee governing the energy proposal.

Those lawmakers set the tone Thursday ahead of a three-hour public hearing before the Site Evaluation Committee in Concord, where dozens of people registered their opinions on the proposal.

The legislators argued that new and taller towers – from 90 to 150 feet – looming over the treetops along 132 unburied miles from Pittsburg to Deerfield would “disfigure” and “permanently scar” an iconic region of the state.

“It’s inconceivable to me that New Hampshire’s brand – once signified by the Old Man of the Mountain’s craggy profile – could soon be represented by a string of industrial-grade steel towers more popularly associated with the northern New Jersey Turnpike,” said state Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican.

Several people said they preferred the execution of other proposed energy transmission projects that have come along in the years since the debate about Northern Pass began, namely the New England Clean Power Link and Granite State Power Link.

By comparison, Dolly McPhaul of Sugar Hill said, “the Northern Pass is a jumbled-up mess of partially thought-out plans, partially conducted studies, outdated maps and data, a staff of puppets, a reliance on attorneys and contacts to make exceptions, grant waivers, ignore deficiencies, fool the public, lie if need be and plans made as you go without sufficient knowledge and research.”

Attendees of the three-hour meeting said that the impact to their electric bills if Northern Pass were to be built – an estimated $18 a year – wasn’t worth the potential harm it could cause to the views disrupted by the power lines.

Lee Ann Moulder of Holderness said she built a house in New Hampshire and moved here after visiting from her home in Long Island, but she might not have if not for the state’s beauty.

“I believe these economic benefits will far surpass the loosely calculated benefits presented by the profit-motivated corporate executives of Northern Pass,” she said. “I think you should consider that there’s a permanent loss of revenue to New Hampshire should any part of the Northern Pass project be approved above ground.”

The legislators said they opposed the plan unless it’s fully buried for its entire length. Sixty of the 192 miles are proposed for burial near the White Mountain National Forest. But even those areas were subject to complaint.

State Rep. Steve Rand, a Democrat, said his family has owned a hardware store for 109 years on Main Street in Plymouth and he’s worried about the hit to businesses during the months of construction planned for downtown.

A similar period of construction in the 1990s, he said, “had an immediate and prolonged effect on the Main Street businesses. Many did not survive, and I expect that this will happen again.”

Kathie Aldrich Cote, owner of Polly’s Pancake Parlor in Sugar Hill, said she delivered 75 letters from Franconia-area businesses opposing the project.

Melissa Elander of Easton wheeled a 4-foot-tall stack of cardboard boxes up to the microphone, telling the Site Evaluation Committee panel that 20,000 people had signed their disapproval.

One of the two speakers supporting the proposal was Mark Bailey, the director of facilities for BAE Systems in Nashua. He delivered a petition signed by 47 businesses from around the state supporting Northern Pass as proposed.

Bailey said businesses and their advocacy groups “haven’t been duly represented during these proceedings” because they were denied intervenor status.

“It’s increasingly difficult to be competitive in New Hampshire due to the high cost of energy in New Hampshire compared with other regions of the country,” he said.

The committee’s chairman, Martin Honigberg, said it has received between 1,700 and 1,900 written comments about the proposal that are 11- or 12-to-1 against the project as it’s proposed. There had also been 28½ hours of oral testimony, he noted, before the meeting began Thursday.

Another public comment session will be scheduled, Honigberg said.

(Nick Reid can be reached at 369-3325, nreid@cmonitor.com or on Twitter at @NickBReid.)