Clear
36°
Clear
Hi 70° | Lo 57°

PSNH President Gary Long shifting role to focus on Northern Pass

PSNH President Gary Long speaks to reporters after announcing a new route through the north country for the Northern Pass project; Thursday, June 27, 2013. The proposed route for transmission lines bringing hydroelectric power from Quebec to New England will travel through a route to the east of the one originally planned and will have nearly eight miles of buried lines.

ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

PSNH President Gary Long speaks to reporters after announcing a new route through the north country for the Northern Pass project; Thursday, June 27, 2013. The proposed route for transmission lines bringing hydroelectric power from Quebec to New England will travel through a route to the east of the one originally planned and will have nearly eight miles of buried lines. ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

Gary Long is leaving his post as president and chief operating officer of Public Service of New Hampshire but will remain with PSNH to work on the proposed Northern Pass hydropower line from Canada, the company said yesterday.

Long, 62, joined PSNH 37 years ago as an engineer and has led the company for 13 years. It was Long’s decision to step down from PSNH’s day-to-day operations to focus on Northern Pass and future renewable energy projects, said PSNH spokesman Martin Murray.

Long will move to his new position Aug. 1. Paul Ramsey, vice president of energy delivery, will serve as interim president of PSNH until Long’s successor is chosen.

But Long has already begun turning his focus to Northern Pass, a partnership between PSNH, Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec to bring hydropower through New Hampshire to the New England energy grid.

Earlier this month, Long announced a new proposed route through the North Country and last week he visited the area, meeting one-on-one with business leaders and others, Murray said.

Meanwhile, Northern Pass officials announced yesterday that they have scheduled three community open houses in the North Country to discuss the newest route with the public. The first will be Aug. 5, from 5:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the Log Haven Restaurant and Lounge in Millsfield.

Murray said there will be no “set program,” but that project officials will be available to answer questions. Details about additional meetings are at northernpass.us.

In announcing the management change yesterday, PSNH described Long as the “principal architect” behind developing and starting electric utility restructuring in New Hampshire in the mid-1990s.

The company also credited Long with advancing the state’s renewable energy efforts by replacing one of its coal-fired burners in Portsmouth with a cleaner wood-burning boiler in 2006. That project was one of 11 awarded a Clean Air Excellence Award by the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

Murray said Long made renewable energy a priority during his leadership at PSNH. That helped produce the Lempster Wind project, one of the state’s first big wind-power projects, Murray said. Long forged a relationship with the project’s leadership and ultimately signed a long-term power agreement.

Robin Comstock, president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, met Long nearly 23 years ago when he was a PSNH engineer with hair down to his shoulders. They’ve worked together ever since, through the chamber and nonprofits such as United Way.

“From the first handshake, Gary struck me as a very thoughtful, kind person,” Comstock said. “Gary has always had this sense of enlightened responsibility and has taken whatever resources (he has) and applied it to the community in a very broad way.”

Comstock described Long as skilled at leading divergent groups to a consensus. “He excels in his ability to bring people together,” Comstock said. “Gary is a relationship person.”

Northern Pass officials have struggled mightily to build relationships with environmental groups and North Country residents since it announced its proposed hydropower line in 2010. Opponents, which includes some lawmakers, have questioned the project’s claim to “clean energy,” complained that transmission towers will ruin North Country views and demanded Northern Pass bury the entire 187-mile line. The latest proposal calls for burying about 8 miles of it to get around conservation easements placed in the line’s way by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Yesterday, Comstock said Long’s new focus could mitigate those objections.

“I would guess that one of the aspects of this new role that excites Gary is the opportunity to return to those very personal relationships,” she said.

The New Hampshire chapter of the Conservation Law Foundation has been one of Northern Pass’s – and PSNH’s – loudest critics.

Jonathan Peress, the group’s vice president for clean energy and climate change, did not recall Long’s leadership at PSNH as favorably.

“PSNH operates the most expensive and least effective power plants in New England, continues to impose exorbitant costs, both financial and environmental, on New Hampshire . . . and seeks to unnecessarily burden New Hampshire with a flawed Northern Pass route,” Peress said yesterday.

“There are ways for Northeast Utilities to provide low-cost and cleaner power to New Hampshire ratepayers and to bring Canadian hydropower to the market that Mr. Long has been unwilling to pursue,” Peress continued.

He said Nothern Pass should more seriously consider burying the entire line and using existing routes that don’t require new clearings in the North Country.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323,
atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

Maybe it has something to do with the strategy of doubling down on coal by doing 500 million dollars of upgrades to a 50 year old plant [more than the cost of a new clean burning gas fired plant and could have bought 500 million dollars of solar tech instead of sitting mostly idle] when anyone knows that coal is yesterday's tech and natural gas is cheaper and abundant. Are ratepayers on the hook for that blunder, too? They always say nice things as they show you the door - "You can sit over here and play with your last bad idea - the failed no. pass proposal." Far from "struggled mightily", project officials have stiff armed everyone in their path with their - Get out of our way! We're coming through! - attitude from the get go. It hasn't changed with the new proposed route. Town officials learned about the proposal to dig up and use their roads by reading about it in the paper. Who refers to that as struggling mightily to build relationships? A few words of advice for those seeking to exploit NH for their get rich quick schemes - Bury it - all the way - or forget it!

Gary Long was fired, no question about it. Who knows why. There could be any number of good reasons. He was given a face-saving complimentary role at NU working on Northern Pass, another losing venture, most likely for a limited amount of time. I have to hope the following paragraph was Robin Comstock's spin, not reporter Timmins's: "Northern Pass officials have struggled mightily to build relationships with environmental groups and North Country residents since it announced its proposed hydropower line in 2010. Opponents, which includes some lawmakers, have questioned the project’s claim to 'clean energy,' complained that transmission towers will ruin North Country views and demanded Northern Pass bury the entire 187-mile line. The latest proposal calls for burying about 8 miles of it to get around conservation easements placed in the line’s way by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests." "Struggled mightily"? C'mon. No one buys this already tired line. It's another version of NP's "we've listened." In any event, please clarify who said this, Concord Monitor editor. It's unprofessional journalism if a reporter said it.

Post a Comment

You must be registered to comment on stories. Click here to register.