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Northern Pass chief Gary Long says support for project increasing

  • Public Services of New Hampshire President Gary Long announces 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.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

    Public Services of New Hampshire President Gary Long announces 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

  • Public Services of New Hampshire President Gary Long announces 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.<br/><br/>ALEXANDER COHN / Monitor staff

Gary Long, who has helped lead Northern Pass as president of Public Service of New Hampshire, acknowledged yesterday that his team has been losing the public relations battle to the project’s opponents. But Long believes that will change now that he can talk publicly about the project’s new proposed route.

“At the beginning of the process, you don’t have all the information and people will immediately have an emotional reaction, and that is what you are seeing happening,” Long said. He continued, “When you don’t have facts, there’s a void and people make up a lot of stuff, and we are dealing with a lot of made-up stuff.”

For example, Long said, opponents have said the project will put people out of their homes. Long said that is not true, save for a mobile home that is illegally placed in a transmission right of way. Martin Murray, a Northern Pass spokesman, said project officials have helped that homeowner get to a safer and more suitable location.

Long met with the Monitor’s editorial board yesterday for a wide-ranging interview that touched on the proposed Northern Pass hydropower line from Canada, PSNH’s future, Long’s frustration with changing state regulations and renewable energy.

To watch the interview, visit youtube.com/concordmonitoronline.

Northern Pass

Late last month, Long unveiled the latest route of the proposed Northern Pass line from Canada, through New Hampshire and into the New England power grid. The new map revealed that the project won’t need much of the North Country land it spent $40 million buying for the proposed line.

Long said yesterday that the stockholders of Northeast Utilities, which is partnering with PSNH and Hydro-Quebec on the project, will likely pay for that unused land. Hydro-Quebec has agreed to pay for the 187-mile transmission line if it is approved by federal and state officials.

“If the land is not used, I think the Canadians will say, ‘I don’t want to pay for that,’ ” Long said.

Long said project engineers have been able to lower the height of proposed towers through the North Country from 135 feet to between 80 feet and 90 feet. He claimed that opponents continue to overstate the height of those towers.

Yet, despite critics, Long said he believes Northern Pass is gaining support in the state, even in the North Country. He and Murray cited both public and internal polls. Long said even elected officials who have cited concerns about community opposition of the project have told him they support Northern Pass for its clean energy.

“The aesthetics is what you hear about the most,” Long said. “But when you are looking at energy policy or public policy, you can’t satisfy everyone 100 percent. You can’t have power without having infrastructure. You can’t have travel without having roads. You can’t have communication without having cell towers.

“So, you can’t have power without having transmission lines,” Long said. “I think the benefits (of Northern Pass) are just enormous. And if you want to find that one reason to say no, people will find that one reason to say no. But if you look at it, we all depend on electricity and we all want clean electricity and we all want low-cost electricity and . . . reliable electricity. There is no better project anywhere in New England.”

PSNH’s future

With more than 50 percent of its commercial and residential energy sales to be supplied by PSNH competitors for cheaper prices by year’s end, some state officials have renewed calls for PSNH to sell off generation plants. Long reiterated his opposition to that yesterday.

He said the state has created an “uneven playing field” by requiring PSNH to handle billing and customer service for its competitors at “give-away” prices.

Under rules set by the Public Utilities Commission, PSNH can charge competitors 50 cents for each bill it handles, nearly the cost of a stamp and short of what the actual accounting costs, Murray said.

Long said the 50-cent limit essentially means PSNH is subsidizing its competition. He said if PSNH could charge just 1 cent per kilowatt-hour for billing, competitors would no longer be able to undercut PSNH’s electricity rates. Doing so would help stop PSNH’s customer migration, he said.

State regulations

Long repeatedly expressed frustration yesterday with what he sees as ever-changing state regulations governing energy projects. “We say New Hampshire is a business-friendly state,” Long said. “New Hampshire is not a business-friendly state.”

Long pointed to efforts by the Legislature this year to adopt moratoriums on renewable energy projects, including Northern Pass, and to rewrite the state rules used to approve such projects. Those bills resulted in summer study commissions.

“If the Legislature is changing the rules midcourse . . . because they are against a project, because they are philosophically opposed to it . . . that is not good policy,” Long said.

He said he supports giving the state Site Evaluation Committee, which decides which projects are approved, more resources to do its work. But he opposes giving any one group or agency the power to veto a project.

He said the state has already adopted a long-term energy plan by participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a commitment to gradually increase the amount of renewable energy used in the state to about 25 percent by 2025. Putting obstacles in front of projects like Northern Pass and wind power works against that already-adopted energy goal, Long said.

Renewable energy

Long announced last month that he is retiring as president of PSNH by Aug. 1 to focus on Northern Pass and other renewable energy efforts. He was visibly excited about that future yesterday.

“Energy policy in general and renewable energy policy is a passion of mine,” he said.

He touted Northern Pass yesterday as the region’s best chance to put a dent in its heavy reliance on natural gas, which Long said produces 88 percent of the region’s carbon emissions.

“I do support solar and wind, but solar and wind are not reliable,” Long said. “It only helps on the carbon (emissions reduction) front, not on the reliability front.”

Northern Pass, Long said, emits fewer carbon emissions and is more reliable than wind or solar. Long said the region would need 20 times the number of wind farms in New England now to produce the 1,200 megawatts of energy that Northern Pass will produce.

“There is nothing (else) renewable that comes anywhere near this,” Long said.

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

Legacy Comments13

So he is retiring August 1st to work on NP and other renewable energy projects. Sounds to me this is his payoff from hydroquebec

Amazing that he claims no one will be moved. How about the thousands who has a home that is in the path, we may not lose our home BUT it will affect our home prices. Would he like someone to build a huge tower near his home??? I bet NOT. I'm sick of psnh getting away ling to NH residences. Anyone remember seabrook???? PSNH only cares about money NOT people!

When Gary Long is speaking publically he can't even look into the camera and really speak to the people of NH. He can only speak while he keeps his head down and is hoping honest people aren't listening.

Gary Long says that since the announcement of the Northern Pass's proposed new route, ( which is just that proposed and also fictitious), the possible project is receiving increasing support. If it is supposedly receiving such increased support than why is everyone in NH receiving an all out assault campaign of mailings and telephone messages touting all "the incredible benefits" of this possible project. The reality and truth about the possibility of this project is "Not only has Northern NH said No! to the Northern Pass, but after almost 2 years the rest of NH and those that visit here have also been awakened and they are also united with their 1000's of voices in saying No! Long is mistakenly reporting increased support for this possible project when actually there is only increased pressure to end it...

"Long said project engineers have been able to lower the height of proposed towers through the North Country from 135 feet to between 80 feet and 90 feet. He claimed that opponents continue to overstate the height of those towers." Are you kidding me? NP's own documents state that some of the towers are 100-120 feet tall in Clarksville. I saw another with 100 foot towers in Dixville. PAGE 2: http://northernpass.us/assets/maps/mile-by-mile/mapbook4.pdf Apparently Northern Pass's own website is an opponent of NP. And he has the hubrus to talk about people "making a lot of stuff up."

Here's the crown jewel of Northern Pass's new proposal: the 155' tower they would like to build off Mount Delight Road in Allenstown. It would be in a line of 140's and 130's through a wetlands. But nobody cares about Allenstown, right? (See p. 2-3 of http://northernpass.us/assets/maps/mile-by-mile/mapbook171.pdf)

Anything PSNH says short of cancelling this project will not be received well by the angry minority. I suspect many of our town officials have reviewed the benefits it an unemotional way and concluded that the project will bring many benefits to the area. Gary Long is a long-time NH resident and I believe he wishes no harm to the area. I am disappointed in the personal attacks and misleading information put out by some. Come on NH - we're better than that!

Which town officials are those? Nashua or some other unaffected town? The "misleading information" has characterized this proposal's approach from the start - along with outrageous personal attacks in a failing attempt to scare off opposition. What's wrong with underground transmission by the interstate like Maine and others? They would rather cancel it than put it underground by the highway because then they won't get all the money which is their only interest - not renewable power like they claim. NH isn't stupid. People who really care about renewable power wouldn't trash so much of NH unnecessarily just to get some. Underground [by the highway] is the unemotional answer. Long says in the video, "trust the process" - "trust the government" - the process they have spent years developing and greasing the skids for? I think NH wants it in writing - Bury it by the highway - all the way - or forget it.

1) It may have started out as an educated minority, but it no longer is. The majority now understands the futility of this proposed project. They also know what a bad deal it is for NH and that it doesn't have to be a bad deal if the developers would actually listen to the public and bury the line. There's only way to get them to listen. 2) Town officials also understand the smoke & mirrors that mask the actual tax revenue benefits, much lower than advertised, and they know how much towns would lose on tax abatements for residential properties the value of which will drop from 10% to 90% depending upon proximity to the line. Some properties would become unsaleable except for the lowest utilitarian uses, woodlots, buffers, etc. 33 towns in NH have voted against Northern Pass in non binding warrant articles. Town officials know why. 3) Mr. Long's residency status and private convictions are neither contested, nor attacked. Nor are they relevant. His public method of representing Northern Pass is. He is, after all, the man who told NH that we'd "get used to it" back when Northern Pass still planned on using eminent domain (see FERC filings). This is Big Business - Northeast Utilities, Hydro Quebec. They don't care about New Hampshire, which is simply in the way, as far as they are concerned.

Mr. Long says, "I do support solar". Where is the solar generation in NH? I have seen a few commercial solar generation sites in VT as I was driving through but I haven't seen any in NH [except private individuals] despite NH having a much higher rating for solar than VT. Long believes in coal. Psnh of CT has spent more updating an old coal burning plant in Bow than a new cleaner burning natural gas plant with no toxic mercury would have cost. It's hard to know why N/U showed him the door because the list of possibilities is so long. He also suggests that legislative opposition is "philosophical" but in reality it is fact-based and the result of overwhelming public outcry from outraged constituents. Lucky 48 is right - the public knows that all the devastation from this proposal is completely unnecessary as it could all be avoided by burial by the interstate except for the greedy attempt to restrict the route to a right of way that was never intended to be used in this manner and probably isn't even legal. I'm sure there would be plenty of legal challenges if it were ever to get that far. The timing of this article in the Concord Monitor is coincidental to the first showing of the NH documentary film, "Northern Trespass" tonight at the Red River Theater in Concord. Matt Bonner and the film makers will be there. I wonder if Mr. Long will?

I didn't read anything in the article to support the assertion in the headline. On the contrary, the 100,000+/- NH residents and business owners who have left psnh of CT speaks volumes. The irony of Mr. Long and no. pass, with their long history of unfamiliarity with truth and accuracy regarding no. pass, talking about "made up stuff" is laughable. This article is another shining example. I never heard any opponents say that "the [proposed] project will put people out of their homes". Where did that come from? Opponents have objected when finding out that no. pass officials planned to run their line right through their private property and near to their homes without their consent. In an interview in the days after the project was first announced, Long claimed the right to Eminent Domain to forcibly take private property for their private proposal. He found out that wasn't going to happen. Long, a master of the obvious, shows his expertise in his field when he says, "So, you can't have power without having transmission lines." So, do those "transmission lines" have to be overhead lines? People aren't opposed to "transmission lines", they just want to use modern technology like the other projects and states in our region are using instead of primitive, vulnerable, unsafe, and unsightly huge overhead towers with sagging wires.

Mr. Long, we are just not as dumb as you think we are. You see, we KNOW about Champlain-Hudson Power Express and Northeast Energy Link. We know that our neighbors in Maine, Vermont, and New York have been treated with respect by these private power projects, a respect you have denied us. We know that we do not have to put up with unsightly towers for the greater glory of PSNH. And we know why you claim you can't put lines underground along our highways. That would mean the people of NH get the millions of dollars in transmission fees. Can't have that, can we, Mr. Long? You want those fees for PSNH to keep it afloat.

Gary Long's condescending arrogance is truly astonishing. He seems to think that his company has a god-given right to do as it pleases in New Hampshire and that the peasants should be grateful for whatever crumbs he tosses our way, namely, building towers not 135' but only 80'-90' in the North Country. Mr. Long, gratitude is hardly the response when one hears that one must lose only one hand, not two. Long's continued willingness to make misleading statements is also astonishing. That and the sense of entitlement (eminent domain) are what got Northern Pass off on the wrong foot at the start and will ultimately doom this project. Let's look at his 80'-90' claim. Long says that the company has managed to lower the tower heights to 80'-90' throughout the North Country. Fact checks: 1) back in the day when Northern Pass was planning on using eminent domain (see filings with FERC), the proposed tower heights in Clarksville, Colebrook, Columbia, Pittsburg, Stewartstown, and Stratford were 85'. What's "lower" now about 80'-90'? Or was the project lying back then? 2) Shift your glance slightly to other towns in the North Country that Long would like to avoid talking about - Lancaster, Whitefield, etc. - and you'll see that the monster towers are still there. In fact, the project information that Long is now so glad that he can share with us reveals that Northern Pass tower heights will extend up to 155' on the existing easement and that PSNH will have to rebuild 90 miles of its existing transmission line, with higher towers, to make enough room for Northern Pass. (Who's paying for that?) Keep your eye on the ball - when Northern Pass says one thing, it's always to distract attention from something else, in this case, the newly revealed plans for the existing right of way. New Hampshire is on to Northern Pass's game, Mr. Long. And the game is about over. And yes, you can have new utility infrastructure without aesthetic damage and its consequent adverse impact on property values, tourist economy, our jobs. It's called "buried lines." If companies in Maine, VT, and NY can figure out how to build HVDC projects underground and make a profit, why can't yours?

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