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
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,
firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)