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My Turn: There’s no Kumbaya on Northern Pass

An open letter to PSNH CEO Bill Quinlan:

On March 27, you met with a group of Northern Pass opponents from Sugar Hill and Easton. The group followed up with a letter to you dated April 2. It outlined what Northern Pass needs to do to address the serious flaws in its plan to run a transmission line through our state. We never received a reply.

We are frankly astonished by the new Northern Pass story line of a grand compromise involving burial in sensitive areas. Nothing could be further from the truth. The burial of approximately 8 miles in Coos County along state and town roads was the project’s only option to get around landowners who have refused to sell Northern Pass the right to use their land.

It does not represent any attempt to address opponents’ concerns and it is cynical in the extreme to present it that way. As you well know, Northern Pass’s right to bury lines there is in dispute and will likely be decided after a lengthy court battle.

In view of public statements such as the one from former Connecticut DEEP Commissioner Daniel Esty in the New York Times on May 14 claiming that agreement has been reached, and from Northeast Utilities VP Leon Olivier along similar lines referring to a “coalition” of support in the quarterly investor call on May 2, we have decided to make public excerpts (due to length) of our letter to you.

None of us, nor any opponents we know, are aware of any type of compromise solution having been offered, or agreed to, much less a buried solution.

There is no Kumbaya on Northern Pass. The opposition remains solidly opposed and will continue to take all available measures to prevent the project in its present design from ever going forward. The excerpted April 2 letter follows.

“Dear Bill, We spoke at some length about your project’s failure to acknowledge the very real harm it will cause to our landscape. It will be impossible to move forward unless your spokespeople and your PR efforts cease to claim that there are no negative effects. You seemed to agree with us that there will be negative effects. These will fall on individuals, on whole towns, on regions and on our state as a whole. They will take the form of property tax losses, injury to landowners through declining property values and degraded land, damage to protected public and private landscapes and compromised tourism. To insist otherwise, indeed to paint those who point out those negative effects as somehow lacking in good sense, will result in continued, sustained resistance. To begin to find a solution, one must first admit the problem.

“We discussed at length the possibility of altering the Northern Pass plan to address in particular the visual impact problem. We believe that the way forward for you lies with flexible siting of your project. For example, most opponents would support burying the lines. Flexibility could involve moving to an HVDC Light-compatible 1000MW line as a way to get the job done in a cost-effective and timely manner. If your ultimate goal is to bring Canadian power to New England, it will have to be in a way that works for New Hampshire. At present, Northern Pass does not fit the bill. A fully buried line would be worth the cost if it enabled your project to move forward. Absent such a solution, your project may never be built. We would be glad to work with you on this; as you noted there was a lot of creativity in the room that day.

“You would certainly not be the first developer to revise a project’s design in response to public criticism. Your partner Hydro-Quebec has recently done so with its Hertel-New York project, after consulting with its host communities. In any case, to continue to provide cost figures that are, in your words, ‘rules of thumb’ to support your inflexible stance on burial betrays an alarming lack of good faith.

“We spoke of the need for greater transparency and truthfulness, an outcome that you are in a position to effect immediately and completely.

“If you are to have any credibility with the many parties in opposition to Northern Pass, you need to mute, or purge, the entrenched voices of deception within your extended organization, including contracted firms. It would be foolish to expect to overcome opposition with continued departures from the truth.

“In summary, we see four key actions you can take that would enable us to work with you toward a solution:

“1. Acknowledge the serious negative impacts of your project if it is completed as proposed.

“2. Recognize that most of these negative impacts can be reduced significantly by burying the line.

“3. Admit that the predicted cost of burying lines in nearby states is a small fraction of the $20 million per mile average cost you cited in our meeting.

“4. Accept that the opponents of your project are reasonable people, with reasonable concerns.

“We are interested in working with you toward improving your project, but we can’t play ball if you won’t throw us a pitch we can hit. Please let us have your reaction to our thoughts so we can continue this dialogue.”

(Nancy Marland is a member of Sugar Hill Tower Opponents. The letter was also signed by Dorothy McPhaul of Sugar Hill Tower Opponents; Roy Stever, chairman of the Easton Conservation Commission; Carl Martland of Sugar Hill Tower Opponents; and Margaret Connors, chairman of the Sugar Hill Board of Selectmen.)

Legacy Comments38

Say H*LL NO to Northern Pass!!

Hey all you Northern Pass Lovers in every one of your messages you forgot to highlight the "low cost power" promise. Come on you guys tell everyone about the cheap power all NH electrical consumers will enjoy if the NP is ever sited. Go ahead and let all of us know what the kwh rate will be so we can all personally calculate what savings we might see....................................................................................................... ................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................................... This happens every time anyone asks about the "low cost power" promise. The question has been asked to supporters of the Northern Pass, PSNH, Northern Pass representatives, officials, spokespersons, and even to the top person in charge - Gary Long. If the power produced by the possible siting of the Northern Pass project is going to be "low cost" then why after this question has been asked by 1000s has no one ever been given an answer?

You can bet that the price for no pass power will be as high as the market will bear and not a fraction of a cent less. It doesn't matter if it goes underground or overhead, the price will be the same - as high as possible.

Why are we not building more dams?

Quite frankly, I simply could not care any less about the impact on property values. That said, I grew up in Hopkinton with the power lines at the edge of my parents property. I didn't even notice them and to this day pay little attention to them. My daughter and her husband just bought a house that abutted the same set of lines at the back of their 10 acres. It wasn't an issue that even got discussed about the property. What you can or can't see from your property doesn't concern me- I don't care. So unless this NP is running thru your property, why is it really your concern either? You really need a better argument, than it won't look good. By far the biggest blight on NH's landscape is the morass that is North Conway that one must pass thru to get to this pristine panorama that really only exists in one imagination. It's not like their building a keystone pipeline. Let's debate it on it's merits - do we need it, will it fill the projected power void for NE. Not on whether it will spoil someones view.

You are incorrect. We ought not destroy the landscape of New Hampshire with more power lines. Moreover, I feel that same way about windmills or solar arrays and smokestacks. Public Service is saying that this will keep our electric bills down. It turns out that it will reduce, if everything falls into place, about $5 on each bill. Whoopeeee DING! However, it is is more about PSNH and profits than anything else and honestly, next to government, PSNH is the second worst manager/administrator of anything.

That's the point - you didn't even notice them. Why? Because they were not very tall. The line Northern Pass wants to put in will have towers up to 155'. You will indeed notice them and they WILL lower the value of your property. It's not about the views but what the towers will rob from NH families. Why should home owners lose 20% - 50% of the value of their biggest assert and towns have their taxable revenue base decline simply to line the pockets of an out of state and foreign utility company? Bury it!

cant even bury 8 miles of lengthy court battle...see letter

Fortunately, most people in NH aren't so blatantly uncaring and unsympathetic to the plight of others - realizing instead that when the rights of any are denied, the rights of all are diminished. With many other transmission lines being planned for NH, this one will set a precedent that will affect countless others, their property, and it's value - not to mention the State and National Parks and the scenic beauty of the state as a whole. A view is a taxed asset no matter what your opinion of it is - and using your criteria, since no pass isn't going through your property, it's none of your concern. The fact that you don't care or aren't smart enough to realize that property abutting a power line is less valuable speaks for itself. Comparing the proposed 15 story no pass towers to the existing line that seldom exceeds the tree line or better yet the keystone pipeline that will be underground makes even less sense. Don't be too quick to give up your rights because you believed the fear mongering about a "projected power void" as there are many other projects - all underground - to add power to the grid and besides, if we need it, no pass would add just as much power underground without trashing NH in the process. Just bury it already. NH isn't as ripe for exploiting as the greedy utilities thought.

Northern Pass still hasn't recovered from the fact that it could not ride into NH on a high horse and take whatever land it wanted for its project. It still arrogantly acts as if it should be entitled to NH. Its PR campaigns are testimonies to this refusal to accept reality. No other utility project in New England engages in the sheer volume or type of dissimulation that this one does on a daily basis. No other project uses or needs the myriad communications managers and spokesmen and media consultants that this one does. It takes only one person to tell the truth but many to dissimulate. No other project has caused the hostility and controversy that this one does unless you go all the way back to another PSNH debacle, Seabrook. The more that Northern Pass peddles the Kumbaya myth, the more you know it is a desperate attempt to substitute fiction for reality. It's time that project sponsors were called out for playing fast and loose with the truth. It may work in Hartford or New York, but not here in NH. Despite the attempt to end-run NH, the project will never be built without community support, which it does not have and will not get if it continues business as usual. If Northern Pass refuses to accept the reality that, in the end, all projects are local, it will ride out on the same high horse that it rode in on, empty handed.

if reactor #2 was in service today...we probably wouldnt be talking about NP....another great project down the tubes. Like I keep coal, no hydro, no nuclear, a big wind project just pulled out of NH, no where near enough pipeline capacity for gas....It's like we a are begging for $1200/month electric bills.

Instead of getting two reactors for 1Billion as psnh promised everyone, due to mismanagement and incompetence we got 1 reactor for 7 Billion and stranded cost charges to NH ratepayers for decades for power that all goes to out of state consumers. Don't fear monger about how high our electric bills could be, understand why we have had among the highest rates in the country for so long and then try to justify another get rich quick scheme by a failing company at NH's expense. Twisted spin like yours and BPR's below are prime examples of utility lackeys trying to generate support through fear because the no. pass proposal has been unable to generate any public support due to it's complete lack of merit.

according to Wikipedia which I normally dont quote comes this gem The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) itself described its regulatory oversight of Seabrook as "a paradigm of fragmented and uncoordinated government decision making," and "a system strangling itself and the economy in red tape." I'm also finding it extremely difficult to take seriously someone who says that power from this plant or that project will go to out of state consumers. Can you please list the power plants in NH that produce power for only NH and the ones that dont, since you seem to know so much about it. Help us folks who have a harder time following these electrons around.

feel free to jump in here with the answer..I repeat..Can you please list the power plants in NH that produce power for only NH and the ones that dont???

So now it's the NRC's fault. Yesterday it was the protesters. Either way or both together - 6 BILLION over budget for half the project? How do you even dare to show your faces after that one? - let alone have the gall to double the price of the scrubber and then try to really stick it to us with no pass? You guys must sit around the boardroom and laugh at all the ratepayers who had to bail you out of the biggest corporate bankruptcy in American history at the time. Gotta love those "stranded costs" and the beaurocracy that keeps that broken system in place. Now you want us to pay for the double priced obsolete before complete scrubber and then ratepayers would be on the hook for whatever goes wrong with no pass. Where are those "Power too cheap to meter" promises this time?

If you didn't take me seriously, you wouldn't keep posting all this spin in an effort to deflect the facts. Since NH generates twice the power we consume, obviously some electricity is consumed elsewhere. Electricity, although "fungible" is still contracted through PPAs [power purchase agreements] as you know so well.

Clearly a desperate attempt by utility hacks to control the no pass narrative by blowing smoke to hide the facts.

Hey, I_love! Evidently you weren't here in those days. Go study your history! Seabrook 1 and 2 would have been built on time and on budget except for the Clam shell Alliance and their ilk, which ran up costs through litigation and protests. That entire fiasco had nothing to do with management or incompetence. The stranded costs are entirely the fault of these protesters. Come to think of it, nothing has changed: Northern Pass- NO! Wind- NO! Coal- NO! hydro - NO!

sensing a trend here? Seabrook..I-93..NP...

The only trend I detect is the smokescreen you are trying to put up. Google Seabrook, A Case Study in Mismanagement by Irvin C Bupp in the New England Journal of Public Policy

dont forget tank boy Dukakis...he fought it too...and according to I love...he was getting all that power..go figure

I was here for Seabrook and I've paid the outrageous electric rates ever since. You'd like to be able to blame the protesters. Did they double the scrubber's price, too? For the real story on Seabrook, google, Seabrook, A Case Study in Mismanagement

litigation and delay on the scrubber didnt decrease the cost. Besides, all the power from Bow goes south to Mass and Conn...just like Seabrook

I like how psnh of CT declared that they had brought the scrubber in under budget when they announced it was slightly less than twice as much as they originally quoted the legislature. Funny that psnh stopped fighting the order to build the scrubber - and then the price doubled. What a coincidence.

Clam shell Alliance aka JEANNE SHAHEEN

Google "Seabrook a Case Study in Mismanagement" for another view.

It is simply un American for the NIMBY Visual Purists to halt this critical National Security project especially now that NObama is going to close 30 % of our Nations power generation

Maybe no pass was right when they said the proposal would create some jobs - although probably not in NH. Look at all the spin artists they have hired to try to put some lipstick on their proposal - and look at their level of desperation. Unfortunately, the well reasoned logic expressed in the article is unlikely to resonate with the level of greed shown by no pass from the beginning.

Imagine a serious and successful transmission developer like TDI-Blackstone lining up company flacks to do YouTube testimonials to hawk their projects. Laughable. Embarrassing.

Why do you continue to insist that this project - that will make us more reliant on foreign sources for our energy - is critical to our national security? Not only that, this project is putting our own domestic producers of renewable energy at an unfair, competitive disadvantage to a state-sponsored, foreign corporate entity - hardly in our national security interests! And is making our own citizens subsidize this project through decreased asset values and depressed business opportunities so that we can ship more of our hard-earned dollars north to Canada in our national security interests? This project is itself un-American in its structure, but very pro-Canadian. It is bad design at our expense.

You mean the big wind project pulled out of NH because of NP???

When NObama's National Security Adviser along with Economists and other advisers says projects like Keystone and Northern pass are National Security critical then ....ahhhh forget it - your mind is........ You probably support the 30% reduction in power supply by NObama's pen. now even burying the lines is being challenged in court...the world had gone mad

Yes, half truth teller, burying lines on land you don't own and have no permission to use would obviously be challenged in court - as it should be. Your desperate attempts to forcibly take a route because landowners are unwilling to sell out will be exposed for the sham it really is.

they want to bury it under state and local roads...just like everyone wanted them to...except the people that obviously dont want it Seabrook and I-93 and the scrubber...and the costs go up up up up up..

The only roads they want to bury it under are where they couldn't get people to sell them a right of way for towers - and they have no permission to use those roads. Sounds like lenghty court battles while other projects coast through the permitting process by using modern underground technology.

lie much

"Patriotism - The last refuge of a scoundrel"

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