My Turn: Let’s prevent the New Jersey-fication of New Hampshire
The current set of power lines run over Tripoli Road near exit 31 on I-93 in Woodstock on Thursday, May 5, 2011. Woodstock is one of the towns that may be affected by the Northern Pass project, which would bring 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectricity from the Canadian border to a converter station in Franklin, and eventually would be distributed throughout New England.
With no comprehensive state energy plan to protect New Hampshire interests, our state is on the verge of becoming a dumping ground for private, for-profit energy developments that would not be allowed in our neighboring states.
Vermont, Maine and Connecticut will be burying high-voltage, direct-current merchant transmission lines not needed for reliability (not requested by our regional grid planners). Developers of such private lines, wind turbines and other merchant energy projects are targeting New Hampshire because they perceive our state to be backwards, easy pickings, defenseless. A new gold rush is on. Northern Pass is a first example of this opportunism, but it is by no means the only private project that will target New Hampshire if we take no action.
Typically sponsored by multibillion-dollar foreign or out-of-state companies, these projects impose huge costs on New Hampshire families, our communities, our natural environment and our sense of place. These private mega-developments provide no net benefits to New Hampshire. They crowd out the state’s home-grown conservation and energy industries and destroy New Hampshire jobs.
Other states protect themselves with energy policies that carefully weigh and balance competing interests. New Hampshire does not do so, yet. But state legislators will soon have the opportunity to stand up for New Hampshire interests in this critical area.
Responsible legislative process is about crafting sound, general policies. The key energy bills pending in Concord this session do just that. They do not target Northern Pass or any other particular project. They set clear, fair standards equally applicable to all similarly-situated energy developments. Claims by developers that this legislation somehow unfairly targets “just my particular project” are baseless. Claims that this legislation would discourage business are equally unfounded; instead it would encourage responsible developers to design projects in ways that make sense for New Hampshire. And claims that this legislation could have unintended consequences pale in comparison to the almost certain consequences of our current lack of comprehensive planning.
Don’t let New Hampshire become the dumping ground for private unneeded energy projects that our neighboring states do not allow. Ask your legislator to support the bills that would create a state energy plan this session, starting with a one-year moratorium on elective projects not needed to keep the lights on (HB 586). Time is running out to prevent the “New Jersey-fication” of New Hampshire. We must act now.
(Susan Schibanoff of Easton is a member of Responsible Energy Action LLC.)