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Who's behind Northern Pass opposition?

Last modified: 4/24/2011 12:00:00 AM
Over the past few months, the proposed Northern Pass project has faced considerable opposition. Fueled by fears of new electric transmission routes, opponents have seized every opportunity to rail against a project aimed at supplying New Hampshire and New England with clean, low-cost electricity.

However, recently there has been a subtle but major shift in the opposition to the Northern Pass project. The initial explosion of opposition, focused on the impact on land owners and the potential threat of using eminent domain to build the project, was understandable. However, now that significant changes have been proposed and the smoke is beginning to clear, the people standing with matches in their hands are the same big-money special interests that fight nearly every project in New Hampshire: environmental groups and independent power producers.

Environmental groups like the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, the Conservation Law Foundation, Nature Conservancy, Sierra Club, Conservation New Hampshire and various other federal environmental groups are now clearly leading the opposition in an attempt to stop a project aimed at progress and providing economic benefits and jobs to the state.

What is particularly disingenuous about their effort to oppose the Northern Pass project is that these environmental extremists have tried to cover their tracks by claiming that they are interested in protecting private property. In reality, these groups are not interested in protecting your property rights, but instead have a long history of spending millions of dollars to restrict how your land will be used and to take away your property rights.

For these groups, the end goal is to tie up as much land as possible to stop development, and, if they can drive

up your electric costs at the same time in hope you will use less of everything - all the better.

The other well-funded opponents to the Northern Pass project are the so-called independent power producers, which own privately run power plants throughout New Hampshire and New England. These private companies spend millions to oppose low-cost energy options with the goal of keeping out competition and keeping electric costs as high as possible for homeowners and small businesses in New Hampshire.

Similar to environmental special interests, the last thing these companies want is for 1,200 megawatts of stable, low-cost hydroelectricity to be sold into the New England electric grid and for energy prices to be reduced.

During my tenure in the state Senate, I put brought forward or supported a number of proposals to initiate economic development through various energy projects. Time and again, environmentalists and independent power producers came forward to stall proposals or legislation that would have increased domestic energy development, create jobs and create greater competition in the electric market.

In responding to concerns raised about the Northern Pass project, many elected officials have called for a comprehensive review of the project and transparency for the public.

This call for transparency should also be applied to opponents of the Northern Pass project so that all New Hampshire homeowners and businesses can understand the opposition's motives and why, time after time, energy projects and efforts to introduce greater competition into the energy market faces such strident opposition in New Hampshire.

As the saying goes, follow the money.

(Robert Letourneau of Derry is a former three-term member of the New Hampshire Senate and four-term member of the New Hampshire House.)


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