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Anti-Northern Pass video targets Concord



Last modified: Friday, April 24, 2015
A new video produced by a Maine-based nonprofit warns of the possible impact of Northern Pass in Concord, but a spokeswoman for the transmission line said the clip is inaccurate.

The new video is part of a series by the Conservation Media Group, which aims to help conservation advocates use video to connect with voters.

Last year, the group partnered with the New Hampshire Appalachian Mountain Club and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to oppose the proposed 187-mile transmission line. Their videos drove at least 7,000 people to sign a “Bury or Stop Northern Pass” petition to the governor’s office.

The latest installment encourages viewers to ask the Concord City Council to bury the Northern Pass transmission lines. The proposed route travels 8 miles through the eastern part of the city.

“It’s one channel for communicating with our constituents and others who are concerned about Northern Pass,” said Jack Savage of the Forest Society. “As people try to envision what a project like Northern Pass might mean to their neighborhood, their own backyard, their favorite landscape, their favorite hiking place – the video does a pretty good job.”

But Eversource Energy, formerly Public Service of New Hampshire, responded yesterday with a blog post detailing its concerns with the video. Northern Pass is a collaboration between Eversource and Hydro-Quebec.

Lauren Collins, a spokeswoman for Eversource, called the clip “completely misleading.”

“It is incredibly discouraging to see these groups use unethical measures of doctoring images and distorting the truth to try and influence what should be an honest dialogue,” Collins said.

The video begins with a familiar face from previous anti-Northern Pass clips: 7-year-old Tucker, wearing a T-shirt with a picture of a mountain on it. The screen flashes to scenes of the New Hampshire landscape, and towering power lines burst out of the ground.

“Concord will face a greater visual impact than any other community along the proposed route,” the text reads, based on an Appalachian Mountain Club analysis from 2012.

Tucker’s dad, identified only as Chris, questions the project. There is no indication of where the family lives.

“We’re already bisected by a corridor, but that corridor could get bigger, and those towers could be a lot taller,” he says.

The video ends with photos of all 15 members of the Concord City Council, and a link to their contact information on the Conservation Media Group website.

“Over the next 30 days, your Concord City Council will consider what position to take,” the video says. “Ask your City Councilor today to Bury the Northern Pass.”

But some of the information in the video isn’t accurate, Collins said.

Northern Pass would be built along current transmission lines, but the existing poles have been deleted from the images of McKenna’s Purchase and the playground.

“It looks far different than how it’s portrayed in the video,” Collins said.

That error was the “most egregious,” Collins said, but other facts about the project have been distorted.

The Canterbury Shaker Village is pictured in the video, for example, but that property is not in Concord. A shot of the golden dome at the New Hampshire State House is also included in the video, but Collins said the lines won’t even be visible from the State House because the building is more than 2 miles from the right of way.

“The notion that they would go to these lengths to destroy the truth, influence the discussion, is discouraging,” Collins said.

The video also implies that the Concord City Council has the authority to vote Northern Pass up or down; that is not the case. Concord doesn’t have the power to decide whether the hydropower project moves forward.

The city, however, is an intervenor in the state permitting process for Northern Pass, meaning Concord officials can weigh in on the project. So a subcommittee of four councilors is studying the project, and that group will eventually make a presentation of its findings to the full council.

“There are no plans that I know of to have any action before the city council in the next 30 days,” said Carlos Baia, the city’s deputy manager for development.

Liz Smith, the executive director of the Conservation Media Group, did not return a request for comment. But at the Forest Society, Savage said the videos are intended to inform Concord residents about the project. He shrugged off concerns about doctored images.

“What they’re trying to say is, ‘It’s already ugly, we’re making it uglier,’ ” Savage said. “That would be Northern Pass for you. . . . I would dismiss that particular complaint.”

As for images that are not related to the proposed route, Savage said the project will affect more of New Hampshire than just Concord.

“People in Concord should care about whether Northern Pass is built, but not because of their own direct backyard,” Savage said. “People in Concord go to the White Mountains. People in Concord travel up north.”

Savage said he hopes residents contact their councilors to share their opinions.

“The more information, the better,” he said. “We are doing a pretty good job of helping people find out information.”

Mayor Jim Bouley said he’s spoken with residents about the project in the past, but he had not heard from anyone about the video.

“I’ve heard so many different versions now,” Bouley said. “I’ll be curious to see the report back from the council as to what’s true and what’s not.”

Ward 9 Councilor Candace Bouchard said her neighbor had seen the video and contacted her.

“I think some aspects of the video aren’t clear,” Bouchard said. “They show the State House dome. Will you be able to see the Northern Pass poles from the State House dome? I don’t think so, but that’s something that we need to find out.”

The video taps into the passion about the Northern Pass project, she said.

“But I think the work of the committee is to get the facts.”

Bouchard serves on the subcommittee, of which Ward 8 Councilor Gail Matson is chairwoman. Ward 10 Councilor Dan St. Hilaire and at-large councilor Mark Coen are also on that subcommittee.

“We don’t have any time frame set to make any kind of recommendation to the council,” Matson said. “The committee is still gathering information.”

Announced in 2010, the proposed project is a partnership between Eversource Energy and Hydro-Quebec. It would bring hydropower from Canada, through New Hampshire and into the New England energy grid along 187 miles of transmission lines.

In Concord, the majority of the poles in the existing 8-mile right of way are between 43 and 97 feet tall. Should the hydropower line be approved, the majority of the new lines would be between 85 and 100 feet tall. In limited cases, the lines would be as tall as 120 feet.

Concord has already commented twice on the project. In June 2013, City Manager Tom Aspell penned a letter to the U.S. Department of Energy to express concern on behalf of the conservation commission and the planning board about Northern Pass in Concord. At that time, the conservation commission had expressed opposition to the entire project, and the planning board had suggested the power lines be buried through Concord.

Then in September 2013, the city also submitted a motion to the Department of Energy to become an intervenor in the permitting process for Northern Pass. Officials have said the Department of Energy will publish a draft environmental impact study for the project this spring.

The Northern Pass committee will meet Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. in the second-floor conference room in city hall. To view the communication between Eversource and that committee so far, visit concordnh.gov.



(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3321, mdoyle@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)