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My Turn: Northern Pass is neither beauty nor beast

For the Monitor
Published: 3/18/2017 12:09:57 AM

The recent “My Turn” article about Northern Pass headlined “The ugly truths about Northern Pass project” (Monitor Forum, March 4) did a disservice to the members of Protect the Granite State and to your readers. Using inflammatory language like “ugly truths,” “flimsy assumptions,” and “flawed methodology” without providing any evidence to back up those claims does not contribute to the debate about Northern Pass.

The column based its claims on an analysis commissioned by Protect the Granite State. A group called the Analysis Group Inc. produced this analysis. Their report contains a critique of some of the methodologies used by Northern Pass’s developer but does not dispute the actual conclusions the developer made to support the project. The report never used the inflammatory language of the column writer.

The assertion that Northern Pass transmission lines will somehow cause “the devastation of our land and communities” carries little weight when our state for years has hosted over 1,000 circuit miles of 115 kV, 230 kV and 345 kV electric transmission lines and 56 substations, all with minimal demonstrable adverse impacts. Since most of the 192-mile Northern Pass transmission line will traverse an existing utility right-of-way corridor, the claim that the line will cause “adverse impacts on tourism” displays a logical disconnect. If the tourists ignore the current corridor, why wouldn’t they do the same with a modified one?

What tourists (and everyone else!) really desires is reliable, affordable electricity. Many people get so tangled up in the minutiae of energy projects that they lose sight of the goal: obtaining electricity that we can depend upon and afford with a minimal disruption to our lives and the environment. Transmission lines and pipelines that can help satisfy that goal must be part of the package.

Hydro- and gas-generated electricity qualifies as both inexpensive and relatively clean. Today, New Hampshire has 92 mostly small hydro plants that supply 446 MW of electricity. Historically, until the late 1950s New Hampshire got the majority of its electricity from hydro generation. Natural gas burns with far lower emissions of sulfur and nitrogen dioxides than oil and coal, and less than half the carbon dioxide of those fuels or wood. Both of these sources of electricity are cleaner and less expensive than the alternatives. Wind, wood and solar all show promise but appear to be years away from delivering power in the quantities that we need at a reasonable price.

Many people remain confused about whether Northern Pass benefits southern New England at the expense of New Hampshire. Electricity flows to where it is needed (a function of voltage differences) regardless of state borders. We receive power from the other five New England states and they receive power from our state’s generators immediately and constantly. The regional grid operator, ISO-NE, prices all the power made in or imported to the six-state region and makes sure that the transmission system that distributes that power is safe and reliable.

Northern Pass, therefore, will provide power to the entire New England grid, including New Hampshire. Our southern neighbors may use more of the grid’s power than we do, but we all share the same management and delivery system.

The state has procedures and watchdogs, such as the Site Evaluation Committee, in place to minimize the impacts of power projects on our communities and the natural world. As we continue to debate electric transmission and gas pipeline projects, let’s keep our eye on the prize – reasonably clean and affordable power.

(Rep. Michael Vose of Epping serves on the House Science, Technology, and Energy committee and as a House assistant majority leader.)

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