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My Turn: One year later, Northern Pass is still a bad deal for New Hampshire

For the Monitor
Published: 2/1/2019 12:19:56 AM

One year ago, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee rightfully and unanimously rejected Northern Pass, based on overwhelming evidence of negative impacts presented to it during a thorough and deliberative process.

I stated at the time that Northern Pass was a bad deal for New Hampshire, and I was pleased for my constituents and for our state that the project was defeated.

Yet a year later, we’re still talking about Northern Pass. Why? Because Northern Pass has appealed its defeat to our state Supreme Court, and while that appeal is pending, supporters of the project continue to work the halls in Concord and elsewhere trying to convince people that the SEC, and thousands upon thousands of Granite Staters, are wrong, and that Northern Pass is actually a good idea.

No. Northern Pass was as bad deal a year ago, and it is still a bad idea today.

For five years, I had the honor of serving as executive councilor for District 1, encompassing 108 towns, 4 cities and 23 unincorporated places. It is also the district that would be most significantly impacted if Northern Pass were built. Of the 31 towns that would be directly affected by Northern Pass, 24 reside in my former district, stretching from Pittsburg to Hill.

During my time as an executive councilor, no issue generated more opposition or grassroots concern than Northern Pass. My constituents and the communities of northern New Hampshire overwhelmingly opposed the project. I carefully reviewed the Northern Pass proposal and the facts surrounding it, while listening closely to my constituents and local business owners. In doing so, I determined that Northern Pass was not in the best interest of the public, and that, as such, it should not be built at all. Or, if ultimately permitted, it should be buried entirely. In taking this position, I joined my legendary predecessor Ray Burton, whose opposition to Northern Pass from day one was well known.

For me, the equation was pretty straightforward. Massive visual impacts with significant and lasting harm to our vital tourism industry and property values, plus substantial disruption to our local roads and within our local communities, plus virtually no benefit to our state, equals Northern Pass is not right for New Hampshire.

Consider the visual impact and the resulting harm to our economy and property values. There can be no question that constructing mile after mile of new transmission towers through the heart of some of our state’s most scenic lands and majestic vistas would have enormous, negative visual impacts on our state. Our economy is heavily reliant upon tourism. Building Northern Pass would reduce tourism dollars coming into our state, harm residential and business property values and forever change our pristine landscape.

As executive councilor, I conducted an annual aviation tour of my district and I was always struck by how breathtakingly beautiful our state is. We must preserve that essential part of our heritage. Northern Pass would irreversibly industrialize it.

Consider the disruption to our small towns and communities. Much of the discussion surrounding Northern Pass centered upon the plans to bury portions of the line along small state road rights-of-way in rural places like Route 116 in Easton, Route 18 in Bethlehem and Route 145 in Clarksville. Legitimate questions were raised about the legal status of these roads, whether their layout could endure either high-voltage power lines or underground transmission lines, and the disruptions caused by construction, which would have dramatically torn up downtown Plymouth, among others. Every day, the economic and social lifeblood of northern New Hampshire is carried along these small routes. Northern Pass would fundamentally block it.

And for the massive damage Northern Pass would do to our state, what do we get in return? Energy? Not exactly. We would simply serve as an extension cord to transport power from Canada to Massachusetts. Jobs? Well, some, but primarily temporary ones. Property taxes? Sure, but more than offset by losses in the tourism industry and declines in property values. So what would we actually get if Northern Pass were built? We’d be left holding the bag.

The SEC rejected Northern Pass after fully and fairly vetting all of these issues, and yet its supporters haven’t given up, which means neither can we. One year after the SEC said “No” to Northern Pass, let’s remind ourselves that Northern Pass was a bad deal for New Hampshire then – and its still a bad deal for New Hampshire today.

(Joe Kenney, a Wakefield Republican, is a former executive councilor representing District 1 and a former state senator representing District 3.)

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