Friday, April 11, 2014

Northern Pass still breeds deep suspicion

Littleton: Residents Suspicious Of National Grid Proposal

Robert Blechl
Staff Writer
Caledonian Record
April 11, 2014

LITTLETON, N.H. -- More than three years after the Northern Pass Transmission line proposal went public, suspicions about the controversial project run just as deep.

This week, National Grid's proposal to build a small transmission line in Littleton went to a public hearing, where several area residents asked for additional assurances the line does not in any way relate to the Northern Pass line.

Summarizing questions submitted by several residents, New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) Chairman Thomas Burack asked National Grid project manager Patrick Quigley, "Does this project have any connection in any way, shape or form to Northern Pass?"

"None whatsoever," said Quigley, who added the National Grid line would be built even if Northern Pass was not built.

Although National Grid's Feb. 7 application to SEC states that the project is not associated with Northern Pass, some residents wanted more assurance, including Easton resident Kris Pastoriza, who asked if National Grid would make a written statement, something legally enforceable, that the line is not related in any way to Northern Pass.

"I don't know what else we can say beyond tonight," said National Grid attorney Barry Needleman, who told SEC members that he doesn't believe the company is legally required to provide a written statement.

Needleman said there is no connection between the two projects and said National Grid representatives are prepared at the appropriate time to state that under oath.

Monday's hearing before the SEC, at the Littleton Opera House, comes after two hearings in 2013, when National Grid went before the Littleton Zoning Board to inform the town about its plan to construct a new 230-kilovolt tap transmission line.

That line would extend from National Grid's existing 6.6-mile transmission line - connecting the Comerford and Moore dams - to the Public Service of New Hampshire substation at 266 Foster Hill Road.

In its application, National Grid states the purpose of the line is to provide power to a second auto-transformer in the Littleton substation that PSNH will install in order to address New Hampshire and Vermont reliability needs identified by ISO-New England, which oversees the operations of New England's transmission lines and bulk electric power system.

The proposed line would stretch a total two-tenths of a mile and consist of four wood pole transmission structures that would include a 35-foot structure, two H-frame suspension structures at 70 and 80 feet, respectively, and one 80-foot H-frame dead-end structure.

SEC member Amy Ignatius asked Needleman if he would agree that if National Grid proposed an amendment to its plan, such as redesigning the AC line to carry DC current, or if it wanted to transfer ownership to PSNH it would have to again come before SEC.

"I agree with that," said Needleman.

PSNH and Northern Pass are subsidiaries of Northeast Utilities.

Addressing SEC members, Littleton psychologist and 2012 New Hampshire Senate candidate Debi Warner said, "If you approve this, I ask you to state it is not to be converted and not to be used for Northern Pass."

In its application, National Grid states it owns all the existing electric facilities within its transmission right-of-way in Littleton and will be the owner of the proposed line.

The existing tap right-of-way is about 450 feet wide and would be widened through tree clearing by an additional 135 feet to accommodate the new line, according to the application. The project would impact a total of 64 square feet of wetlands.

National Grid, asking SEC to expedite its review of the project, said its plan is to begin construction in September and complete it by December

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Town Meeting Warrant Articles on Northern Pass 2014

2014 Warrant Articles on Northern Pass.
(Full tally, 2011-2014, is below.)

Easton Article 7 - unanimously passed, 3/11/2014
Article 7. Expendable Trust Fund for Legal Fees Incurred Representing the Town's Position Regarding the Northern Pass Project.
To see if the Town will vote to raise and appropriate the sum of $7,500.00 to add to the Expendable Trust Fund for Legal Fees Incurred Representing the Town's Position Regarding the Northern Pass Project; of this amount $2,500.00 is to be raised from general taxation with the remaining balance of $5,000 to come from the December 31, 2013 Fund Balance. (The Selectmen recommend adoption of this Warrant Article.) (Majority vote required.)
[N.B.  This fund may accept donations, grants or gifts, in any amount, to be utilized for the same purpose set forth in Article 7. Such donations are tax deductible.]
Holderness Article 10 - unanimously passed, 3/11/2014.
"Article 10: To see if the Town will vote to reaffirm its objection to the Northern Pass Project, which submitted an amended application (replacing their original application and subsequent amendments) for a Presidential Permit to the Department of Energy on July 1, 2013 and to recommend that state owned transportation rights-of-way should be used to locate underground energy transmission corridors; or to take any other action relative thereto. This article is by petition."
Pembroke Article 15 - passed, 3/15/2014.

ARTICLE 15 - To see if the Town of Pembroke shall state its opposition to any new overhead development of alternating current and direct current high voltage transmission lines within its borders; and in turn manifest the Town’s strong preference for the burial of such lines, in a manner consistent with state and federal requirements, under rights of way and power line corridors now existing or to be established. Although burial in all instances is preferred, this statement of opposition shall not apply to distribution lines carrying electrical power and other utility lines, such as telephone and cable television, for Town residential or commercial use.

Stratford (excerpt from news report by Union Leader, 3/12/2014)
"Some Town Meeting voters took on ‘bigger picture’ issues" (excerpt)

Union Leader
In Stratford, voters took up the item: “To see if the town will vote to authorize the Board of Selectmen to pursue the possible construction of a cell tower ...”
Three selectmen — Tim Brooks, Larry Ladd and Chair Robin Kimball Rheaume — cited the fact that the Northern Pass project was a supporter of a similar cell tower project in Groveton.
According to draft minutes from the session provided by Town Clerk Dawn Frost, the body first voted to allow the selectmen to move forward on the cell tower as long as no funding came from Northern Pass. Voters then amended the article — on the chance that Northern Pass might make a donation through another entity — to read that the effort can proceed in so far that “no apparent funding comes from Northern Pass.” The amended article passed on a voice vote.
Sugar Hill Articles 10, 11 - both passed unanimously, 3/11/2014.

ARTICLE 10: To see if the Town will vote to create a Town-funded trust fund pursuant to RSA 31:19-a, to be known as the Northern Pass Defense Fund, for the purpose of financing legal expenses and other costs incurred by the Town in advocating the Town’s opposition to the Northern Pass project, to appoint the Select Board as agents to spend this fund, and to raise and appropriate the sum of Ten Thousand Dollars($10,000) to be placed in this fund.
The Select Board recommends this Appropriation.

ARTICLE 11: To see if the Town will authorize the Select Board to accept donations, grants or gifts, in any amount, to be utilized for the same purposes as set forth in Article 10, above, to be held and invested in accordance with RSA 31:19-a, paragraph IV.

The Select Board recommends this Article.

Read the news report on Sugar Hill's vote on Articles 10 and 11.


Total: 33

 Ashland, Bath, Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Campton, Chichester, Clarksville, Colebrook, Columbia, (Concord*),  Dalton, Deerfield, Easton, Franconia, Effingham, Haverhill, Holderness, Jefferson, Lancaster, Landaff, Lincoln, Littleton, New Hampton, Northumberland, Orford, Pembroke, Pittsburg, Plymouth, Stewartstown, Stratford, Sugar Hill, Thornton, Wentworth, Woodstock 

*The Concord Planning Board unanimously voted to require Northern Pass to bury the lines in the city; the Conservation Commission unanimously voted to oppose the project altogether. This was not a full town meeting vote and is not included in the tally figure of 33. Several towns have voted in different warrant articles opposing Northern Pass in multiple years.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Looming Northern Pass Fight Hot Topic at Sugar Hill

A report on the 2014 town meeting in Sugar Hill, where "Northern Pass has been highly controversial and is widely despised."

Land Conservation, Looming Northern Pass Fight Hot Topics At Sugar Hill [excerpt]

Meghan McCarthy McPhaul
News Correspondent
Caledonian Record

SUGAR HILL, N.H. -- About 75 residents filled the Sugar Hill Meetinghouse for the 2014 Town Meeting Tuesday night, where conservation of town lands and preparing for a fight with the proposed Northern Pass electric transmission project were the main items of discussion.

There was little conversation through the first nine warrant articles, as voters unanimously approved the $1.3 million town operating budget and warrant articles totaling an additional $245,000.

These articles included funding for the Heavy Equipment Capital Reserve funds for both the highway department and fire department; roadwork improvement; bridge work; and Building Capital Reserve funds for the highway department, fire department, and Carolina Crapo Building, where the town offices are located.

Articles 10 and 11 related to raising funds to be used in legal and other costs related to the Northern Pass project. The proposed transmission line would pass through Sugar Hill, carrying Canadian hydropower to the regional electric grid. Northern Pass has been highly controversial and is widely despised in Sugar Hill and neighboring towns, where many residents and municipal leaders believe the project would be detrimental to property values and the tourism industry.

Warrant Article 10, which was approved unanimously, allows an appropriation of $10,000 to create a new trust fund to finance "legal expenses and other costs incurred by the Town in advocating the Town's opposition to the Northern Pass project."

"The town voted in 2010 to oppose this project," Board of Selectman Chair Margo Connors said during town meeting discussion. "This fund would be strictly for legal advice. It's not to mount any type of suit. This is just to protect ourselves and get good counsel."

Town meeting voters also unanimously passed Article 11, which allows the town to accept donations, gifts, and grants to use for legal and other costs related to opposing the Northern Pass project.

Connors said the selectmen have talked with representatives from other towns about collaborating and combining resources to fight Northern Pass. One way to do this, she said, would be to file as an intervener to the state's Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) process. The SEC must review and approve all energy projects in New Hampshire. By gaining intervener status, Sugar Hill and collaborating towns would gain access to all reports and information filed by Northern Pass and could contest specific aspects of the proposed project.

The longest discussion of the meeting was related to Article 12, which was petitioned to the warrant. The article would have restricted town conservation funds, garnered when property is taken out of current use and taxed accordingly, to be used only for projects within the town's property lines.

"I would like to see the conservation money kept in our own town of Sugar Hill," said petitioner Lissa Boissonneault. "I think there's a lot to be conserved here."

Several residents voiced their support of keeping town conservation funds within the town lines. Others, like Conservation Commission member Bill Fraser, argued that sometimes view sheds are outside the town boundaries, but are still important to residents. Last year the town contributed funding to the purchase of the 800-acre Cooley-Jericho Community Forest, which includes land in Sugar Hill, Landaff, Franconia, and Easton. Each of those towns, as well as Bethlehem, contributed to the effort, which was managed by the Sugar Hill-based Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust.

After a lengthy discussion about the legal technicalities, intent, and potential ramifications of the petitioned article, voters tabled Article 12. Conservation Commission member Tim Williams suggested the Commission create a set of guidelines, with public input, to determine what types of projects should be supported with the conservation funds, in an effort to alleviate residents' concerns on the matter.

. . . .