Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ray Burton Opposes Northern Pass

"Negatives . . . Far Outweigh the Positives"

Raymond S. Burton, Executive Councilor for District One, New Hampshire, issued a news release on December 27, 2010, opposing the Northern Pass project as proposed because the "negatives . . . far outweight the positives." Councilor Burton specifically opposes "allowing this foreign power to come right by our own local producers of hydro power, wind power, and wood to energy plants." "As a long time elected official, [he] see[s] no value in this project coming through New Hampshire as currently proposed." Burton recommends that it be built in Vermont along existing right of way. He urges interested and affected parties to continue contacting their local and state officials.

Bury the Northern Pass applauds Ray Burton for listening to (and reading) the views of all sides, for weighing the positives and negatives, for putting New Hampshire's interests first, and for taking a leadership role in this matter. These qualities have earned him the respect of New Hampshire citizens--and reelection--for 32 years.

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County; we work in coordination with our neighbors in Coos County. To join the email list, write to

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

More from Mr. Muntz et al.

Testimonies, with Translations for Concerned Citizens

Excerpts from the prepared testimonies of Messrs. James A. Muntz, Northern Pass, Michael Ausere, Northeast Utilities, and Geoffrey Lubbock, NStar, before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, submitted December 15, 2010.

Mr. Muntz: “The NPT Line also helps set the stage for additional future
transmission improvements in New England, and thus added transmission
system reliability. The 40-mile AC Line from Franklin to Deerfield
extends the existing 345-kV bulk power system further north into New
Hampshire. This part of the NPT Line may provide an attractive “jump
off” point for additional reliability-based 345-kV upgrades in the future as
loads grow. Potential reliability projects enabled by this extension include
the addition of autotransformers in Franklin to enhance reliability in that
region and further expansion of the 345-kV system to points north or west
to meet future reliability needs in either New Hampshire or Vermont.”

Translation: the NPT line is just the beginning, the foot in the door. Expect wider and wider ROWs, more and more towers as Hydro-Quebec extends its reach via PSNH ROWs.

Mr Muntz: “The construction of any major transmission project requires a significant effort in the areas of siting and permitting. However, the NPT Line faces a number of unique siting and permitting risks. The NPT Line needs to obtain regulatory approvals both in New Hampshire and at the federal level. At the federal level, this involves obtaining a Presidential Permit from the DOE. One or more special use permits from the U.S. Forest Service and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may also be needed. In New England, these are not permitting requirements and risks that are commonly associated with ordinary, routine transmission upgrades. In addition to increasing the complexity of the processes
and requirements that Northern Pass must engage in and satisfy, the additional
permitting requirements increase the possibility that federal and state agencies
will issue decisions that conflict with one another, an outcome that could delay
the project or result in its cancellation.”

Translation: NPT is “unique” because nobody has ever tried to run an HVDC line with massive towers through the White Mountain National Forest, across the National Scenic Appalachian Trail, and through the Pondicherry Wildlife Refuge.

Mr Muntz: “The NH SEC siting process involves consideration of numerous factors, including project solution alternatives, route alternatives, review of wetlands, floodplains and water resources, critical wildlife habitat, threatened or endangered wildlife and plant life, historic and cultural resources, social issues, electric and magnetic fields, engineering designs, and cost review.

Translation: “social issues” would be us, the people who will bear the brunt of this ill-conceived project; “electric and magnetic fields” is cancer.

Is there any unique risk associated with the fact that the TSA counter party is an affiliate of a foreign entity?
Messrs. Ausere and Lubbock: “Yes. HQ Hydro Renewable is affiliated with a Québec crown corporation, which in turn, is governed by Canadian laws. Despite the present cooperation between Québec and New England utilities, the fact remains that an international transaction has inherent risks that are absent in a purely domestic transaction. Although the TSA and parent guaranty include protections for Northern Pass in the event of a default by the customer, our lawyers have advised us that it is not possible to entirely eliminate the risk associated with contracting with a sovereign entity. Of course, no comparable risk exposure exists when constructing regional transmission projects, as the costs are borne by New England load under the ISO-NE OATT.”

Translation: isn’t this why the United States wished to end its dependence on OPEC? Do we now want to take the risk of making Montreal the capital of New Hampshire?  

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County working in coordination with our neighbors in Coos County. To join the email list, write to

Monday, December 27, 2010

Talking Turkey to the Regulators

Not Simple NIMBYism

In his prepared testimony to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) filed on December 15, 2010, James A. Muntz, president of Northeast Utilities, was asked why the plan for Northern Pass includes both an HVDC line [to the Franklin converter station] and, below that, a conventional AC radial line [to Deerfield]. In other words, if HVDC transmission is so much more efficient than AC, and if most of the power is going to metro Boston and south, why not take the DC line further south in New Hampshire?

Muntz answered that the original preference was to extend the HVDC line much further south in NH, to a converter station at Scobie Pond in Londonderry, but PSNH backed off. Why? Muntz explains it:

In addition to economic and technical considerations, the design of the NPT
Line was heavily influenced by siting considerations. The initial preference
was to build the southern terminus converter station at PSNH’s Scobie
Pond substation in Londonderry, New Hampshire. Scobie Pond has
substantial developable real estate on which to build the converter and is a
robust location to interconnect into the 345-kV transmission grid. Losses
would have been lower, as well, which could have improved the economics
of the project overall. However, a thorough examination of the ROW
between PSNH’s Deerfield substation and Scobie Pond led us to conclude
that the project could not be sited at Scobie Pond. Expansion of that ROW
to accommodate the new HVDC line would result in impacts on Land Trust
areas, conservation easements, commercial buildings, and up to 50-60
private homes.

It was concluded that expansion of the ROW would result in extremely
negative public and political reaction against the plan and the overall HVDC project. It was further determined that in order to locate
the HVDC converter terminal at Scobie Pond, the ROW would need to be reconfigured with taller structures in order to incorporate the HVDC line and/or the HVDC line would need to be built underground. Either option would have been very expensive and taller structures would have had the
additional downside of not being acceptable to the home owners along
the ROW. [bold emphases ours]
So, in its testimony to FERC, PSNH claims that it canceled the HVDC line extension past Concord and down into southern NH because they knew that homeowners would find it unaccaptable, that there would be extremely negative public reaction, and that there would be destructive impacts on conservation easements, land trust areas, commercial buildings, and up to 50-60 private homes. 
By that logic, PSNH should have never even contemplated running the HVDC line 140 miles through Coos and Grafton Counties. Homeowners here find it unacceptable too, and there are more than 50-60 private homes that will be disastrously affected; so too will conservation easements and land trust areas, not to mention NH State Parks, the White Mountain National Forest, tourist facilities that feed the state's revenue coffers with meals and rooms taxes, and much more. 
But there is one more reason that Manchester-based PSNH didn't try to ram this down the throat of its neighbors in Rockingham County, and it's not simple NIMBYism: it would result in "extremely negative political reaction." 
We leave PSNH and spokesperson Muntz with several questions that FERC did not ask. What did they think was the nature of this "extremely negative political reaction"? Why did they not anticipate similar "extremely negative political reaction" in Coos and Grafton Counties? Is it because citizens in southern New Hampshire have access to political power in ways that citizens in northernmost New Hampshire do not? Should this not invoke concerns about environmental justice, the official policy of the United States meant to ensure that those without access to political power do not suffer environmental degradation? Doesn't everyone remember "Erin Brockovich" (2000), the film that explores how communities that lack resources and power can suffer environmental discrimination? And how that film ends?

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County; we work in coordination with our neighbors in Coos County. To join the email list, write to

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Guest Column by Alexander Lee: A Second PSNH Bailout and a Montreal Takeover?

                                       PSNH Plan Is Not In The Public Good

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County who work in coordination with our neighbors to the north in Coos County. To join the email list, write to

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

There They Go Again: Green Renewables!

It started at least as early as October when City Manager Elizabeth Dragon announced that the Northern Pass project would not only bring a $250M converter station to Franklin but "green energy to the region." As recently as December 20th, PSNH's Gary Long repeated the same claim in a Concord Monitor interview: "We're not looking for major new sources to meet the power needs; we're looking for major new sources to meet the 'green power' needs."

Well, PSNH hasn't found them yet.

Make no mistake about it. The "major new source" that PSNH would tap for the Northern Pass project is big hydro from Hydro-Quebec, and it's not green. As the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines it, "green power is electricity produced from solar, wind, geothermal, biogas, biomass, and low-impact small hydroelectric sources." Big hydro is excluded because of the devastating effects of its dams and reservoirs on fish and "land use" (translation for H-Q, First Nations tribes being flooded out of their homelands); and big hydro also produces methane gas at high levels that may contribute more to global warming than carbon dioxide does.

The second claim that PSNH constantly makes about its big brown-not-green hydro source is that it's "renewable," able to be replenished in relatively short time, but then they simultaneously undercut the claim by noting that H-Q hydro does not qualify as renewable in New Hampshire. As we have said before, we leave it to PSNH to resolve the conflict. In any event, even as a renewable, the EPA notes, big hydro dams and reservoirs have negative impacts.

So we're down to the third claim that PSNH repeatedly makes about its brown-not-green, renewable-but-not-renewable-and-in-any-case-environmentally-harmful proposed new energy source: it's "low carbon." Doesn't New Hampshire have native sources of low carbon energy that would not require the devastating effects on land and people that 140 miles of high voltage lines strung on massive towers through the center of New Hampshire's pristine back country will?

Not the least of those effects will impact all the people of New Hampshire: tourist revenues, meals and rooms tax, will drop. Who wants to come up north and look at miles and miles of high tension wires and gigantic steel towers? There's a quip north of the Notch that the Old Man didn't fall off the Mountain, he jumped. Was he clairvoyant? Did he see Northern Pass coming?

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County; we work in coordination with our neighbors to the north in Coos County. To join the email list, write to

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

A Guest Column by Rebecca Weeks Sherrill More

The Northern Pass Project: A New Boa Constrictor in the White Mountains?
(Reprinted by permission of the author)

Rebecca W. S. More, PhD, is a Visiting Scholar in History at Brown University and Adjunct Professor of History at the Rhode Island School of Design. A part-time resident of Lancaster NH, Rebecca is a descendant of John W. Weeks, U. S. Representative and Senator whose name-sake bill, the Weeks Act (1911), created a national forest in the east and authorized purchase of the land that today forms the White Mountain National Forest. We are pleased to reprint her thoughts, originally published in November 2010, on the similar threats--and opportunities--that faced northern New Hampshire in the first decade of the twentieth century and again now, a century later.

On Dec. 8, 1900, an illustration appeared on the cover of The New England Homestead depicting an enormous boa constrictor, inscribed "The Lumber & Pulp Monopoly," crushing to death farm homesteads in the White Mountains. In the background sits an empty grand hotel on a treeless mountainside. Is this to be the fate of the North Country in 2011, thanks to the proposed Northern Pass Transmission that will burn southward through the region to provide cheap power elsewhere?

In 1900 the livelihood of residents of the White Mountain region was threatened by the timber industry, feeding the consumer demand for lumber and paper elsewhere. As early as 1885, North Country residents were aware of the destructive impact of the industry on hunting and fishing. Thanks to the collaborative action of a broad coalition of concerned citizens, public-spirited organizations and political officials committed to the long-term benefit of their constituencies, the passage of the Weeks Act in 1911 enabled the reclamation of the forests - and the continuance of the tourist and recreational industries throughout the region.

What will be the impact of the proposed Northern Pass high voltage power lines on the health of both people and animals? How will the construction of enormous, humming towers affect those in the path of the lines? Will the area continue to attract tourists to our grand hotels, pristine forest hiking trails, or family activities such as Santa's Village or Six Gun City? Will property values be driven down as they were in the 19th century, forcing farmers to leave the area? Not least, how secure are such towers as a means of transmitting energy?

The citizens of northern Coos County are to be commended for forming an action group to raise public awareness and to challenge the utilities involved to provide substantive answers to the issues and questions the project entails. Like the North County granges, chambers of commerce and women's clubs in 1900, they are addressing the impact of an industry that may have long-term negative consequences for the entire region. Those who have seen the gigantic power lines in Quebec can envision the March of the Towers across the road to The Balsams, through much-photographed Stark, past the White Mountain Regional High School or the Mountain View Grand, through the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests' Rocks Tree Farm and up over up Sugar Hill on its path southward.

There is also serious concern about the security of the entire U.S. electric
infrastructure. A recent article in the New York Times specifically addressed the vulnerability of high voltage power lines to natural phenomena such as solar storms. It described the need for a federal policy that will ensure a resilient, secure infrastructure. How vulnerable are these power lines to the terrorists who have transformed travel across the porous border between the United States and Canada?

As in 1900, the citizens of the North Country, as well as the nation, are wise to come together to challenge the proposed Northern Pass Transmission project and the utility companies sponsoring it to consider the long-term impact on the well being of the region. What role will the elected political leaders play in helping the citizen groups and organizations such as the forest society ask important questions as they did in 1900? The Weeks Act of 1911 bears the name of a farm boy who grew up on the banks of the Connecticut River in Lancaster. The lessons he learned in the North Country about the value of data-driven decision-making and community collaboration enabled him to work with a diverse coalition of citizens, business interests and other public officials, regardless of party affiliation.

Weeks and the coalition of concerned citizens were even able to persuade the lumber industry to support the bill signed into law 100 years ago on March 1, 2011. Will the 2011 coalition be able, with the support of its elected officials, to ask that the electric lines be buried, as was the Portland-Montreal Pipeline project in 1941?

The Champlain Hudson Power Express project is currently placing high voltage direct current cable in waterways or buried along railway routes to minimize impacts to local communities and the environment. Is it too much to ask that the proposed Northern Pass Transmission project provide similar security for the future during the important process of education, review and debate ahead, rather than seeking, like the boa constrictor of 1900, to crush the life out of the White Mountains region?


Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County; we work in coordination with our neighbors to the north in Coos County. To join the email list, write to

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The "Risks" of PSNH Taking Private Land for ROW Acquisition and Expansion


On December 15, 2010, Northern Pass Transmission (NPT), PSNH's name for the HVDC line, submitted a transmission service agreement to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission for approval. The document is 703 pages and includes a section titled "Prepared Direct Testimony and Exhibits of James A. Muntz,"  president of NPT (Exh. No. NPT-200, 38 pages). In his testimony, Muntz addresses PSNH's "risks," which affect costs and pricing, including the "risk" of taking privately-owned land by eminent domain for the transmission corridor. PSNH could take private land to expand an existing ROW or to create a new one:

In addition, the expansion of existing ROW, and the acquisition of
approximately 50 miles of new ROW may, as a last resort, trigger the need
to exercise the power of eminent domain in order to achieve that expansion
and acquisition. The need to exercise eminent domain authority, which
requires approval from the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, is
not something that is either lightly or easily pursued in any circumstance,
and may serve to trigger greater opposition to the project. (p. 27/310)
Additional delays in the already lengthy and complex process of
siting a line can result from public opposition where new ROW needs to be
acquired. If a negotiated settlement for property acquisition cannot be
reached, eminent domain proceedings may be necessary. In such
proceedings, NPT’s efforts to secure the ROW for the line may be
challenged, resulting in lengthy delays and increased costs. Successful
challenges can trigger an entirely new round of planning or, at least,
significant modifications to the line route. Should any modification to the
line route be made after permits are received, the project would have to re
open siting proceedings to resolve additional issues which will also result in
schedule delays. Public opposition can also lead to political or legislative
action such as protective designation of federal or state lands or rivers
resulting in regulatory barriers to proposed transmission corridors.
                                                                    (pp. 30-31/314-15)
Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County; we work in solidarity with our neighbors to the north in Coos County. To join the email list, write to

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Wrecking what little we have to benefit investors far below"

Excerpts from John Harrigan's "Woods, Water & Wildlife" column, Union Leader, Dec. 16, 2010, p. A11.

"I've been biding my time on this whole power line issue, figuring that I should just shut up and let other people have their say. And boy, have they. Never in my 63 years on the planet have I seen North Country friends and neighbors so indignant about an issue as the proposed gigantic power line to connect supposedly 'green' Quebec hydropower to the insatiable power-hungry masses to the south."

"How can such an abomination as this gigantic power line be actually considered?
Do the people who take such pleasure in carbon-trading and supposed 'sustainable' and 'green' anything, to reach their 25-percent whatever, not have a clue about the trade-off? . . . Do the 25-percent 'green' people have any clue about the price the Montagnais and the Naskapi and the Cree [Quebec First Nations tribes] paid for the supposedly 'green' power we're supposed to feel good about? . . . Who cares? Well, I've been there, and seen the price."

"We here in the North Country are at rope's end. . . .We have only the landscape left . . .until we can find a way of making things again. We look to leadership to do better things . . .than grin and pose about another shopping mall or snip a ribbon on a power line transit station in Franklin (are you reading this, Gov. John Lynch?)."

"This isn't a not-in-my-backyard issue. It is far beyond that. It's everyone's back yard, just as the gulf oil spill was and is everyone's back yard."

"What's this about? . . . In the end, it is about this spectacular region's beauty, heritage, and pride. How could anyone conceive of such an offense?"

The full column is in today's print issue of the Union Leader.

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County; we work in solidarity with our neighbors to the north in Coos County. To join our email list, write to

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

"No Positives--Unless You Live in Massachussetts": Press Coverage, 12/15/2010

Summaries of two front-page articles and an editorial, 12/15

"Northern Pass gets a grilling: need for project questioned. North country residents turn out for a meeting in Franconia." Lorna Colquhoun. Franconia. Front page, Union Leader, with a picture of speaker Alex Lee talking to the audience.

Summary: the question was not about the line's development, but whether it is needed at all. "Do we really need to bring this power into NH?" asked Alex Lee. "Hell, no," called out a man from the audience. "Quebec Hydro already has a line in Vermont and all that stuff about jobs is baloney," said John Harrigan of Colebrook, a longtime outdoor columnist for the New Hampshire Sunday News. He added that both power and money are going out of the region.

"Opposition builds against Northern Pass. Residents in Coos and Grafton Counties organize to stop powerline." Kayti Burt. North Country. Front page, Littleton Courier, with a picture of the powerline on the existing ROW on Kris Pastoriza's property.

Summary: "It's the people with less power being used by the people with more power," said Kris Pastoriza, who is involved with Bury the Northern Pass. "They have had two years to do their studies and hundreds of thousands of dollars. We had it all sprung on us." South of the Notch, Darlene King, who keeps in contact with Bury the Northern Pass, cites the negative impact on tourism and property values. Realtor Peter Powell of Lancaster says that some realtors have already had trouble showing properties that fall along the proposed route. David Van Houten of CCBA takes no stand but notes that nurturing a local biomass industry is made much more difficult by the possibility of Northern Pass. Valerie Herres notes that "a lot of smaller projects have pulled back." If the alternate routes were an attempt to pit towns against one another, it isn't working. Residents in Coos and Grafton county communities are coming together to work against the Northern Pass project.

Editorial: "Bury the Northern Pass."  Littleton Courier.

Summary: "It is hard to find a local person in favor [of the Northern Pass] and it is easy to see why. What benefit is there to the North Country? . . . . So far there are only negatives associated with this project and no positives put forward--unless you live in Massachussetts. We are still waiting for reasons for the North Country to support this--any reasons."

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County. We work in solidarity with our neighbors to the north in Coos County.

To join our email list, write to

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Excerpts (1) from Alex Lee's "Big Hydro: Is It Green?," Franconia, Dec. 14, 2010

First in a Series

Alex Lee, founder and executive director of Project Laundry List (, is a self-described conservationist dedicated to finding and teaching simple ways of energy reduction that everyday people can put into effect--for example, the clothesline rather than the dryer. He is opposed to corporate energy developers who encourage increased consumption. His talk tonight focused on the negative environmental impacts of Hydro Quebec. Alex has visited and canoed in Quebec over four summers; he is on his way to China soon to promote Project Laundry List. Alex has generously given permission to share the excerpts from his talk tonight that follow.

Before--undammed free-running river in Quebec:

And PSNH still wants to bring in 1200MW from Hydro Quebec even though it admits there is no current need for this power

To be continued.....

To join the Bury the Northern Pass email list, write to

Monday, December 13, 2010

What Did We Know and When Did We Know It?

Or, "Speak to Your Friends First"

A brief timeline of what and when we, the average North Country citizens who will bear the brunt of Northern Pass's proposed transmission line, have learned.

Sometime during 2007-2008: PSNH begins planning the Northern Pass project.

February 24, 2010: in a talk to other corporate energy developers in Atlanta GA, PSNH's Patrick McDermott enumerates those who have been included in the company's "targeted audience" back in New Hampshire: "county commissioners, community college presidents, local business leaders, county economic development directors, and the governor’s staff for northern New Hampshire. Other targeted groups are the North Country Council, state parks, New Hampshire Fish & Game Department, Northern Forest Center, New Hampshire Business & Industry Association, state Department of Historical Resources, state economic development commissioner’s office and the Society for Protection of New Hampshire Forests." McDermott's playbook reportedly includes the advice, "speak to your friends first."

October 12, 2010: Northern Pass puts out a press release, "City of Franklin Will be Site of Quebec-New England Converter Terminal." It briefly mentions a transmission line from Hydro-Quebec to New England. No details about the route are given.

October 12, 2010: The office of the Governor puts out a press release, "Governor Lynch, Franklin City Officials Announce Major Job Creation Project." The transmission line is not mentioned.

October 13, 2010: New Hampshire's newspaper of record, the Union Leader, picks up the press releases and runs with them. Its first article on the Northern Pass is entitled "Power Station to Give Franklin a Jolt." The article focuses almost exclusively on the $250M converter station to be built in Franklin NH and on various other alleged benefits to NH. Less than a sentence notes that there will be "a 140-mile long direct-current 1,200 megawatt transmission line built from Quebec to Franklin." The route is not revealed.

October 14, 2010: Northern Pass files its application with the Department of Energy for a Presidental Permit.

October 14, 2010: the Union Leader runs a follow up article under the alternative titles, "Franklin Power Station a Winner" and "New Power Station Means Lots of Construction Jobs." The article pursues the same tack as the Oct. 13th piece, touting the alleged benefits of Northern Pass to Franklin and to the state. Details about the "route" are not revealed again: ". . .the electricity will be transmitted from Quebec to Franklin through high-voltage, direct-current lines to reduce the energy lost through long distance transmission."

October 15, 2010: Northern Pass puts out a press release, "Northern Pass Project Takes Another Significant Step Forward with Filing of U.S. Federal Pemit Application." It states that the application reveals a "preliminary preferred route," but other than to say that the line will follow existing PSNH rights of way, no details are given about the route in "northernmost New Hampshire" (i.e., Coos County), where no PSNH rights of way "currently exist."

Late October 2010: Public information meetings between PSNH and selectboards begin in Coos County, where PSNH routes do not exist. Many citizens are frustrated and angry because the proposed route is not revealed. The Union Leader publishes "North Country Residents Voice Anxiety Over Power Line Plan," with a Colebrook byline on October 25.

November 2, 2010: Mid-term elections.

November 8, 2010: Public information meetings with selectboards commence to the south in upper Grafton County. Citizens in Franconia, Sugar Hill, and Easton hear from PSNH about the project for the first time. Details continue to be skimpy, including the width of the ROW necessary for the HVDC line. Maps are not provided. The audience is referred to the Northern Pass website (

November 16, 2010: the Federal Register publishes notice of Northern Pass's application, effectively making it available for comments, protests, and petitions to intervene. 30 days is allowed to file a petition with the Department of Energy (DOE) or to comment.

December 16, midnight: DOE input is due.

There are only three more days for North Country citizens to file petitions or comments with the DOE, and we still do not know the actual route of the proposed transmission line, the width of the ROWs, and a number of other facts that a concerned citizen requires to make an informed and cogent response. This alone should be grounds for a denial or continuation of the application.

What did we learn and when did we learn it? We learned about the project only in late October to early November, 2010, long after others had been "briefed," and we have learned precious little about it to this day.

What can you do as a concerned citizen? First and foremost, take a page from the PSNH "playbook": speak to your friends first. We'll be talking to PSNH in due course. Do not assume that your friends and neighbors, many of whom are second-homers, know about the Northern Pass and its impact on the North Country. Tell them. Give them the chance, albeit at the eleventh hour, to participate in democracy as it is supposed to function: a full and informed citizenry that involves itself in decisions that vitally affect our well-being. Speak to your friends first, please. Tell them about the email list. Mention this blog ( ). It has had 1,494 pageviews since inception.

Alex Lee will give a talk, "Big Hydro: Is It Green?," at the Franconia town hall tomorrow night, Dec. 14, 7 p.m. Speak to your friends about it, please. (Disclaimer: views expressed at tomorrow night's talk do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Town of Franconia or the Franconia selectboard.)

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens based in Grafton County. We work in solidarity with our neighbors to the north in Coos County. To join the Bury the Northern Pass email list, write to

See also the website of Coos County, , which contains a link to the Stop the Towers Facebook page.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Environmental Justice: Some Questions for PSNH

In her 2009 scoping comments on a proposal by the Transmission Agency of Northern California to build a 600-mile overhead HVDC transmission corridor through low-income intermountain communities with minority populations in Shasta County, a project called "TANC TPP," Jean L. Saffel invokes the policy of environmental justice and raises a number of critical questions related to it.

What is environmental justice?

On February 11, 1994, President Clinton signed Executive Order 12898, which directs federal agencies to make achieving environmental justice part of their mission by identifying and addressing, as appropriate, disproportionately high adverse human health or environmental effects of its activities on minority and low-income populations.

The Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as "the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. EPA has this goal for all communities and persons across this Nation. It will be achieved when everyone enjoys the same degree of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work."

As Saffel explains, "environmental justice involves reviewing a project’s significant
individual or cumulative impacts on human health or the environment, including
interrelated social and economic effects," to prevent disproportionate adverse
effects upon disadvantaged communities, e.g., those with lower income and higher
unemployment rates (48).

One of the disproportionate adverse socioeconomic effects of a major transmission project like TANC concerns the universally acknowledged drop in real estate values, which seriously disadvantages senior citizens on fixed incomes, Saffel notes:

"Many senior citizens in Oak Run and Round Mountain will not live long enough to
recover from the financial impacts of this corridor project. How will TANC mitigate such
impacts for lower income residents such as seniors, those on fixed incomes, etc?
For many Americans their home and equity in that property is all they have to carry
them through retirement and their so-called golden years. These Transmission Lines
will create a significant reduction in property values of seniors, dramatically changing
people's lives. How will they manage to survive until their end days? How will we?
The ratepayers who are beneficiaries of TANC TTP are not the people whose lives,
living environment and property values will be disrupted by this project. Who will
mitigate for these long-term costs for our communities? Will TANC?" (48)

 TANC's profitability, she concludes, does not justify environmental injustice:

"Improving TANC’s profitability is not an equitable, fair or environmentally just
reason to build TANC TTP and leave the irreversible environmental impacts in the
laps of economically strapped counties and the equally strapped impacted families" (50).

Will PSNH mitigate for the long-term costs of the Northern Pass project on the economically strapped North Country, including our senior citizens who will not live long enough to recover from the financial impact of the project? Will PSNH say it's "too expensive" to mitigate by burying the lines or running them along public ROWs? Does PSNH find it acceptable that those who will profit from the Northern Pass are not the people whose lives, living environment, and property values will suffer for it?   

  Saffel's full report is worth a read. (But a warning for those on dial-up and satellite:
it's a big file, 5MB.)

To join the Bury the Northern Pass email list, write to

Friday, December 10, 2010

Environmental Injustice in NH

Follow the Money in NH and You Won't Find the HVDC Lines

Q. Where does PSNH want to put their above-ground transmission project?
A. Coos and Grafton Counties

Q. Which two NH counties had the largest percentages of people living below the poverty level in 2008?* 
A. Coos and Grafton Counties (13%, 10.6%)

Q. Which NH county had the lowest median household income in 2008?
A. Coos County ($42,788)

Q. Which NH county had the lowest per capita money income in 1999?
A. Coos County ($17,218)

Q. Will the Northern Pass economically benefit Coos and Grafton Counties?
A. No

Why should NH's most economically disadvantaged area be asked to bear the additional burden of a transmission project that will ruin its beauty and further depress its economy?

This is environmental injustice in action.

Q. What was the total compensation package of Charles W. Shivery, Chairman, PSNH/Northeast Utilities, in 2008?
A. $6,466,795.**

Q. What was the total compensation package of Gary Long, President and COO, PSNH, in 2008?
A. $708,393.**

* Statistics from the U.S. Census Bureau

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Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Robert Frost and the Northern Pass: "Freedom Lies in Being Bold"

Although it appeared in his Pulitzer Prize volume of poetry entitled New Hampshire (1923), Robert Frost's long narrative poem "A Fountain, A Bottle, A Donkey's Ears, and Some Books" is not well known--unless you are from the North Country.

The poem opens with the speaker (a semi-autobiographical Frost) talking with "Old Davis," a local guide of sorts, who owns "a solid mica mountain in Dalton" with, experts predict, mica sheets as big as plate glass windows buried deep down. Some "Boston people" had come out to see it, and Davis wants to take the speaker there too.

Unimpressed by this gaudy phenomenon and its Boston visitors, the speaker instead wants Old Davis to take him to a more meaningful and elusive place:

the place where once, on Kinsman,
The early Mormons made a settlement
And built a stone baptismal font outdoors—
But Smith, or someone, called them off the mountain
To go West to a worse fight with the desert.

Davis drags his feet and scoffs at the idea of searching for that "old bathtub," but the speaker persists, and finally Davis consents even though "it's grown up some to woods around it [and] the mountain may have shifted since I saw it in eighty-five."

What follows is a day of tramping around the Kinsmans searching for the old Mormon settlement and its legendary fountain in the vicinity of the current WMNF Reel Brook Trail in Easton. The two men "made a day of it out of the world," "ascending to descend to reascend," as accurate a description of hiking the Kinsman ridge as has ever been written.

The Mormon fountain eludes them. Then Old Davis stumbles across something else that he thinks will placate the speaker--the likeness of a bottle painted, or stained by vegetation, on the side of a cliff--and further suggests that they search out the image of a donkey's ears formed by two converging slides. But the speaker dismisses these as likenesses "that surprise the thrilly tourist."

A frustrated Davis then leads the speaker to an abandoned house, not of the Mormon settlement, but of the poetess Clara Robinson, now dead. Books of poetry lie strewn about everywhere in the broken glass from windows shattered by "boys and bad hunters." In the old house, Davis and the speaker each pick up a book and begin reading, "both either looking for or finding something . . . .I was soon satisfied for the time being."

All the way home I kept remembering
The small book in my pocket. It was there.
The poetess had sighed, I knew, in heaven
At having eased her heart of one more copy—
Legitimately. My demand upon her,
Though slight, was a demand. She felt the tug.
In time she would be rid of all her books.

Frost's actual friend and hiking companion, Ray Holden of Franconia, has written that Frost often spoke of the legend of the Mormon settlement with its ruins that hunters occasionally came across. "Frost and I never took a walk without the sometimes spoken and sometimes tacit understanding that we were looking for that altar" (Thompson, Years of Triumph, 563-64).

In a legend rooted in historical evidence, Mormons did settle on the side of Easton's Beech Hill on South Kinsman Mountain in the 1830s, even if Frost and Holden never found the site. In the poem, the search on the west side of Kinsman for the evocative old settlement and its altar serves to provide a necessary day "out of the world" and anticipates finding the abandoned house of poetry in which the speaker experiences the sense of satisfaction that tourist attractions (mica mountains, images of bottles on cliffs, avalanche scars that look like donkey's ears) cannot give him. For Frost, the uncharted outdoors is the gateway to the temple of art.

In "A Fountain, A Bottle, A Donkey's Ears, and Some Books," Robert Frost, the iconic poet of New England, captures the deeper meaning of the North Country as a place where one may still experience a day "out of the world" in nature. It is sadly ironic that the apparent site of the old Mormon settlement for which Frost's speaker searches would lie in the shadow of 145' steel pylons if the Northern Pass project takes its "preferred route" through Easton and the White Mountain National Forest. Those same mammouth towers would march up and over the mountain through the original Kinsman Notch, in the col between Mt. Wolf and South Kinsman, and forever obliterate the haunting traces of Nathaniel Kinsman and others before him, perhaps even the Native Americans, who first walked into the Easton Valley.

What would Robert Frost say?

"Freedom lies in being bold."

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Saturday, December 4, 2010

Champlain-Hudson Power Express: Safe & Secure Underground HVDC

It Can be Done!

A more secure, safe, environmentally sensitive and a less socially disruptive way to transmit HVDC power. 2,000 MW over 355 miles, as compared to Northeast's1200 MW over 140 miles. An energy corporation that collaborates with a maritime museum! It is not impossible, too expensive, lacking feasibility, out of the question....

Alternative Clean Power Transmission Project Announced

Champlain-Hudson Power Express Will Deliver Safe, Secure, Affordable, Renewable Energy for the North East
Transmission Developers Inc. (TDI) today announced plans to develop an innovative power transmission line that will bring safe, secure, affordable, renewable power to New York and New England from the U.S.-Canadian border. The transmission power line, called the Champlain-Hudson Power Express (CHPE), will be a High Voltage direct current (HVdc) cable designed to principally run under waterways to minimize the impact to local communities and the environment. This project will deliver renewable power to meet growing energy demand, increase electric grid security and reduce consumer energy costs. Donald Jessome, President and CEO of TDI said, “One of the biggest challenges we face in the development of new renewable energy sources is safely and efficiently transporting that power from areas where it is created to markets where the power is most needed. This innovative project offers real opportunity to deliver low cost power to areas in need with minimal disruption to local communities and environments.”

Once all the necessary approvals are granted, TDI would install a 355 mile HVdc cable from Canada to the New York metro area. The cable route would follow major waterways, including the Hudson River and Lake Champlain, and an additional 65 mile underwater connection to Bridgeport, Connecticut. While the line will be principally placed underwater, it will be installed alongside existing rail right of ways in certain areas to avoid areas of Hudson River PCB dredging. The CHPE project will deliver up to 2,000 megawatts (MW) of clean hydroelectric and wind power now being targeted for development in Canada to help meet growing energy demands in the New York and New England markets. TDI has met with local elected officials, stakeholders and environmental and interest groups over the past year to brief them on the project. These groups and other stakeholders will play an important advisory role in the regulatory review process and in TDI’s development of the project. Adam Kane of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum said, “We are pleased that TDI has reached out to us as the Champlain-Hudson Power Express is developed. We look forward to working with the company to ensure that this project will protect Lake Champlain’s rich history, while providing renewable energy to areas that have growing energy needs.” The Lake Champlain Maritime Museum’s mission is to preserve and share the rich history of the Lake Champlain region.
Full text at:

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Wednesday, December 1, 2010

December 14th Talk: "Is Big Hydro Green?"

Alex Lee will give a presentation titled: "Is Big Hydro Green?" on Dec. 14, 2010, Franconia.

After graduating from Vermont Law School in 2001, Alex was Assistant to the Commissioners at the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, where he worked on energy efficiency programs. He also served as staff co-chair of the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners' (NARUC) Committee on Energy Resources & the Environment and was an active, regular participant in the New England Demand Response Initiative (NEDRI). Alex lives in Concord NH.

Time: Tuesday, December 14, 7 p.m.
Place: Franconia Town Hall (take Exit 38 off I-93)
The event is jointly sponsored by Bury the Northern Pass and Coos County Benefits Alliance.

Donations will be taken at the door to cover the hall hire ($50/hour).
The views expressed do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Franconia selectboard or Town of Franconia.
Alex Lee will also speak in Coos County, date TBA.