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.