Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Sign Gallery (1-10)

Please send us a picture of your home-made or other sign opposing Northern Pass and we'll post it here. Each "Sign Gallery" post will feature 10 signs.

Address for pictures: burynorthernpass<at> Thanks!

#1 Rte 3, Stratford, Mark McCullock, January 2011

#2 Greg Lamm, January 2011

#3 January 2011

#4 Poster Girls, January 2011

#5 Shaw's, Concord, January 2011

#6 Charles Young's Petition-on-Wheels panel truck with initial signatures, February 2, 2011.
Give him a wave and he'll give you a Sharpie to sign on. Just a friendly reminder: DOT prohibits profanity.
#7  I-93 Northbound near Plymouth


#8  Rte. 3, Stratford

#9  Rte 3, Stratford, "Five Chimneys," just north of Sign #1, February 2011

Monday, January 24, 2011

The Eleventh Hour

Recent meetings, growing skepticism, and two letters by Tom Mullen

PSNH informational meetings are starting to wind down in Coos and Grafton Counties. Since the earliest sessions in late October and early November, audiences have become increasingly negative and skeptical about the entire process. According to the Valley News, in last night's info meeting in Lebanon concerning the proposed alternate route through the Upper Connecticut valley towns of Haverhill, Piermont, Orford, and Dorchester, "environmentalists and land owners . . . reacted with dismay." Haverhill Town Manager Glenn English called the Northern Pass a "blight" that's going to have "no direct benefit" to the North Country. Despite PSNH's rhetoric of inclusion and "input," English feels that local communities will have little actual role in decision making once the regulatory merry-go-round starts up. Orford resident Sally Tomlinson commented that it almost looks like "games" are being played in attempting to pit preferred and alternate routes--and towns--against one another.

Faith in the process is now so low that no one was likely to believe PSNH spokesperson Allison McLean last night when she claimed that "we're kind of at step one of a marathon here." That talking point was echoed this morning on NHPR when PSNH's Martin Murray insisted that there's plenty of time for public "input" since we're only at mile three of a marathon. Few people are lulled into complacency by this talking point. Most of us realize that we're at the eleventh hour in terms of PSNH's efforts to capture the one thing that it must have to bypass public opposition, eminent domain. If PSNH has not already done so, it will likely soon make an end run around public opposition by getting a purchase agreement for some nominal amount of power from Hydro-Quebec, thereby claiming that it is a public utility not a private merchant transmission line. The next step would be to apply to the NH Public Utilities Commission for public utility status and thereby garner the privilege of taking our land by eminent domain.

At another meeting last night, one organized by and for the opposition in North Woodstock, Ray D'Amante came up from Concord to express solidarity with the North Country and to reiterate that it's the eleventh hour. Anyone who thinks that we are only at McLean's step one or Murray's mile three will be left in the starting blocks as PSNH crosses the finish line and the North Country's fate is sealed.

How do you get in the race to save the North Country? Write to your elected officials, to Senator Gallus, Governor Lynch, Senator Shaheen. Persist. Tom Mullen wrote to Senator Gallus on January 20 and again on January 21. With Tom, don't settle for "no position" as an answer from the people we elect to exercise leadership on our behalf.

Contact info for Grafton County elected officials is here.
Contact info for Coos County elected officials is here.

Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, participates in the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the email list, write to

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Northern Pass's Monthly Allowance for December 2010: $1,093,080.00

A look at how much Hydro-Quebec is spending on developing the Northern Pass project right now.

How much did you earn last month? Never mind, you'd probably rather not think about it these days. Per capita monthly income in Coos County in 1999, the latest U.S. census data available, was $1,435. Median monthly household income in Coos in 2008 was $3,566, under $900 per week.

How much did the Northern Pass spend on development in December 2010 alone? $1,093,080. Over a million dollars in a single month! $200,000 went for legal; $72,000 for environmental; $465,00 for routing analysis and preliminary engineering; $50,000 for real estate services; $25,000 for corporate communications and community outreach; $62,200 for miscellaneous; $224,100 for NPT labor.

The PSNH folks running all over the North Country holding meetings in December to inform us about the power line were probably billed under "NPT labor."  The people knocking on our doors wanting us to sign ROE agreements were "real estate services." The new "community relations specialist" was actually a "real estate service," but he was probably billed under NPT labor too.What were those Northern Pass lawyers doing to bill $10,000 a day in December? I wonder how much the Northern Pass blogger earned last month.

Northern Pass's December 2010 development spending is just the tip of the iceberg. Between January 2009 and March 2011, development costs will total $16M. And that's a tiny fraction of the overall cost of the project, $1.2B.

Who's really footing the bill for all this spending to push an HVDC power line through New Hampshire? Hydro-Quebec, ultimately, the province of Quebec. PSNH is merely the face of the project we meet in our town hall meetings and at our front doors; Hydro-Quebec silently bankrolls it. Buried in the middle of the massive Transmission Service Agreement (TSA) that Northern Pass has publicly filed with the Federal Energy Regulatory Agency (FERC) is the agreement letter that spells it out.

So, while your household was struggling to get by on under $900 per week (2008 Coos median), Northern Pass was allowed to spend $273,000 a week in December. Apples and oranges? Yes. But have no doubt that the more Northern Pass gets to spend on developing the power line project, the greater the danger that your household in northern New Hampshire will have to get along on even less in the future. To quote Deb Reynolds, District 2 state Senator 2006-2010, "the Hydro Quebec/Northern Pass project will ultimately serve to drive the nail in the coffin of what is left of the economy of the North Country."

A company with the vast financial resources of Hydro-Quebec has the money to bury the line if it wants to ship its power down to the greater Boston area through New Hampshire. Could it be any clearer? New York State figured it out. New Hampshire has too.

Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, belongs to the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the email list, write to

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Southern Pass?

Today's Concord Monitor carries an article by Tara Ballenger concerning the 28 miles of new right-of-way that the Northern Pass may have to cut in the Concord NH area.

Power plan has local connection

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

What is Merchant Transmission? (Part 2)

New York tightened up eminent domain laws to block a Canada-based corporation from erecting an aerial HVDC line across upstate New York to NYC.

In March 2006, Canada-based New York Regional Interconnect Inc. (NYRI) sought state approval to erect a 190-mile aerial HVDC transmission line from Marcy, New York to the outskirts of New York City. It was to ship a massive amount of power generated by upstate big hydro sources south to the energy-hungry metropolitan area. Its route would have ripped through thirty seven towns and villages and countless farms and then down through the Catskills and the historic Hudson River valley. The line was to be private, a merchant transmission venture.
In April 2009, NYRI withdrew its application. The earliest and most important reasons for this withdrawal were, first, public opposition and, subsequently, legislative action to tighten New York’s eminent domain laws in response to the new player in the utilities industry, merchant ventures.
The opposition formed immediately and organized effectively. The basis of the opposition to NYRI sounds familiar to us in New Hampshire—the havoc that this long distance aerial HVDC line would wreak on people, communities, the environment, the economy, historical and cultural resources, not to mention that big hydro is brown not green power. Rural upstate New York would have borne an additional burden to keep the lights burning all night more cheaply down in the City: its electricity rates would have increased.
Grass roots opposition led to legislative action. Two upstate legislators drafted a bill to amend New York’s Transportation Corporations Law to prohibit gas and electric merchant transmission corporations from using eminent domain in New York if the construction increased rates in any part of the state and if the corporation did not receive early designation as a National Interest Electric Transmission Corridor. “No eminent domain for corporations” became the rallying cry for the opposition.

In October 2006, New York Governor Pataki signed the bill into law. It was the death knell for NYRI. Unable to take people’s land by eminent domain, NYRI had to compete on its own merits as a private business. It foundered, cost estimates rose, FERC balked, and Canadian investors cooled. Investors delivered the coup de grace at lunch on April 3, 2009, informing NYRI that they were pulling out.

One of the architects of the regional effort to block NYRI, state Senator Joseph A. Griffo, remarked that “NYRI was nothing more than a group of investors trying to make money while ruining our environment and putting the health and safety of thousands of people at risk. They tried to end run the process, they tried to jam this project down our throats.” The NYRI project was “the effort of a foreign company to run roughshod over the lives, homes, and communities of Central New York.” U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer confirmed that the three-year ordeal was over for the opposition.“Ding Dong the witch is dead,” the Senator remarked.

Predictably, New York City Mayor Bloomberg decried Gov. Pataki’s tightening of the state’s eminent domain law to block NYRI’s merchant transmission line. He cited the benefits to the city of the new line and recent power breakdowns in Astoria and Westchester County. Despite Bloomberg’s fuming over the death of NYRI, the sky didn’t fall in, the lights continued to burn all night in the city.

In fact, another Canadian group soon emerged with another plan to send hydro power down to the city from Quebec, but there is at least one critical difference. This time, the line, 420 miles long, will run underground—under Lake Champlain and the Hudson River and, for 70 miles, under land. It’s the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPE). Four six-inch diameter cables are to be buried three feet below water in a narrow trench carved out by air jets from a robot. The developers of this project hope to avoid the opposition that led to the tightening of eminent domain laws against merchant ventures and to the death of NYRI.

Environmental groups have not weighed in on the effects of CHPE, and surely impacts exist. But it is fair to say that by modernizing its eminent domain legislation for the era of deregulation, New York warded off a disastrous aerial project and gave itself a chance to attract investors offering a better deal. Theoretically, that is how capitalism is supposed to work. Remove the socialist prop of eminent domain from a private corporation trying to force a bad deal on rural communities and a better deal comes along.

New Hampshire would do well to follow suit.

Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens, is a member of the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the email list, write to

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Guest Column: An Open Letter by Thomas N. T. Mullen to Governor John Lynch

Tom Mullen, Master Developer, Owl's Nest Resort and Golf Club, Campton, writes on the business, real estate, tax, and other economic impacts of Northern Pass

Greetings to all opponents of the Northern Pass,

Here is the message I plan to give to Governor Lynch and other decision makers in the Northern Pass permitting process.

The attempt by Northern Pass LLC to bring a power line on high towers south and down through the mountains and valleys of the North Country, and then continuing south roughly parallel to Interstate 93 and the Pemigewasset River corridor, thence further south ultimately to Deerfield, New Hampshire will cause the following calamitous (word used advisedly) effects to occur:

1.               All licensed real estate brokers and real estate sales people will be required to disclose to any and all customers looking at real estate in New Hampshire that is exposed in any way to the proposed power lines that these power lines may in fact, at some point in the future be constructed.  Owners of impacted real estate will have to authorize the disclosure of the planned tower locations in all listing agreements.

2.                For as long as this threat exists, prospective buyers will have to be told where these power lines are proposed to be built and all real estate brokers and sales people will have to make their customers aware of the ramifications of being near a power line or being able to see a power line of the scope proposed by Northern Pass.

3.                The required revelation of the Northern Pass plans will bring the potential sale of any of these types of properties impacted by the possible construction of new power lines to a stand still.  Thousands of properties will be affected by this reality.  Obviously the properties immediately adjacent to these power lines will see their property values destroyed by the presence of these lines. Properties near the power lines, especially if the power lines can be seen, will also see property values plummet to a next to nothing level.  Properties that can view the power lines, even at a significant distance away from the power lines will see their property values dramatically reduced, especially in the North Country where one of the critical factors in establishing value are views.  

4.                The impacts on existing residential properties will also impact raw land.  So, over time, the construction industry will be impacted as well as the real estate industry. Hundreds of construction related jobs will begin to fade and at some point, will be totally annihilated in areas where vistas/views are critical elements in establishing a demand for real estate.
 5.        The impact on the tax bases of the towns where these power lines end up being located will be catastrophic. Just in Campton and Thornton alone where most of my business is done, these towers will have the impact of destroying upwards of 50% of the present valuation of each of these two towns.  Other towns up and down the entire length of the proposed power lines will be similarly impacted.   

6.               Other insidious impacts will creep into the picture over time.  Think of the hundreds of thousands of people who drive up Interstate 93 from out of state and reach the Plymouth area, generally perceived as the gateway to the White Mountains, only to see the views that traditionally stir their hearts and make their pulses quicken destroyed by the placement of these towers in line with those views.  Over time, they will seek other routes for coming up into the North Country, probably choosing to go to other states so they don’t have to be confronted by this atrocious intrusion on their senses. Over time these power lines, placed where they are currently proposed, will result in the elimination of hundreds of regional jobs and the attendant loss of significant revenues to the State of New Hampshire in the form of Rooms and Meals Taxes, Gasoline Taxes, income from the sale of alcoholic beverages and receipts from the toll booths along Interstate 93.  The impact on the State's collection of Transfer Tax Stamps will be immediate and dramatic.

7.         Banks that have provided mortgages on properties affected negatively by the proposed power lines at 70% to 80% of the pre-power line valuations will find that the principal balances on those mortgages are well in excess of the new market values of same.  Consider homes with mortgages in excess of $500,000 becoming deminimis in value forcing banks to write down those loans on their books.  Such cases will not be unusual.  Additionally, banks will be reluctant, if not unwilling, to lend any new mortgage money against properties near or within view of the proposed new power lines.

8.               There will need to be a very carefully researched economic analysis prepared in order to document the impact of all of the consequences of the proposed power lines.  But, this will take time – too much time, so we need to start talking about these impacts now and getting the message through to Governor Lynch that his early support of the Northern Pass was ill founded, politically incorrect and potentially economically catastrophic for the State that he is sworn to protect.     Efforts are now underway to engage the services of a well known economist from UNH to undertake the aforementioned economic analysis, but this will take many months and perhaps up to a year.  In the meantime, our already distressed northern New Hampshire economy will worsen and irreparable damage may be done to a large portion of New Hampshire's critically important vacation and second home industry and to the primary home marketplace up and down the length of these new power lines.  Governor Lynch was recently seen touting New Hampshire's economy as being the fastest growing economy in New England.  That will become an empty boast if the Northern Pass project moves forward.

It seems to me that there are a number of fundamental inequities in a law that permits a public utility like PSNH, using the eminent domain mechanism, to quite literally terrorize thousands of property owners with the threat of taking their land for a project that is not remotely close to being permitted; that may, in fact, never be approved; and for which there has been no present or immediate future need shown.  New Hampshire does not currently need the Hydro Quebec power and if natural gas remains plentiful and cheap and if other sources of power continue to be developed, New Hampshire may never need to tolerate the encroachment on its natural beauty that the Northern Pass represents.  The mere possibility of the H Q power being available in New England creates disincentives for other truly renewable, green and sustainable power sources to be developed.

For the last couple of decades, the public has been warned about being and becoming even more dependent upon foreign sources of power like imported oil.  Hydro Quebec is a foreign source of power no different in character than Saudi Arabia and Venezuela -- friends today -- perhaps not so friendly tomorrow.  Our government has been preaching that we have to reduce our reliance upon foreign sources of power and here we are looking at powering up New England (not including New Hampshire) at New Hampshire's expense with what appears today to be cheap hydro power.  This past spring and summer, there was a drought in Quebec that forced HQ to cutback on its deliveries of power to some of its customers.  Had the Northern Pass been in existence this past spring/summer, there's a pretty good chance that power to New England would have been cut off or drastically reduced.  Relying on foreign power from Quebec puts New England pretty low on the totem pole of megawatt flow if shortages occur in the future.  

Northern Pass and PSNH should be enjoined from continuing to threaten the peace and tranquility of New Hampshire while it attempts to demonstrate that the power it will bring into New Hampshire will stay in New Hampshire and benefit New Hampshire's citizens and not Northeast Utility's out of state interests and stock holders.  The mere fact that PSNH has the ability to utilize the eminent domain mechanism places an awesome responsibility on its shoulders to only utilize that mechanism when all other remedies and alternatives have been exhausted, including burial of the line at the expense of Northern Pass.  Surely a firm that bills its customers at a rate of $10 Million US Dollars per minute around the clock can afford to do the right thing for New Hampshire and dig deep both literally and figuratively.  

A lethal bomb now hangs over the heads of every affected New Hampshire property owner, real estate broker, mortgage lender, business and town and it will remain there, possibly for a half dozen or more years, while the permitting and legal procedures drag on.  New Hampshire's popular motto, Live Free Or Die may end up having to be changed to Live Free Or Die A Thousand Deaths since it may well be a thousand or more days before the outcome of the Northern Pass attack on New Hampshire's freedoms, environment, economy and sensitivities is resolved.  This is NOT the New Hampshire way!!!

If I have the opportunity of personally addressing Governor Lynch, I will ask him to please take a pass on this Northern Pass deal!  It's not good for New Hampshire and it's not good for New Hampshire's people.  Since he is now serving an historic fourth term, I will suggest that he has a chance to leave an indelible mark on our state having been a linchpin (another word used advisedly) in the process of creating prosperity for the entire state.  I will beg him to please not allow his legacy to become a massive scar down the spine of New Hampshire bringing unnecessary power to the rest of New England at New Hampshire's expense.

Respectfully submitted this 10th day of January, 2011,

Thomas N.T. Mullen, Master Developer
Owl's Nest Resort & Golf Club
Campton, New Hampshire
603-759-2510 Cell
603-726-3076 X 219

Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, belongs to the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the email list, write to

Sunday, January 16, 2011

What is Merchant Transmission and Why Should You Care? (Part 1)

Part 1 of a two-part blog.

Many people reading this blog are old enough to view their power company as an extension of state government that acts under regulation to serve the public by keeping the lights on at the lowest possible price. Power companies were never, in fact, so beneficent, but the words “public,” “service,” and “New Hampshire” in a dull but reassuring name like “PSNH” at least suggest as much. We gave them a certain amount of deference and respect because they were serving us, the public, and they knew what was best for us. To a degree, we tolerated their intrusions because they were acting in the public interest; in particular, we gave them the power of eminent domain to take private land when it served the greater good. Because of the stigma, we never associated the “s” word (socialism) with this collectivization, but the resemblance is obvious.

Now out of the blue comes the “Northern Pass,” and the name alone suggests something other than a public utility.  It evokes the fabled and much sought-after Northwest Passage, even though that is a route through the Canadian arctic seas, not the mountains, and in northern New Hampshire we call them notches, not passes anyway. Suddenly we went from bureaucratic, geographical public utility names like “PSNH” and “Northeast Utilities” to a mythical, nowhere name like “Northern Pass” evidently conjured up by a flatlander advertising firm as a sales pitch.
This apparent need to “sell” the Northern Pass points directly to what has happened in the electricity business.  There are now “merchant” ventures in generation and transmission, private free-lancers, so to speak, who must compete with one another in order to stay in business. To the winner go the spoils, and in the transmission business, the spoils to investors, stockholders, are huge profits.  The losers are “disincentivized,” weeded out. This is capitalism at its finest. It’s the American way.
The Northern Pass is one such merchant transmission project.  (Never mind that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, FERC, has just invented a new term solely for Northern Pass, "cost-based participant funded transmission line”; the concept is the same, it’s private.) Northern Pass is supposed to sell itself to us if it is to succeed and reward its shareholders. Hence the public relations push and the fancy albeit inappropriate name. If it fails to sell itself, it is supposed to go out of business.
There’s nothing wrong with “selling” one’s product, but ultimately the product must stand on its own merits, not on the advertising.  It has become increasingly clear that the Northern Pass project lacks public merit; it’s wrong for the White Mountains, a bad deal for all of New Hampshire. How many editorials, opinion pieces, news releases by elected officials, conservation and outdoor groups, business leaders, private individuals have made that point now? Their collective weight should bring the project down sooner or later if capitalism works as capitalism should. 

But the elephant in the room is eminent domain, the privilege we grant to entities to take private land. Should we give a private corporation like Northern Pass the privilege that we have traditionally bestowed upon public utilities? If Northern Pass can’t sell its product to New Hampshire on its own merits, should this private company then be allowed to take our land in order to succeed and to reward its investors anyway? Should a losing capitalist venture be shored up with a socialist prop like eminent domain? Can you spell "bailout"?
With more and more merchant transmission projects popping up in the United States, this question has come to the forefront recently. In Part 2 of this blog, we’ll look at the answers given recently by the states of New York and Montana, no and no again.

Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, belongs to the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the email list, write to

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 2004 Bombing of a Hydro-Quebec Tower

In  "Cross Border Issues in Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Terrorism"  (2006), Kevin Freese, a U. S. Army researcher, discusses threats to the North American power grid, including its potential vulnerability to accidental or malicious disruption in Canada. A case in point for the latter is the 2004 bombing of a Hydro-Quebec transmission tower (a so-called Mae West pylon) in the Eastern Townships. The tower was part of a transmission line carrying electricity from a large hydro dam in James Bay, Quebec, to metro Boston. Discovered by a hunter in November, 2004, the bombing did not disrupt the flow of power into the U.S., although it was apparently meant to, and Freese finds the implications of this incident significant.

A group named the International Resistance Initiative (IRI) claimed credit for the bombing as a gesture of protest against the "sacking and pillaging of Quebec's resources" by the United States, a reference to the U.S.'s increasing dependence on Canadian energy, especially hydro-power. It also accused Hydro-Quebec of exploiting the province's natural resources. Freese comments that Hydro-Quebec's James Bay electricity network has caused much controversy because of its environmental impact, both actual and potential, and because of its impact upon the Cree nation.

But the real target was meant to be the U.S. Although the H-Q transmission network is vast, the bombing was carried out within a few miles of the U.S. border. Freese believes that this signals the IRI's intent to cause a blackout and major disruption in the U.S. In fact, he notes, if the bombing had been successful, it might have blacked out much of Canada as well.

Although the attack was amateurish, Freese finds it significant that the IRI issued its communique claiming credit to the al-Jazeera Arab satellite television network. Its suggests that "more hardened and callous" organizations have "potential allies" like the IRI close to the U.S. who are prepared to launch attacks on critical infrastructure beyond our borders but upon which we are becoming increasingly dependent.

Freese concludes that homeland security cannot be judged strictly a domestic issue, especially when it relates to critical infrastructure such as transmission lines. While America's neighbors Canada and Mexico proclaim protection of infrastructure as vital, "local problems complicate their ability to protect these targets."

Freese's concerns about Canada in 2006 were echoed last month, December 2010, by Canada's Defence Department itself. In Critical Energy Infrastructure Protection in Canada, a study commissioned by the Defence Department, author Angela Gendron warns that almost ten years after 9/11 Canada still has not formed a reliable strategy to protect energy infrastructure. The reality belies all the rhetoric, she comments.

As the Vancouver Sun phrased it on January 5, 2011, inaction by the federal government has left key energy assets vulnerable to a range of threats, from terrorism and natural disasters to the emerging danger of a cyberattack.

Canada's energy infrastructure remains a target for terror.

As it evaluates the Presidential Permit application by Northern Pass, it behooves the U. S. Department of Energy to consult the U. S. Department of Defense about Canadian protection of energy infrastructure. We await their findings.

Bury Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, belongs to the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the mailing list, write to

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hydro-Quebec, Serious Cold, Dark Winters, and Why a Premier Lost his Job

This blog draws upon material in two New Brunswick newpapers, a Times &Transcript article, Jan. 1, 2011, and a Daily Gleaner article, December 31, 2010.

In the province of New Brunswick, the news story of 2010, possibly of the decade, was the proposed deal to sell NB Power, or at least a large part of it, to Hydro-Quebec. The deal fell through, and analysts are now conducting the post-mortem.

On October 27, 2009, amidst great “fanfare and ceremony,” New Brunswickers woke up to learn that their Premier, Shawn Graham, had struck a deal to sell almost all of NB Power’s generation and transmission capacity to Hydro-Quebec in return for a 30% cut to industry’s rates and a freeze on residential rates. For five years. After that, HQ would set the rates. The deal had to be confirmed in just five months, March 31, 2010. On March 25, 2010, HQ pulled out, and the deal was dead. The NB party in power, the Liberals, lost the 2010 provincial election. Graham is gone.

What happened?

UNB political scientist Don Desserud explains that it was a “bad deal” for NB because the deal makers forgot the most critical point: “the company that provides [NB] with our heat and light in a province that has serious cold, dark winters should not be owned by anybody except the people of the province.” David Alward, leader of the opposition party, condemned the lack of transparency in the negotiation process and predicted that NB would go from “self-sufficiency to self-destruction” if it allowed HQ to take over.  

Further, the surprise announcement to the citizens of New Brunswick stunned, then outraged them. “Where on earth did this come from? It just came out of nowhere, the enormity of the proposal and the clear lack of consultation with people.”

Citizen response to the province’s loss of ownership, unequal treatment of customers, and the secret negotiations began immediately. It came via social media, the internet, and highly visible opposition. A 25,000 member Facebook protest group emerged; multiple marches on the lawn of the provincial legislature in Fredericton occurred, one with upwards of 4,000 protesters. The Council of Canadians, with its web presence, got involved. “These days,” said Energy Minister Craig Leonard, “it’s very easy for people to engage.”

Both Desserud and Leonard conclude that the successful protest has changed the face of politics in NB for a very long time. There are certainly other factors in the death of the deal, but people now feel empowered to turn a government around, and that feeling won’t go away any time soon. Desserud notes that “political parties have to treat the civically engaged public differently because the voters could turn on them en masse in the next election.” Leonard draws the lesson for politicians: “when you plan on doing something that massive, if you don’t consult, if you don’t engage people beforehand, it’s very easy for them to voice their opinion against you.”

Great fanfare and ceremony. The trappings of a coronation, as Jeff Woodburn phrased it.  Surprise announcements. Creating a sense of urgency. Enormous plans. The clear lack of meaningful consultation with the real “stakeholders,” the citizens of New Hampshire. Serious cold, dark winters. The danger of allowing Montreal to call the shots on energy prices and supply in this country when the going gets tough, as it did in the recent drought in Quebec that dropped hydro dam resources by 25%. The parallels between the NB-HQ deal and the proposed Northeast/PSNH-HQ deal are obvious. It’s an old story.

The new actor in it, however, is the engaged, cyber-networked “grass roots” opposition. These days it’s easy to link up with people as appalled as you are and share information, take action. In fact, utilities industry “playbooks” target public opposition as the number one downfall of transmission projects, not the regulators, the terrain, the environment, or any other factor. Public opposition galvanizes political resistance and leads to legal action.

One such playbook warns its corporate clients that utilities used to be able to decide what they wanted to do and largely do it. It was “decide, announce, defend.” With an alert, informed, networked public and deregulation, now it is often “decide, announce, defend, abandon.” Many transmission projects are indeed abandoned as bad deals for the people.

The utilities industry tries to discredit the public opposition that blows the whistle as NIMBY (not in my backyard) sentiment, or even BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone). We’ve heard PSNH trivialize us as NIMBY; perhaps we’ll earn the BANANA badge too before it's all over. But no one really believes this rather desperate effort to minimize the issues. This is about serious cold, dark winters, about not ceding energy control to a foreign government, and about many other critical issues. This is wrong for the White Mountains, as former state Senator Deb Reynolds argues, and a bad deal for all of New Hampshire. New Brunswick figured it out quickly and correctly. So have we.

Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, is a member of the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the email list, write to

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Guest Column by Deb Reynolds: A Call for Action

Deb Reynolds served as the state Senator for Senate District 2 from 2006-2010.

Editorial Opinion Column           
Date: 1/11/2011
Contact: Deb Reynolds
            Phone: (603) 536-5553


Like many other legislators desperate for job creation in New Hampshire, I initially welcomed the announcement last fall by Public Service Company of New Hampshire that the Hydro Quebec/Northern Pass project would create 1,200 jobs for New Hampshire.

Sadly, I was wrong to assume that this project, if approved, would help our state’s economy. This project is wrong for the White Mountains.  It is a bad decision for the state of New Hampshire as a whole.

Coos County has the highest unemployment rate in the state. And although Grafton County unemployment data reflects a more sanguine picture, the reality is that Northern Grafton County is struggling with high unemployment and foreclosure rates.   So why have I come to conclude that this project will continue to destroy the economy of the White Mountains, with no ultimate net benefit in job creation in New Hampshire?

Simply put, the Hydro Quebec/Northern Pass project will ultimately serve to drive the nail in the coffin of what is left of the economy of the North Country.

Thousands of visitors every year come to the White Mountains.   They hike in the White Mountain National Forest and state parks, swim in our northern lakes, snowmobile, ski, fish, and recreate.   According to the New Hampshire Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED), tourists pour approximately $250 million into our economy.  Our restaurants, hotels, and retail businesses thrive on tourism dollars.

For decades, visitors from all over the world have been drawn to the beauty of the White Mountains.    As a result, a robust second home economy has developed, drawing investors and creating jobs.    The beautiful vistas, pristine scenery and fresh mountain air make our part of the state one of the most attractive in the country.  

All of this has the potential for being destroyed if the Northern Pass project is
approved. This profit-generating project proposes to create a new 40-45 mile power-line right-of-way directly through public and private forestland in the North Country, including the White Mountain National Forest.  This is not in the best interests of New Hampshire's forests nor the tourism-based economy those forested landscapes help to support.

Do the proponents of the project seriously believe that 135 foot high electrical towers and expanded rights-of-way that will destroy the vistas of the White Mountains are a net benefit to New Hampshire?   Do we really need to permanently scar our pristine landscape with power supplied by another country?  How is that going to help tourism?   Rather than creating jobs, this project will potentially destroy what is left of our North Country economy by reducing property values, driving away tourism and discouraging investment?    It will also be a economic disincentives to in-state small hydroelectric projects, biomass, wind and true renewable energy projects?

As the state Senator for most of Grafton County over the past four years, I pushed hard for high quality broadband for our part of the state.     This was largely due to the knowledge that people want to live in the White Mountains, for the very reason that it is so beautiful.      We just need the telecommunications highway in order to survive here.    Broadband expansion and connectivity for the North Country is the true answer for long term economic development.

We need to stop giving lip service to ways to stimulate the North Country economy.   Unless we intend to permanently economically balkanize the White Mountains, this project should be stopped dead in its tracks.   As John Harrigan so poignantly put it, “We only have the landscape left.  Let’s not destroy it.”   I call on all of our Federal, state and local officials to speak out against the Northern Pass.

Bury the Northern Pass, a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County, belongs to the No Northern Pass Coalition; to join our email list, write to

Monday, January 10, 2011

A Preview of "What PSNH Doesn't Want You to See"

Snipped stills from the first computer simulation video of what the towers will actually look like in our North Country landscape.

From northbound I-93's first view, now obstructed by HVDC wires and towers, of Franconia Notch. Who will come north to see this industrialized landscape?
Same view from northbound I-93 slightly to the east
The towers march across wetlands in the White Mountain National Forest within sight of the Appalachian National Scenic Trail. A total degradation of a national scenic trail not to mention invasion of wetlands. Yes, this is PSNH's "preferred route"!

The towers cross the AT in the WMNF over the Kinsman Pass, visible fom I-93 and much of the North Country.
 A picture is worth a thousand words, and these pictures are worth a thousand tears. Stay tuned for the complete video....if you can bear to look at it.

Bury the Northern Pass, based in Grafton County, is a member of the No Northern Pass Coalition. To join the email list, write to

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Tide may be turning against the Northern Pass

Reprint of a White Mountain News editorial with commentary

Editorial: Tide may be turning against the Northern PassPosted on 05 January 2011 by White Mt. News
by Jeff Woodburn

A few months ago, when  PSNH proposed running a huge transmission line thru the North Country, it had the trappings of a coronation — or at least — a David and Goliath style fight between a bunch of left-wing environmentalists and a huge, powerful and respected utility.  But boy have things changed. The news that long-time Executive Councilor Ray Burton has come out against the proposal is a surprise — and could mean trouble for the project.
No one in the North Country has more clout or is as astute politically  than the Bath Republican.
He’s an old-school politician — he listens to his constituents and fights to bring home the bacon to his people.  He’s been a steadfast supporter of  some unpopular development projects  over the years and most anything else that will bring jobs and money to the region.But politicans do not inspire movments, they confirm them.   A classic grassroots movement has been created — and, win or lose, a unifying set of community values has been established. 
We all know these thing don’t happen by themselves. Someone needs to stir the pot and get people thinking. It was two veteran  newspaper men — John Harrigan and Charlie Jordan — who through their words and personal credibility inspired people to unite and act. They remind us of the the power of  local newspapers to be  not only a mirror, but also a light.


Hats off to John Harrigan, Charlie and Donna Jordan, Councilor Ray Burton, and the many others who have both been and seen the light about the Northern Pass project. Bury the Northern Pass owes a great deal to the press for its initial formation. After three of us attended the November 8th "informational" meeting hosted by PSNH in Franconia, we were in shock. The sheer audacity of the plan was overwhelming and it was presented as a virtual fait accompli (a "coronation," indeed). It was almost enough to make one believe that nothing could be done about it. How does one protest a coronation? But it was not quite enough.

On the way out of the Franconia meeting, a member of the press whispered to us to look up the "Stop the Towers" page on Facebook. We found it; we saw others who were shocked too, but had shaken off that feeling of paralysis and were gearing up for action. There were only 42 fans at that point--now there are over 600--but they were there, and if they could protest, so could we.

We decided to write a letter to the editor, any editor who would listen to and print us. The letter went through four drafts as we emailed it back and forth among the three of us, one in California on business by that point. Our self-imposed deadline for submitting it was almost upon us, but the letter wasn't quite right. It lacked something; we weren't seeing the whole picture. Late on the night before the deadline we found the missing piece in an article in the Jordan's Colebrook Chronicle that contained a link to the now famous PSNH "playbook" article. There we read what insiders in the utilities industry already knew but the average layperson did not: the 1200 MW of power was not needed. PSNH's problem was how to sell it to the public. As we thought through the implications of that admission, our letter took final shape in a fifth revision that the Littleton Courier published on November 23 with 13 signatures. Bury the Northern Pass grew quickly from then on.

This anecdote is about gratitude to the free press of this country and about journalists who inspire us. It is about many other things as well, grass roots movements, North Country determination, networking with neighbors, the power of the internet to connect ordinary people and give them a chance to interrupt coronations and have their voices heard. 

We're mountain people, not people of the sea, but we know that the tide turns--and turns again. Northeast Utilities is certainly the king of the New England hill right now, but look at where it was just 10 years ago. Its stock price had collapsed; its management pled guilty to twenty five felony charges for safety violations at Millstone nuclear reactor facilities in Connecticut; it had paid a record fine of $10M; its assets were up for sale and it was in effect "seeking to disappear from the electric power scene." Where will Northeast Utilities be ten years from now?

Power companies come, and power companies go, it appears. What Jeff Woodburn calls our "unifying set of community values" is here to stay. None of us is foolish enough to believe that Northeast and Hydro-Quebec won't throw everything in our way that they can. None of us is naive enough to believe that this won't drag on for years. A lot of us are backcountry people, though, used to trekking, trudging, climbing, hunkering down in the wind, waiting for the woodstove to finally light, waiting for the dialup to finally connect, waiting for the car to finally start on -40F mornings. We are in this for the long haul.

Bury the Northern Pass is a group of concerned citizens in Grafton County and part of the No Northern Pass coalition. To join the email list, write to

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Powerline Guide to New Hampshire Schools: White Mountain Montessori, Campton

NH Schools in Close Proximity to PSNH's
Proposed High Voltage Power Line

This is the second in a series of NH schools in close proximity to the existing PSNH ROW on which the proposed high voltage lines would be built.

The yellow lines demarcate the cleared portion of the current PSNH ROW, which may have to be widened to accommodate the proposed new HVDC lines.

Health effects of HVDC lines on children will be discussed at the end of the series.

Below: White Mountain Montessori School, Campton NH (marked with "A").

White Mountain Montessori School, Campton NH
 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

Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Powerline Guide to New Hampshire Schools: Profile School

NH Schools in Close Proximity to PSNH's Proposed High Voltage Power Line

This is the first in a series of NH schools in close proximity to the existing PSNH ROW on which the proposed high voltage lines would be built.

The yellow lines demarcate the cleared portion of the current PSNH ROW, which may have to be widened to accommodate the proposed new HVDC lines.

Health effects of HVDC lines on children will be discussed at the end of the series.

Below: Profile School, Bethlehem NH. Serving Bethlehem, Franconia, Sugar Hill, Easton. Approximately 300 students. Grades 7-12.

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 burynorthernpass

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year's Resolution: Contact Your Legislator

Contact Info for NH House Representatives

2011 begins the campaign to oppose the Northern Pass in earnest. We have already come a very long way in barely two months, but this will be a long project. Each of you is crucial to its success. Our opponents will be watching to see how long we last. So will others who make predictions about equity returns and the like. It's their job.... but it's our lives, communities, environments, and livelihoods that are at stake.

Make a New Year's resolution to contact all your legislators. It doesn't matter whether you email, snail mail, or phone. The important part is to let your elected officials know what you feel about the high voltage power line and that we won't go away.

We are kicking off the year by providing an updated list of NH House Representatives for Carroll, Grafton, and Coos Counties. It includes US mail and email addresses as well as phone numbers. We'll provide similar lists for other legislators soon.

Please bookmark this blog so that you can return to the list and write to all the elected officials who represent you. They cannot push for your interests if they don't know what they are.

Happy New Year!

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