Thursday, November 17, 2011

Tillotson: Trust, or Betrayal of Trust?

This guest blog was originally posted by Responsible Energy Action LLC (REAL) on its website on November 17, 2011. It is reposted here with REAL's permission.

REAL’s October 20, 2011 map of Northern Pass’s proposed new route through upper Coos County ends abruptly in the area of the Tillotson properties in Dixville.  When we drew the map we were aware that Northern Pass had approached the Tillotson interests about acquisition of a route through the Tillotson land.  But we didn’t extend the route map through Tillotson land.  We believed there was a strong likelihood that “quiet” conversations with Tillotson stakeholders would be sufficient to remind them of their duties to the North Country and bring about an immediate halt to any Tillotson/Northern Pass discussions.

We were wrong.

Recent reports in the Coos County Democrat and on NHPR confirm that the Tillotson Trust has received an offer from Northern Pass (or an affiliate) to purchase property or property rights.  The press reports indicate that the Trust is evaluating the offer and will make an announcement prior to Thanksgiving.

Why does the Tillotson land matter?  Because it is a critical part of the upper Coos route puzzle.  While there is as yet no independent confirmation, REAL believes that Northern Pass is seeking to cross the Tillotson properties in an easterly direction north of Mud Pond to get to the east side of Sanguinary Mountain Ridge.  From there the line is likely to head south on the Errol side of Dixville Notch State Park into the vicinity of the new Granite Reliable wind farm. Northern Pass could then seek to locate its transmission line near or on the right of way (ROW) for the wind park connector line.  The connector line runs south through Millsfield and Dummer to reach the Coos Loop, which is part of PSNH’s transmission line system.  It is believed that Northern Pass would then seek to  co-locate its lines along PSNH’s Coos Loop ROW either running westerly through Stark to Northumberland, then south to Lancaster and Whitefield or the other direction on the Coos Loop running southeasterly through Milan and Berlin and then westerly through Gorham, Randolph, and Jefferson to Whitefield.  Northern Pass could then seek to connect to Northern Pass’s original “preferred route” running south along PSNH’s existing ROWs through Whitefield and points below.

REAL remains hopeful that the Trustees who manage the Tillotson Trust will do the right thing.  The Trustees are duty bound to follow the wishes of Neil Tillotson and the principles of the Trust documents.  The overarching purpose of the Trust is to benefit the North Country and its residents.  And under the Trust documents the Trustees are directed to give special consideration to, among other things:
  • “conservation and sustainable utilization of the natural resources of the North Country, including Tillotson Corporation’s North Country forest land holdings”
  • “economic development and enhancement of the North Country economy”
  • “promotion and support of the health, education, cultural advancement and economic wellbeing of the residents of the North Country”
In REAL’s view, it is beyond any serious argument that Northern Pass’s proposal — to bisect beautiful and largely untouched areas of the North Country with visually jarring, environmentally damaging and value-destroying above-ground transmission lines — is flatly inconsistent with the Trust’s mandates.  The North Country’s natural resources would be irrevocably compromised; economic development in the region would be seriously impaired; and the wellbeing and sense of place of North Country residents would be critically damaged.

REAL calls on the Trustees of the Tillotson Trust to clearly and irrevocably reject any offer from Northern Pass.  We call on the Trustees do what is right for the North Country.

REAL would also issue a call to action to residents of (and stakeholders in) the North Country, New Hampshire and New England.  We call on you to pass a message to the Trustees and state regulators that the people expect the Trust directions of Neil Tillotson to be honored; and we will not tolerate an action that would be a betrayal of that Trust.

Please call or write to the Trustees of the Tillotson Trust and tell them how you feel about a possible sale of Tillotson land to Northern Pass.  REAL members are contacting the Trustees to make our views known, and we ask you to join us.  The Trustees are Thomas Deans, William Alico, Stephen Barba, Grafton Corbett, John Cornish, Everett Pearson, and Robert Wells.  The Trustees for whom we have contact information are listed below.  We will update the list as we obtain additional contact information.

Thomas S. Deans
353 Potter Road
Center Conway, NH 03813
(603) 447-6914

Stephen BarbaOffice of the President
Plymouth State University
17 High Street
Plymouth, NH 03264
(603) 535-2722

John M. Cornish, Esq.Choate Hall & Stewart LLP
Two International Place
Boston, MA 02110
Tel: 617-248-5000

Robert A. Wells, Esq.
McLane Graf Raulerson & Middleton
City Hall Plaza
900 Elm Street
Manchester, NH 03101
Tel: 603-628-1307

Please also call, email or write to the New Hampshire Attorney General’s office.  The Attorney General’s office must approve any proposed sale by the Tillotson Trust.  Please let the Attorney General’s office know how you feel about a sale of land to Northern Pass.  The contact information for the Attorney General’s office is as follows:

Anthony I. Blenkinsop, Esq.
Director of Charitable Trusts
Office of the Attorney General
Charitable Trusts Unit
33 Capitol Street
Concord, NH  03301
Tel:  603-271-3591

Unlike some of the North Country families targeted by Northern Pass’s aggressive land purchasers, the Tillotson Trust is not facing economic hardship.  As of December 31, 2010, the Trust’s assets were valued at more than $66 million. The Trust does not have its back up against the wall and does not need to make a rushed, ill-considered decision.  Neither does the Attorney General’s office.
If for any reason the Trustees and the Attorney General do not summarily reject any sale to Northern Pass based on the intent and principles of the Trust, then, prior to any decision, they should undertake an open, robust process to assess the interests of North Country stakeholders.  They should look at all alternatives.

Neil Tillotson treasured what he called the “scenic wonder” and “exciting beauty” of Dixville Notch, and he labored for almost half a century to preserve it. Part of his legacy today is the natural appearing scenery that Dixville Notch offers both local residents and visitors from all over the world. Surely there are better alternatives than Northern Pass’s proposal of jarring and destructive above-ground transmission lines in some of the state’s most sensitive and beautiful areas.