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