Sunday, May 20, 2012

Larry Rappaport Responds to Thomas J. May and Sets the Record Straight

Representative Larry Rappaport, Coos District One, responds to Thomas J. May, Northeast Utilities CEO. Rappaport points out that it is Northern Pass that has the support of only a few small special interest groups.

“I have never seen a project that everybody loves. There’s always resistance[;] there[']s alway[s] groups that will picket. The special interest groups will find something wrong with the project. [S]o that does not surprise us. It’s nothing we didn’t expect,” May said. (Thomas J. May, press conference, Hartford CT, May 16, 2012)

For Mr. May to say that "There's always resistance[,] there [are] alway[s] groups that will picket" indicates that somehow he doesn't understand the nature of the opposition to this elective project.

The so-called "resistance" to this project is not confined at all to "special interest groups."  It is spread across the entire population of New Hampshire residents.  Indeed, Northern Pass has the support of only a few small special interest groups.

Let's be clear: I, and others, believe that Northeast Utilities (NU) and Public Service Service Company of NH (PSNH) support this project only because of the revenue accruing to PSNH, an NU subsidiary.  I believe they have designated it "elective" principally because that category allows them a greater rate of return. According to the NH Public Utilities Commission, NH has a production capacity of 4000 megawatts while using, on average, only 1250 megawatts.  New England has production capacity which exceeds usage as well.  HQ wants to sell electricity into the high-priced NY metro market.  It wants to do that by expanding its already huge hydroelectric capacity. 

Several years ago, an ice storm took out HQ's feed to Montreal.  Parts of the city were without power for several weeks.  Will these new towers withstand such an onslaught?  Also, several years ago, a severe drought in the Northeast caused HQ to cut back on the power produced and reduce it to some users.  Does anyone think that if such a season occurs again that they will continue selling power to the "grid" and reduce Canadian usage?

In my seventy one years on this earth, the last 40 in New Hampshire, I have never seen such broad and unbridled opposition to a project such as has been shown towards this one.  Is it necessary for New Hampshire?  Of course not.  Is it necessary for New England?  The same answer applies.  Is it necessary for the United States?  Same answer, NO!

Larry Rappaport
NH State Representative
Coos District One
NH House of Representatives Science, Technology, and Energy Committee

May 18, 2012

Bury the Northern Pass responded to Mr. May earlier.

Friday, May 18, 2012

NU's New CEO Dismisses Northern Pass Opposition

Thomas J. May, CEO of the newly merged NStar-Northeast Utilities (NU), held a thirty minute press conference on May 16 in Hartford. Mr. May's closing remarks concerned opponents to Northern Pass.

Here is what Mr. May said about the opposition:

Both the New Hampshire transmission line and the Quebec damming project have come under fire from activists and environmentalists, but May said it wouldn’t be a barrier to bringing the electricity to market.

“I have never seen a project that everybody loves. There’s always resistance[;] there[']s alway[s] groups that will picket. The special interest groups will find something wrong with the project. [S]o that does not surprise us. It’s nothing we didn’t expect,” May said. (Press conference, May 16, 2012)

May's condescending attitude to Northern Pass opponents as "special interest groups," activists who will always find something wrong with Northern Pass, is disturbing. It masks the realities of the impacts that Northern Pass, even in its proposal stage, has already had upon New Hampshire residents. Listen to just a few of the voices of those living next to or near PSNH's existing ROW. These are the people, including "old folks" whose home is often their largest or sole asset, whom May fails to mention:

"I think it is going to be an awful looking mess going through my back yard and many others also. And will be taking most of our property which is very sad for us that we are in their way, and no one cares about us old folks I think it should go under! ground, that would be fair for everyone."

"Five days ago I found about the northern pass. …This is going to go in front of my house, next to my property, but yet I found out about this from a neighbor. This neighbor had just heard about it as well, yet nobody has sent me a letter, nobody has knocked on my door, nobody has called me on the phone. When I do find out, I feel it’s too late for my voice to be heard."

"I could be personally affected by a dramatic devaluation of my property value. It is the equivalent of one's pension fund being stolen by unscrupulous investment scammers with no conscience or consideration for right and wrong. I cannot believe that this was developed so secretively!!!"

"I live in the path of the alternate route on one side of me and the desired route on the other side of me. I am apposed to the Northern Pass because it will devalue my property,the defoliant could contaminate my well, effect my neighbors maple sugaring business, effect a local farm where it proposes to pass over it''s milking cows pastures."

Mr. May's total compensation package in 2009 was reported to be $7.4 million; one can only imagine what it is now. Mr. May does not have to worry about how he will make it through retirement. Mr. May no doubt lives in a palatial home with buried power lines. He does not have to worry about a transmission company erecting towers that put his residence in the fall zone.

Yet Mr. May has the audacity to ignore all those in New Hampshire who now live in fear that Northern Pass's towers will harm their physical and economic well-being.

He expected all this; it doesn't surprise him.

Shame on you, Mr. May.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Northern Pass and Property Values Near the Existing Right-of-Way

James A. Chalmers's new findings about property value losses near power lines would pertain both to new rights-of-way (ROWs) and to the existing ROW on the proposed Northern Pass route.

As reported this week by Responsible Energy Action LLC (REAL), 2012 research by Northern Pass's appraisal expert, James A. Chalmers, on property values near power lines shows up to a 50% decline in residential areas of a basically rural state, Montana, with sales periods extended from two to five times. These effects are substantially more severe than the "negligible" impact that Northern Pass claims its transmission line would have on New Hampshire.

Chalmers’s new study also looks at large industrial agricultural properties and large remote recreational properties (typically 1,000-5,000 acres or larger).  With rare exception, these do not exist in New Hampshire.  For these properties, because value is driven by a specific, non-residential use, the study finds little or no price impact from the transmission lines, This stands to reason – if you are operating a 5,000 acre farm or hunting preserve for money, and have no ability or plans to subdivide for residential sales, the lines do not affect your future income stream. Indeed, in New Hampshire, even the larger parcels of land, unless restricted by conservation easement, etc., have values driven by the potential for future residential use. 

Since New Hampshire land values are driven by residential and potential residential uses, in this respect Chalmers's 2012 study points the way to what one might expect were Northern Pass ever to be built. Extrapolate to tax abatements and the resulting loss of town tax revenues, and the impact is hardly negligible.

Let's take it a step further. Chalmers does not specifically state this, but assume that his study looks at what happens to residential property values when a power line is built on a new ROW. What happens to residential property values when a power line is built on an existing ROW?

In the case of Northern Pass, the same thing would happen. Here's why.

The conventional answer from power companies (or their consultants) wishing to build lines is that the impact of building a new circuit on an existing ROW would merely be "incremental," i.e., minimal. The assumptions behind this assertion are rarely identified. But here is one explanation that reveals its underlying assumption:

It is important to distinguish between transmission line projects that rebuild or add circuits to an existing corridor and those that create a new right-of- way. Impacts associated with the former are incremental, affecting land uses that have coexisted beside an existing transmission line for years and often decades. On the other hand, transmission line projects constructed within a new right-of-way can have significantly greater socioeconomic consequences. Projects that rebuild a transmission line to a higher voltage or add circuits may require taller structures and additional conductors, increasing the line’s visual footprint and projecting more vertical and horizontal lines upon the landscape, but years of coexistence has usually added extensive vegetation buffers along right-of-way edges, mitigating the impacts on adjacent land uses. (Section 4. 2. 10)

Northern Pass is a project that would add a 345kV "circuit" (line) to an "existing corridor " (ROW) along the 140 mile route from Groveton to Deerfield. It would require substantially "taller structures" (90'-135' and taller towers) than those that currently exist (45'-60'), up to 300% higher. And it would produce more visual blight by projecting "more vertical and horizontal lines upon the landscape." But, contrary to the conventional explanation, the impact of Northern Pass on adjacent residences would not be "mitigated" (hidden) by "extensive vegetation buffers along right-of-way edges."

It's highly questionable if this hypothetical paradigm accurately describes the impact on the existing ROW of even New Hampshire's first HVDC line from Hydro Quebec in the 1980s, but it certainly does not apply to what Northern Pass proposes now. Between Groveton and Deerfield, Northern Pass would remove extensive vegetation buffer within the ROW, in some cases a 75' strip of trees that have been growing for over 65 years. Residences and tourist facilities on the edge of the ROW now buffered by a tree screen within the ROW as deep as 75' would suddenly be exposed to a ROW with two sets of structures, the existing poles and the substantially taller new towers. Even with internal tree screens left intact, Northern Pass's towers would exceed the tallest buffer vegetation and thereby create serious new adverse visual impacts. Northern Pass's clearcutting of the ROW to its fullest width and its significantly taller towers would create new negative impacts on land use, not simply incremental ones.

In terms of its extremely negative visual impacts, Northern Pass would effectively create a new power line from Groveton to Deerfield.

Chalmers's 2012 findings have ominous implications for residential land values and corollary town tax revenue losses along Northern Pass's entire proposed 180-mile transmission line -- both on new ROWs and on the historic, existing ROW. New Hampshire simply cannot afford to allow Northern Pass to be built. .