Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Littleton Chamber Pans the Pass

Published in the Caledonian Record, February 19, 2013.

Littleton Chamber Comes Out Against Northern Pass

Robert Blechl
Staff Writer
Caledonian Record

LITTLETON, N.H. -- The Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce has come out against Northern Pass as currently proposed, stating it does not promote local business needs and will be detrimental to the North Country's tourist industry.

In recent months, the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce and Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce, both downstate, have voiced support for Northern Pass.

"We understand that some chambers of commerce in regions of New Hampshire, not suffering any direct negative impact, have chosen to publicly support the project, and thus we feel the need to offer a contrarian view," the LACC said in its statement issued Monday.

The position statement of the LACC board was approved during last week's board meeting and came about through an internal polling of chamber members, LACC Executive Director Chad Stearns said Monday.

The LACC in its statement also said there are no guarantees that the imported power, once added to the New England regional energy grid, will reduce electric power costs in New Hampshire or the North Country.

In their statement, LACC members said they wish "to go on the record stating that the vast majority of our membership cannot support the Northern Pass Transmission project as currently proposed. Our mission is to attract new [businesses] and promote existing business needs, and we feel this project does neither."

Northern Pass as proposed would entail approximately 1,100 steel towers at least 85 feet high that would stretch from the Canadian border in Pittsburg to Deerfield and pass through such towns as Franconia and Sugar Hill as well as portions of the White Mountain National Forest.

LACC members said the transmission line as proposed would be detrimental to the region by negatively impacting tourism, directly and indirectly, "as it will scar the area's iconic natural beauty for decades to come."

The chamber also feels Northern Pass would not contribute in a meaningful way to the region's long-term economic health, and in addition to reducing tourism, would likely reduce property values.

Chamber members also said Northern Pass would put local power producers and future renewable energy projects at a disadvantage if approval is granted to a "foreign utility."

Hydro-Quebec is proposing Northern Pass with partner Northeast Utilities, parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire.

"We firmly believe that economic impact studies performed have overestimated the project's short- and long-term benefits and underestimated the negative effects on the North Country economy," said LACC members. "The Littleton Area Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business organization, but we do not feel that the Northern Pass project as proposed will benefit the North Country, its businesses, communities or citizens in any economic, financial or civic way."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Five Questions for Hydro-Quebec

Responsible Energy Action LLC has posted an early Valentine's message to Northern Pass. It raises the question of whether Hydro-Quebec has gotten itself involved in a dysfunctional relationship with its US partners.

Following are five questions that Hydro-Quebec should ask itself about whether the proposed Northern Pass project is really a match made in heaven.  

o   What’s up with your US partners?  They’ve made a total mess of this thing.  Are you satisfied with the work Northeast Utilities and PSNH have done to advance the project at the US federal level and in New Hampshire?  The original timetable is now delayed by three years or more.  What went wrong?  Can it be fixed?  How?

o   Are you willing to sacrifice HQ's good reputation for Northern Pass?  The public opposition to Northern Pass has caused a lot of collateral damage to the reputation of Northeast Utilities and PSNH.  If the project advances, the opposition will likely spend more time targeting HQ.  Are you concerned about the damage to your image and brand that may be generated by more public focus on HQ’s role as sponsor and beneficiary of Northern Pass? The rest of Canada already doesn't think so much of you; do you want that to start in the US too so that no state dares mention partnering with you? 
o   Does NP really make sense anymore?  How does Northern Pass make any economic sense for you in the new world of abundant natural gas and low US wholesale electric prices?  The world has fundamentally changed in the four short years since Northern Pass was designed.  When your new hydro developments now cost a lot more (10 cents/kWh) than projected US wholesale prices (5 cents/kWh), why would you want to pursue more export links? 
o  Should you pull out of the relationship?  Your framework agreement with Northeast Utilities to build and operate Northern Pass (the so-called “Transmission Services Agreement”) will terminate automatically on February 14, 2014.  Do you plan to extend the TSA?  Will you try to negotiate terms that are more favorable to you, for example, by lowering the 12.56% profit rate for Northeast Utilities?
o   Why not bury it so it’s more likely to get done?  You know all about the technical and economic feasibility of burying these kinds of lines – just look at Champlain-Hudson, an HQ project, which will have buried underwater sections but also more than 130 miles of lines buried in rail beds and highways.  Why don't you try to cut through all the problems and re-propose a buried Northern Pass?