Friday, June 14, 2013

"Towering Trees, not Transmission Towers": Northern Pass Info & Planning Meeting (Easton, June 9, 2013)

A standing-room-only crowd of 130 people attended the meeting in Easton on June 9th. Following is a local news report, links to materials presented and referred to during the session, and links to recordings of the meeting. 

Littleton Courier
June 12, 2013 

Northern Pass opponents strategize again in Easton

by Darin Wipperman

EASTON — With 130 people on hand, opponents of Northern Pass met for nearly three hours on Sunday afternoon. The session was a chance to look back and ahead on the effort to defeat the high voltage power line project.

Northern Pass proposes building 180 miles of tall power lines from northern Coös County to Deerfield, N.H. The electricity would come from Hydro Quebec. Northeast Utilities, the parent of Public Service of New Hampshire, has partnered with Hydro Quebec on the venture.

Elective officials accounted for ten percent of Sunday's attendees. They included Executive Councilor Ray Burton, state senators Jeff Woodburn and Jeanie Forrester, several state house members, and other office holders. Overall, those at the meeting came from towns between Pittsburg to Portsmouth.

The group celebrated a victory hot off the press. That day, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen and former Senator Judd Gregg had a letter in the Concord Monitor. The two former governors expressed their interest in protecting the Connecticut Lakes headwaters region.

Shaheen and Gregg suggest that Northern Pass may be looking to cross the headwaters, which would implicate a state easement. "In addition to their beauty," the duo wrote, "these lands are the backbone of our northern economy, offering working forests that have supported New Hampshire families for generations."

The headwaters easement includes 146,000 acres in Pittsburg, Stewartstown, and Clarksville. Shaheen and Gregg call the headwaters, "the largest un-fragmented block of land in the state." The senators said there exists "an obligation by the state to defend the easement from encroachment."

Northern Pass has not suggested the headwaters region would be part of any future route.

Will Abbott of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests provided further information on the headwaters region. He said the state has a strong legal argument to prohibit Northern Pass from crossing the easement area.

Abbott also noted a Yankee Magazine article about landowners who have rejected selling land to Northern Pass. He then held up a bumper sticker that was appreciated by the attendees, "My roots are deeper than your pockets."

Susan Arnold of the Appalachian Mountain Club discussed a visual impact model regarding the Northern Pass proposal. She said that 95,000 acres of the state would have a view of the tall power lines. This includes 3,000 acres in the White Mountain National Forest. The proposed route would also cross I-93 six times, Arnold said.

Jim Dannis of Dalton and Christophe Courchesne of the Conservation Law Foundation discussed the idea of burying the power lines. Dannis hoped the project would never happen, but if it does go forward, "Let's do it in a way that's sensible to the state," he said.

He presented some preliminary data on potential state rental revenue if the lines were buried in state rights of way, such as along highways and rail lines. "We want to plant the seed," Dannis said, for elected officials to consider the possibility of tens of millions of dollars from this approach.

Courchesne discussed studies that show burial of the lines is financially feasible. He also talked about the potential for transmitting Canadian power using existing power lines. This could be possible because the lines are not operating at maximum capacity, Courchesne said.

Later in the meeting, Nancy Martland of Sugar Hill asked for suggestions on "how we can move forward together." The group suggested several ideas, from a boycott of Quebec, to further discussion with allies in the Southern New Hampshire and around New England. Susan Ford, Grafton-3 representative, said more staffing of anti-Northern Pass booths at fairs and other events throughout the state could move that idea forward.

Coös state representative Larry Rappaport said ATV riders are generally opposed to Northern Pass. Further work with them would be another way to join forces. Donna Alexson said innkeepers and the hospitality industry in general can help inform people about the potential negative impacts of Northern Pass.

With some discussion of legislative activity, Debi Warner of Littleton said residents should keenly follow legal and state house updates. The group also noted the need to make better use of social media, as well.

Each idea seemed to unify the group even more. As the meeting wrapped up, the attendees appeared intent on getting back to work on their goal of defeating Northern Pass.

Related Documents

Northern Pass Planning & Info Meeting, June 9, 2013 (agenda, speakers, co-sponsors).

"Towering Trees, not Transmission Towers," Op-Ed by Jeanne Shaheen and Judd Gregg, Concord Monitor, June 9, 2013. 

"My Roots are Deeper than Your Pockets,"  by Howard Mosedale, Yankee Magazine; reprinted in Forest Notes, Spring, 2013.

Northern Pass Visual Impact Assessment, by Susan Arnold for the Appalachian Mountain Club.

"A New Hampshire Revenue Opportunity: Lease State-Owned ROWs for Transmission Lines," by Jim and Sandy Dannis for Responsible Energy Action LLC.

"Alternatives to the Northern Pass Project," by Christophe Courchesne for the Conservation Law Foundation.



Audio recording by "Bulldog" Brian Tilton for 107.7 WTPL.

Video recording by Bob O Connor for Littleton Area TV Channel 2.