Friday, August 29, 2014

Ayotte: Bury it all along state roads - "We're worth it."

Press and social media coverage of U. S. Senator Kelly Ayotte's hike in the White Mountain National Forest along the proposed Northern Pass route, August 28, 2014.

At the crossing of Reel Brook Trail and proposed Northern Pass route, Easton, Senator Ayotte
is briefed by officials of the Appalachian Mountain Club, Forest Society, Easton Select Board
and Conservation Commission (Twitter photos)

At the Reel Brook Crossing in Easton
From "News From Senator Ayotte's Office," August 29, 2014

Ayotte: All Of Northern Pass Should Be Buried

Robert Blechl
Staff Writer
Caledonian Record

EASTON, N.H. -- Coming off a hike to the Kinsman Ridge, near where Northern Pass towers would go, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-NH, issued her strongest position to date on the line - that all of it should be buried, along highway corridors.

"My concern is that a big part of New Hampshire and its natural beauty are being jeopardized by the height of the towers," Ayotte said Thursday afternoon to a group of more than a dozen at Easton Town Hall.

The Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission line proposes 180 miles of steel towers about 100 feet high, a portion of which would pass through Easton and the White Mountain National Forest.

Ayotte underscored the concerns of thousands of residents across the state about devaluation of properties near the line, scarring of the natural landscape, and a negative impact on the tourist industry.

"This is about all of us," she said. "It's not just the North Country."

As examples that burial can be done with existing technology, she pointed to other transmission line projects, such as the Champlain-Hudson Power Express in Vermont - initially proposed as an overhead line before aesthetic and other concerns arose - that will include more than 130 miles of line buried along transportation corridors.

"My view is that's what should be done here, but right now we have not seen that alternative produced," said Ayotte.

Northern Pass, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, is proposing its line mostly along the existing Public Service of New Hampshire right-of-way, a route that, according to federal filings, would generate about $10 billion in known revenue for NU during the 40-year term of the line.

But if the Champlain Valley is worth line burial, so is the North Country and New Hampshire, she said.

Of New Hampshire's mountains and landscape, she said, "It's a big part of our economy and who we are."

"It's a great resource we all enjoy and has been a great driver of economic strength," said Ayotte, pointing to the millions of tourists who flock annually to the region.

She said Thursday's hike, with members of the Easton Conservation Commission, gave her the opportunity to see the potential impact.

If the Canadian hydro-power is to be imported, Ayotte said I-91 in Vermont or I-93 in New Hampshire should be studied in earnest.

In attendance Thursday were state Rep. Sue Ford, D-Easton, and Andy Smith, owner-broker of Peabody and Smith Reality.

Smith said local properties near where the line would go are already seeing a detrimental impact to their value. He also called northern New Hampshire's unspoiled beauty a legacy.

"This is not just a local issue," said Smith. "It's a New Hampshire problem and a New Hampshire legacy we would not get back."

Ford said a recent law has changed the process of the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee, the state permitting agency for energy projects that must now have two members from the public.

Next legislative session, a bill will be written to create an energy corridor along highways, she said.

For Northern Pass to go through, it must obtain many permits, chief among them a Presidential Permit from the U.S. Department of Energy, which is currently putting together an Environmental Impact Study on the project.

On Aug. 18, the New Hampshire Delegation to Washington D.C., which includes Ayotte, U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and U.S. Democratic Reps. Ann Kuster and Carol Shea-Porter, wrote to the DOE about its scoping report alternatives addendum issued May 1.

To the agency, the delegates said there are two key elements that were not part of the addendum that warrant consideration and study.

"Specifically, the report does not call for a comprehensive study of the burial of transmission lines along existing highway corridors, nor does it consider a second international crossing other than the crossing at Hall's Stream in Pittsburg," they said. "These two alternatives were not included in the addendum despite the large number of public comments at the scoping hearings requesting investigation into the possibility of these two options."

As senator, Ayotte said she will push DOE to be more transparent and open and also push for a thorough study of entire line burial along transportation corridors.

"This is how the project should be done if it is to go forward," Ayotte said at the Easton gathering. "We're worth it."

Sen. Ayotte addresses group at the Easton Town Hall after hiking the proposed
Northern Pass route on the Reel Brook Trail in Easton/WMNF (BNP photo)

Ayotte says Northern Pass lines should be buried beneath roads
John Koziol
Union Leader
August 28, 2014

To get a first-hand perspective of where in Easton the proposed Northern Pass transmission project would go, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte took a hike in the Gingerbread Road area of Easton Thursday and then told a group of pass opponents at Easton Town Hall that the entire transmission line should be buried beneath state roads. (JOHN KOZIOL/Union Leader Correspondent)
EASTON — Citing a precedent in New York and echoing a recommendation by the town’s Conservation Commission, U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-N.H.) on Thursday said the Northern Pass transmission project should be entirely buried beneath New Hampshire’s roads.

Appearing at Easton Town Hall Thursday afternoon, just minutes after having hiked through the Gingerbread Road area to get a closer look at how Northern Pass would affect this town of 270 people, Ayotte said the beauty of the White Mountains should and could be preserved and that the Northern Pass could proceed if the transmission lines were buried “along an existing highway corridor.”

That point, as well as a suggestion that Northern Pass consider a second international crossing other than that at Hall’s Stream in Pittsburg, was made in an Aug. 18 letter from Ayotte and the rest of the state’s Congressional delegation to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Northern Pass would bring hydroelectricity from Quebec into the U.S. along a 187-mile long line in New Hampshire. Northeast Utilities, the corporate parent of Public Service of New Hampshire and Northern Pass Transmission LLC, has an agreement with HydroQuebec for it to lease the Northern Pass transmission lines.

Proponents say the $1.4 billion project will create 1,200 construction jobs, put 1,200 megawatts of renewable electricity into the New England power grid, and, over its 40-year life, will generate some $1 billion in new municipal property tax revenues in New Hampshire.

Opponents of Northern Pass have criticized its intrusion into and despoilment of the North Country, both esthetically and economically.

A presidential permit is needed to allow Canadian power to come into the U.S. and the review process also involves the Department of Defense and the Secretary of State, both of which, Ayotte explained, typically defer to the DOE in energy-transmission cases.

Ned Cutler, who chairs Easton’s Board of Selectmen, said that in 2012 the Town Meeting voted unanimously to say it opposed Northern Pass unless it was buried underground. He said yesterday that several property owners have already asked the selectmen how to get abatements because they expected a drop in the assessed values of their properties should Northern Pass go through town above ground.

In 2013, the Easton Conservation Commission took upon itself the task of finding an alternative route for Northern Pass through town and last November it came up with a recommendation that sounded a lot like Ayotte’s on Thursday: bury Northern Pass along the Interstate 93 corridor between Bethlehem and Woodstock, thereby entirely avoiding Easton and the White Mountain National Forest in which it sits.

The bury-it-under-the-road approach gained traction earlier this month when the DOE, in reviewing the proposed Champlain Hudson Power Express, which would bring power from Canada to the New York Metro Area, said burying 141 miles of the 336-miles of transmission lines under existing highways would be a good idea.

Both Cutler and Conservation Commission Chair Roy Stever said they’d like to see Ayotte push for burying Northern Pass and Ayotte said she would.

The technology exists to bury the transmission lines, Ayotte said, adding that the Easton Conservation Commission recognized that fact as did the DOE with the Champlain Hudson Power Express project.

What the conservation commission proposed just in Easton should be done down the entire length of Northern Pass, said Ayotte, and the DOE should require Northern Pass to study it, and then, ultimately, it should do it.

“We’re worth it,” said Ayotte, noting that the New York transmission project was also intended to run above ground, but didn’t.

After a burst of polite applause died down, Ayotte continued that “This is obviously a very important issue to the Town of Easton and the state.”

“This is about all of us,” she said, “not just the North Country.”

Senator Ayotte talks with residents of Gingerbread Village, Easton, which would be severely
affected by proposed Northern Pass towers (Twitter photo)