Wednesday, July 29, 2015

"A Devastating Blow to Northern Pass" - Op Ed

Coös County Democrat (July 29, 2015)
Littleton Courier (July 29, 2015)
Plymouth Record Enterprise (July 30, 2015)

Editorial Opinion

 A devastating blow to Northern Pass

 On July 21, a major victory was won for those who oppose Northern Pass. The five-year process leading to the project’s draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) ended wih the U.S. Department of Energy releasing the long awaited document. The department concluded that the proposal for nearly 180 miles of huge electricity towers would damage our tourist economy and the great views that make life in the North Country a continuous treat.

The DEIS suggested several alternative routes for Northern Pass, the PSNH/Eversource proposal to bring HydroQuebec power to the New England grid using, almost exclusively, mammoth transmission towers through New Hampshire. Because of the dreadful visual impact from the tall towers, many alternatives in the DEIS call for underground lines, as so many people from Northern New Hampshire have suggested for years. We were speaking, but Northern Pass was not listening.

 Northern Pass issued statements about the DEIS. Totally avoiding how the DEIS hurts the project’s momentum, the statements focus on the need for additional energy and how the Northern Pass permitting process will continue. Interestingly, Northern Pass credits the input received from citizens about the project. Nowhere has Northern Pass acknowledged the major strategic error in its continuing reluctance to consider what has clearly become the only option that stands any chance of winning the support of the North Country — burying the lines.

Noting the energy crisis New England faces, recent statements from Northern Pass imply our state would benefit from the extra supply and the subsequent lower costs. Yet, the project’s benefit to New Hampshire’s electricity consumers has never been clear. As far as lowering our high power rates, Northern Pass meekly states, "We continue to believe that Northern Pass is an important part of the answer." They just cannot seem to accept that the fat cats in two countries trying to push Northern Pass on us never bothered to ask whether residents of our region love our precious land, trees, and views. Generations of people here know the answer, and we do not need a corporate monstrosity looking to spoil our state while lecturing us on the need for new energy sources.

The DEIS notes how burying the lines would double the cost to build Northern Pass, but would also double the number of construction jobs compared to above ground lines. How Northern Pass responds to that fact will be interesting to see. Also, the DEIS found, towns most affected by the proposed overhead lines would gain the least amount of property tax revenue from the Northern Pass infrastructure that would weave its way through towns from Pittsburg south.

 Many people deserve credit for ensuring the DEIS captured the brutal devastation Northern Pass would bring to our region. Landowners turned away millions by refusing to sell their land to Northern Pass, devoted residents took many trips to Concord and elsewhere to find out more and have their voices heard, and people made the orange protest color central to their wardrobe.

 The final battle has not been won, but the above ground towers cannot realistically happen because of the big slap to the face the U.S. Department of Energy delivered to Eversource and HydroQuebec last week. This major victory belongs to us all. Thanks and congratulations to those who made such a triumph possible