Coos County Democrat
Berlin is wrong on Northern Pass
Berlin Mayor Paul Grenier and seven members of the city council recently submitted a pro-Northern Pass letter to the state’s Site Evaluation Committee. The SEC will be making the decision on whether to allow construction of the controversial hydropower transmission project. Berlin’s support for Northern Pass is, quite simply, wrong and very disappointing.
The city’s Dec. 7 letter to the SEC makes statements that are not aligned with reality. Although praising renewable energy, the city seems to not know that big hydropower operations lack status as a renewable under state standards, mainly because of the impact on wildlife and the inevitable drowning of forests. Berlin also declares that Northern Pass "will provide much needed tax revenue to the County and the communities through which it passes," which is true enough. However, most towns that would host the transmission lines (and thereby grow the tax base) are strongly against the project. Because Berlin is not on the Northern Pass route, city leaders should not think they can speak for towns wanting nothing to do with the riches Northern Pass has promised.
Although praising the extra tax revenue from Northern Pass, Berlin’s leaders fail to remember how often towns are dragged into court over the tax valuation of utility infrastructure. This accounts for one reason why so many residents of Grafton County towns where lines would be buried are still fighting Northern Pass. For whatever financial gain they could accrue, these heroic citizens do not want Coös County to be plagued by miles of aboveground lines and horrendously tall towers.
Berlin is right to note that Northern Pass officials have worked hard to deal with the concerns of project opponents. However, city leaders are utterly inaccurate to state, "We understand that many of the concerns have been mitigated." Franconia, a town with no Northern Pass lines prior to the revised August proposal, is now appalled by the impact of burying five miles of lines through the town’s commercial corridor and close to several homes. Mitigating the impact of the new proposal, which would bury 60 miles of lines, has barely begun, and Berlin’s leaders seem ignorant of that reality.
The City of Berlin has become a severe outlier on Northern Pass, a Coös County municipality aligned with Hydro Quebec, not the residents and towns of the North Country that oppose the project. Leaders of "The City That Trees Built" seem to not respect why so many others in our region want to make sure they do not see their landscape become places that Northern Pass destroys.
Berlin will not see direct property tax revenue from Northern Pass. So why are other towns that will gain tax revenue still fighting so hard against Northern Pass? Grenier and the city council should have investigated that truth before they officially became craven propagandists for Hydro Quebec, a company owned by a foreign government. Berlin’s leaders are on the side of a Canadian monopoly that cannot find enough money from its $7 million of daily profit to bury all of Northern Pass.
Perhaps Mayor Grenier and the city council are so busy presiding over one of the highest tax rates in the state — which has gone up more than 20 percent in three years — to do their homework on Northern Pass. The next time each of the letter’s eight signatories go on the ballot, hopefully voters will ask each of them why they sided with a foreign government rather than the people of their own region.