Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Berlin is Wrong on Northern Pass

Coos County Democrat
Littleton Courier
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.

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Municipal Intervenors in the SEC Docket for Northern Pass

The following municipal groups have petitioned in advance for intervenorship; as of December 2, 2015, the SEC has not set a deadline for intervenorship.  

Coos County Commissioner
Holderness Conservation Commission


North Country: Growing Number Of Towns To File As Northern Pass Interveners

State To Decide Next Monday If Northern Pass Application Complete

By Robert Blechl, Staff Writer
Caledonian Record

As Northern Pass enters another year and nears another round of state and federal hearings, a growing number of North Country towns have expressed their intention to file as interveners to get their voices heard and questions answered.

During their meeting last week, selectmen in Northumberland discussed intervener status, with Selectman James Tierney saying with intervener status the town can have its suggestions considered and its questions answered. He noted the city of Concord and town of Bethlehem have put in for intervener status.

Northumberland selectmen on Nov. 23 voted 3-0 to send a letter to the state requesting the status.

On Dec. 9 in Bethlehem, the Bethlehem Planning Board will discuss their town becoming an intervener, after Bethlehem Conservation Commission Chair Cheryl Jensen met with board members Nov. 18.

Jensen said there is the impact of a possible transition station of about an acre to be located at Brook Road and Route 302, where the Northern Pass line would pass through, and the only way for the town to have any control over the project is to request intervener status.

Two days before she met with planners, Jensen met with selectmen, who agreed the town should apply for the status. Selectmen discussed the transition station development and the portion of overhead hydro-electric transmission line that could go in the Brook Road-Baker Brook area.

The town of Franconia, which after a revised route would now see five miles of buried line, is also mulling intervener status after a Nov. 18 public hearing in which the dozens of residents in attendance opposed the project.

At the state level, the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) has scheduled a hearing at 9 a.m. Monday at the N.H. Public Utilities Commission offices in Concord to decide whether or not Northern Pass' application filed with SEC is complete.

The Society For the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has asked SEC to declare Northern Pass' Oct. 19 application incomplete, arguing the company cannot demonstrate that it has the property rights needed to bury its line under land the Forest Society owns in Clarksville and the SEC does not have the authority to grant such a right.

Currently, a total of 60 miles of the 192-mile line are proposed for burial, with 52 miles around the White Mountain National Forest and 7.5 miles in Coos County.

Northern Pass argues roadways have traditionally supported energy projects.

On Monday, however, Forest Society spokesman Jack Savage said there's nothing traditional about Northern Pass, which he said is a merchant project designed to move electricity from Canada to southern New England.

The Forest Society has also filed a lawsuit in Coos Superior Court asking the court to find and rule that Northern Pass' proposed use of the Washburn Family Forest in Clarksville is unauthorized.

"We are making the case the SEC in particular doesn't have the authority to resolve the dispute," said Savage. "Northern Pass, in contrast, believes the SEC has some sort of magic wand that can make these property rights disputes go away."