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N.H. doesn't need or want this power line

By BRIAN TILTON

Publication: The Day

Published July 14. 2013 4:00AM

As a radio talk show host and journalist, I spent nearly three years studying various wild claims by Public Service of NH (PSNH), Northeast Utilities (NU), NStar, Hydro-Quebec (HQ) and Northern Pass Transmission LLC.

In a guest commentary in The Day July 7, Marc Brown, president, treasurer and secretary of the New England Ratepayers Association, a 501(c)4 group that refuses to disclose its funding source, made repeated claims that Northern Pass would add reliability to the New England power grid. Neither ISO-New England nor the N.H. Public Utilities Commission said we need the power for system reliability, nor requested it.

Since Northern Pass was proposed in late 2010, the economics of the project have collapsed. Natural gas prices deflated NU's claims that Northern Pass would bring "cheap power" to New England.

There's also decreased demand for electricity in New England. No Power Purchase Agreement (PPA) has been signed with NU/PSNH despite repeated promises. How can we ascertain how much money this power could "save" ratepayers?

Vermont Public Radio reported on August 10, 2010, "Robert Young is CEO for Central Vermont Public Service. He says the initial price will be set in December and will probably start around 6 cents a kilowatt hour. The price will be re-set annually - either up or down - according to a formula that remains secret."

"Probably", "up", "secret"? Maybe that explains why PSNH/NU/HQ refuses to say how much ratepayers will "save."

Mr. Brown also claims, "A new route proposed by Northern Pass officials has addressed many concerns about the impact of the transmission lines, in particular eliminating the possibility of eminent domain takings as well as burying power lines in some areas that are of particular concern to property owners and conservationists."

The new route announcement does nothing to address the visual impact of the transmission towers. In fact, 25 percent more and even taller towers are proposed - 155 feet high, up from 135 feet.

We the people of New Hampshire, not Northern Pass, eliminated the possibility of eminent domain takings. In 2006, one year after the Kelo decision on eminent domain in New London, 87 percent of New Hampshire voters amended the state constitution to strictly prohibit eminent domain against seizure of private property. In 2012, the New Hampshire legislature overwhelmingly passed further protections.

Unfortunately, Northern Pass is still threatening eminent domain. A very small portion of the route is proposed to be buried using state and town roads. PSNH/Northern Pass did not consult with selectmen or the NH Dept. of Transportation prior to the June 27 new route announcement.

Consider this public comment July 1 by PSNH's Economic and Community Development Manager Pat McDermott to the Stewartstown Select Board, "We have to be honest that we believe we can" take Stewartstown's roads even if you don't agree.

From 2011-2013, the Society for Protection of NH Forests bought conservation easements that blocked Northern Pass' developing route.

NU/Northern Pass spent tens of millions of dollars buying land in a cat-and-mouse game the new route won't touch much of. Furthermore, in its amended presidential permit application filed with the U.S. Dept. of Energy on July 1st, Northern Pass states their alternative route would take it through the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Tract, the largest piece of conserved land in New Hampshire.

PSNH/NU/Northern Pass have all said the project is not dependent on RPS subsidies. Why was NU the biggest lobbyist in Connecticut for ratepayer subsidies of foreign government-owned large-scale hydro? It's the same company that sent scores of lobbyists to the New Hampshire legislature to oppose efforts to protect private property.

Northern Pass wants to desecrate the White Mountain National Forest with two crossings of up to 155-foot towers and threatens numerous state and local conservation lands. For many people in our state, tourism is their only lifeblood. We will not allow Northern Pass to trespass on our state and destroy our properties, communities and families.

The writer is host of the "Bulldog Live!" radio show on WTPL 107.7FM The Pulse in Concord, N.H.

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