December 26, 2011

Balsams Donations Double over Christmas Weekend

Going into the long Christmas weekend, donations to the Forest Society's Save the Balsams Landscape campaign were just over $100,000--not a bad result after barely two weeks. However, the holiday weekend was a real boost to the campaign as total donations had jumped to more than $200,000 before the end of Christmas Day.

December 23, 2011

Northern Pass Interference in Balsams Land Conservation

The Forest Society is aware that Northern Pass continues to attempt to interfere in a transaction between two private parties, the Tillotson Corporation and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. Curiously, PSNH and Northern Pass seem unclear on the fact that the negotiations are over and that they are an unwanted suitor. The Forest Society has a signed legal contract to acquire conservation

December 21, 2011

Northern Pass Aims to Block Balsams Conservation

As Annmarie Timmins reports here in the Concord Monitor, Northern Pass is so unhappy about the Tillotson Corporation's decision to pursue a conservation outcome for the lands surrounding the Balsams that they had their attorneys complain to the NH Charitable Trusts Division. Their complaint? That Tillotson should have taken their offer instead, and was somehow obligated to do so.

To learn more about the Save the Balsams Landscape campaign, click here.

We believe that the Attorney General’s office will agree with the Tillotson Corp that the transaction outlined in our Purchase and Sale agreement with them is in the best interests of the North Country. Tillotson Corporations' responsibilities include more than genuflecting to whomever shows up with tthe biggest pot of money.

The attempt by Northern Pass to interfere with a transaction between two private parties is a clear indication of their desperation. It’s the moral equivalent of using eminent domain to force a private landowner to sell to them.

"We understand that corporations like Northern Pass are focused on the bottom line," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. "However, like many of our fellow landowners and our conservation partners, we also understand that money isn’t the only thing that matters in New Hampshire. Our forests, our land, scenic views and iconic places matter deeply to us. And they can’t always be bought."

December 12, 2011

New Hampshire Property Rights at Risk

The Judiciary Committee of the NH State Senate voted 4-0 on December 8 to adopt a recommendation to the full Senate. If adopted by the full Senate in January, it will have the effect of throwing the constitutional property rights of all New Hampshire landowners under the bus.

New Hampshire voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2006 that specifically prohibits the use of eminent domain by private developers for private development projects of any kind. NH voters adopted this amendment by a 85% to 15% margin. Today, New Hampshire faces the first big test of this amendment. Northern Pass LLC, a private developer proposing to build a power line through 180 miles of New Hampshire to be used exclusively by Hydro-Quebec to export its electricity to markets in southern New England, claims it has access to and will use the state power of eminent domain if needed to complete the Northern Pass project. These claims ignore the very constitutional rights secured by the vote of NH citizens in 2006.

In the 2011 legislative session, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 317-51 to pass House Bill 648, which proposes to amend current law governing the use of eminent domain by utilities and to bring this law into alignment with the 2006 constitutional amendment. The House passed bill was written to make clear in current state law that eminent domain is inaccessible to private transmission projects like Northern Pass. The Senate Judiciary Committee vote of last week gutted the House language, and replaced it with new language that completely avoids the goal of the original bill.

NH landowners who want to protect the hard-won property rights secured by Article 12-a are left with one recourse for immediate relief: We must persuade at least 13 members of the 24-member New Hampshire State Senate to stand up for the property rights granted by Article 12-a. The State Senate needs to join the House of Representatives in making clear that private development projects like Northern Pass DO NOT have any right to condemn private property. Contact your State Senator today (click here to find out who your Senator is and how to make contact). Tell your State Senator that you expect him or her to defend Article 12-a, and not to support the recommendation of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

September 9, 2011

Slowing Electricty Demand Raises Questions for Northern Pass

At the heart of the debate over the Northern Pass proposal is the question of public benefit. Does southern New England need the power Hydro-Quebec wants to sell? Today they do not, but the argument has been that demand for electricty will rise over time, because that's what's has happened historically.

But according to the Electric Power Research Institute, residential electricty demand has leveled off and is expected to FALL over the next decade by about .5 percent. Associated Press reporter Jonathan Fahey summarizes the report here. Fahey quotes National Grid's Ed White:  "Over the last six years we have seen decreased or flat growth, especially on the residential side."

Sarah Gardner of American Public Media also talks about the new projections on Marketplace on National Public Radio here.

Given that the slowing demand for electricty would appear to be due in part to more efficient devices and other conservation measures, it's worth asking another key question: If it will cost more than one billion dollars to bring 1200 MW of power to southern New England across 180 miles of New Hampshire landscape via 1100 towers, how many MW of power could we save by investing that one billion in conservation instead, using no new towers?

DOE Responds to Questions about EIS Contractor

As the Dept. of Energy, the NH Site Evaluation Committee and others consider the Northern Pass proposal, they need good information about the impacts 180 miles of powerline strung across 1100 towers would have on New Hampshire. Environmental impacts as well as socio-economic impacts. And they need to have a fair examination of reasonable alternatives to the Hydro-Quebec/Northeast Utilities proposal, including the no-build option. The Environmental Impact Statement is meant to provide that information, leading many to be concerned that the EIS process could be manipulated by the applicants (HQ/NU). To that end, there have been a number of fair questions about the EIS scoping process (including who decides what the EIS will include) and about what firm will conduct the EIS, and what data they will use.

The DOE has selected the SE Group to conduct the EIS. You more about the SE Group on the DOE website here.

You can read the Memorandum of Understanding among the DOE, SE Group, and Northern Pass, LLC here.

Chris Jensen of NHPR summarizes the Dept. of Energy's most recent responses to some of the concerns voiced by landowners and others who fear the EIS process will be less than transparent here.

August 12, 2011

Dept. of Energy Selects Team for EIS

The Department of Energy (DOE) has selected an integrated team of professionals from three environmental consulting firms to prepare the DOE Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) addressing the Northern Pass Presidential Permit application. This integrated team is composed of SE Group, Ecology & Environment, and Lucinda Low Swartz

A description of the Northern Pass NEPA contractor team is now posted on the EIS website, along with the Memorandum of Understanding and disclosure statements concerning preparation of the EIS.

August 11, 2011

Northern Pass Postpones "New Route" Announcement

After previously suggesting that it would propose a "new route" from Groveton to Canada for the proposed high-voltage tower and transmission line project, Northern Pass recently indicated that such announcement would not be forthcoming before fall of 2011. Read Chris Jensen's story on NHPR here.

Equally unresolved is what PSNH and Northern Pass might propose to overcome the growing opposition to the proposed project from 33 communities along 140 miles of existing PSNH right-of-way, where the project would require additional towers of greater height and expansion of the existing ROW. Northern Pass has said that they need to expand nearly 19 miles of that existing ROW, and that on average the towers will be highest between Franklin and Deerfield.

August 4, 2011

Northern Pass Acknowledges Delays

One could argue that the one-year delay in the projected start of construction announced by Northern Pass on their website Aug. 3 is simply a matter of the project managers acknowleging reality given the significant problems with the Presidential Permit process administered by the Dept. of Energy. No doubt Northeast Utlities stockholders, who were told by NU CEO Chuck Shivery in May that they expected to begin construction on Northern Pass in 2013 and complete it in 2015, needed to get a more accurate assessment. As Paula Tracy's article in the Union Leader points out, Northern Pass said long ago that they would be proposing an alternative route by mid-June, but have not yet done so. A reasonable question to ask, however, given the considerable concern over questions of eminent domain, promises by many landowners to fight for their rights in court, and the long list of towns, organizations and elected officials who oppose the project, is whether a mere one-year delay is in any way realistic given that the entire project is in jeopardy.

July 22, 2011

Union Leader Calls for Alternative Route or Buried Line

In an editorial published July 20, the Union Leader called on Northeast Utilities, PSNH and Hydro-Quebec to reconsider their proposed Northern Pass route and look instead to burying the line or locating it in Vermont--presumably along the exiting HVDC line controlled by competitor National Grid.

According to the Union Leader, The original Northern Pass plan would be the least costly to build and operate, and that is no small concern. But Northeast Utilities and Hydro Quebec will do better in the long run for both themselves and New Hampshire by opting instead for either buried lines in more sensitive areas or an alternative route through Vermont.

Read the full editorial here.

July 16, 2011

National Grid Proposes New HVDC Corridor Maine to Mass.

On July 11, National Grid, Emera, and First Wind announced preliminary plans for a major new transmission project between northeastern Maine and Massachusetts – the North East Energy Link (NEL), and in doing so clearly suggested that their project had advantages over the NU/N-Star/Hydro-Quebec Northern Pass proposal. Those advantages purportedly include less visual blight thanks to burying the line and greater tax benefits for New Hampshire.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has taken no position on the NEL proposal. The competing NEL transmission proposal does, however, strengthen the arguments for a comprehensive, regional review of current and likely future proposals as called for by the Forest Society, Conservation Law Foundation, Appalachian Mountain Club and others. Read the related op-ed here.

The timing of the NEL proposal also supports the view that these projects are less about renewable energy and more about international energy corporations battling for future market share. The rush to market is on. It also offers a likely, if unacceptable, explanation for why Northeast Utilities and National Grid have not serioiusly discussed the viability of using NG's existing HVDC corridor from Des Cantons, Quebec, to Ayer, MA (through NH) to host the proposed Northern Pass transmission line instead of carving out 40 miles of new corridor and expanding 140 miles of PSNH corridor through New Hampshire.
NEL would be 220 miles of underground, HVDC transmission lines delivering 1100 MW of windpower from northern Maine to southern New England via existing rights of way (primarily) or existing transportation corridors--thought a specific route has not yet been developed., apparently to be sited in existing rights of way and transportation corridors.

Read the complete FERC filing for NEL here.

July 15, 2011

Going Back to the Right Drawing Board for Northern Pass

The following Op-Ed ran in the  Concord Monitor by Tom Irwin, V.P. and New Hampshire Director, Conservation Law Foundation; Susan Arnold, V.P. for Conservation, Appalachian Mountain Club;
Michael King, Executive Director, North Country Council, Inc. and Will Abbott, V.P. for Policy & Land Management, Society for the Protection of NH Forests

When you don’t have a plan, it shows.

The would‐be developer of the Northern Pass project and its partner PSNH are scrambling to find a path of least resistance for transmission lines from the Canadian border to Groveton. Whatever “Plan B” emerges, there is no doubt that it will incite a brand‐new wave of opposition and will do nothing to address the concerns of residents along the proposed route south to Deerfield.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Energy is frozen in place without an environmental contractor and has delayed the environmental review of the project indefinitely, saying the process will start again at a time of Northern Pass’s choosing.

By contrast, Québec Premier Jean Charest is on a world tour seeking investors in “Plan Nord,” an $80 billion development plan for Québec’s far north. More than ten years in the making, the plan builds on Hydro‐Québec’s own strategic plan to increase exports and includes thousands of megawatts of damming projects that Hydro‐Québec intends to sell into New England and the northeastern U.S.

Quebec clearly has a plan for exporting power, promising decades of profits for the provincial treasury. Yet our federal energy agency is sitting back, waiting for a Hydro‐Québec‐backed developer to call the shots.

The delays mean that DOE still has a golden opportunity to change course – to sideline the proponents’ whims and start acting proactively and in the public interest.

In April, our organizations filed a motion with DOE asking for a regional energy study to assess the nature and extent of New England’s need for Canadian hydropower and to develop an appropriate plan to bring that power into the region. Aside from Northern Pass, there are other international transmission proposals, including a project to bury transmission lines down the Hudson River in New York. It only makes sense to consider, at the same time, all the common issues – such as the fossil‐fuel power that imports should displace, the impacts on local renewable projects, and all the alternative routes and transmission technologies ‐that should be understood in order to inform DOE’s review of Northern Pass and other future projects.

We believe a regional, holistic study is essential to determine if there are other, better ways to facilitate (or avoid) imports, with as many economic benefits and as little community and environmental damage as possible. The analysis should address much more than the least opposed route in Coös County. Investments in energy efficiency, reconfiguring the existing line through Vermont and New Hampshire, burial of lines in transportation rights of way, and adding capacity to the Hudson River project are among the alternatives that should be on the table. If any options have superior benefits and fewer impacts, it would be hard for DOE to certify that the proposed Northern Pass project is in the “public interest” and should be granted a permit to cross the international border.

Within a week of our motion for this regional assessment, Northern Pass’s PR machine flatly dismissed our request as a “delay tactic,” without once explaining why a regional study shouldn’t happen or mentioning that Northern Pass’s own blunders have been responsible for all delays to date. DOE itself has yet to respond, other than to state that it would not respond to individual motions during the permitting process.

The environmental review for Northern Pass hasn’t even gotten off the ground. DOE could and should prepare a comprehensive regional study now. Quebec has a plan; we should have one, too.

June 22, 2011

DOE Public Comment Period Extended Indefinitely

In response to suggestions from the Northern Pass applicants that a new route from Canada to New England for the proposed high voltage powerline and towers is likely to be presented, the Department of Energy has left open indefinitely the already extended public comment period that was to close June 14. Comments are being solicited from the public about what should be included in a required Environmental Impact Satement as part of the process for a Presidential Permit, which is required for the proposed powerlines to cross the international boundary.

As a reminder, here is how to submit comments:

You may mail, call, fax or email them to:

Brian Mills
Senior Planning Advisor
Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (OE-20)
U.S. Department of Energy
1000 Independence Ave. SW
Washington, DC 20585
Phone: 202-586-8267; FAX: 202-586-8008
Or you may email comments to:

Forest Society Submits Written Comments

In addition to the verbal testimony offered by President/Forester Jane Difley at the DOE scoping hearing in Pembroke, NH, in March, the Forest Society submitted written comments concerning the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement. Those comments can be read here.

June 10, 2011

WMUR: Mega-Utility Project Faces Many Hurdles

Given that Northeast Utilities CEO Charles Shivery stated in an earnings call for investors and industry analysts on May 6 that they "continue to expect to begin construction [of the Northern Pass transmission line] in 2013 and to complete it by the end of 2015", one wonders if Martin Murray's comments at the end of this recent WMUR Channel 9 story signals a realization that their timetable is unrealistic under the best of circumstances.

June 2, 2011

Senate Delays Action on Eminent Domain Bill

The NH Senate voted 14-10 today to re-refer HB648, the bill that attempts to clarify the constitutional protections against the use of eminent domain for private development and the standards that public utilities would need to meet in order to petition for the use of eminent domain for power transmission projects.

This was despite an admirable effort on the part of Sen. Jeannie Forrester (R-Meredith) to marshall support for an amendment to HB648 that could have provided landowner relief while minimizing concerns over unintended consequences.

While landowners facing the explicity threat of eminent domain by Northern Pass representatives were disappointed that the Senate did not provide them immediate relief, the debate over the use of eminent domain served to shine a bright light on process and questionable presumption by PSNH that eminent domain will be at their disposal for the proposed. Northern Pass project.

In fact, it would appear more evident than ever that Northern Pass, LLC, and its participant-funded proposal for a 180-mile transmission line would not have a clear path for the use of eminent domain thanks to Article 12a of the state contitution. As Sen. Jeb Bradley R-Wolfeboro) argued, the use of eminent domain by Northern Pass will be fought in the courts for a very long time regardless of the ultimate outcome of HB648. Bradley was among those who voted to re-refer the bill.

But to the extent that landowners should not have to empty their savings to protect their private property rights in the courts against a taking by a corporations such as Northeast Utilities (parent company of PSNH and partner with Hydro-Quebec in Northern Pass), the Senate would do well to follow through with their stated intent to take some time to find the right wording to clarify existing RSAs (notably 371:1) dealing with the use of eminent domain by public utilities.

An AP story by Kathy McCormack can be read here. An editorial on eminent domain and HB648 in the Union Leader can be read here. Paula Tracy's story in the Union Leader previewing the Senate debate on HB648 can be read here.

May 31, 2011

Will the NH State Senate Support NH Landowners?

The following joint letter from the Forest Society and the NH Timberland Owners Association was sent to each State Senator on May 27, 2011:

Dear Senator:

We write to ask you and your Senate colleagues to act next week on House Bill 648, a bill to provide relief to New Hampshire property owners inappropriately threatened by eminent domain.

By an 85% to 15% margin the voters in New Hampshire voted in November 2006 to adopt an amendment to the state constitution which reads (as Article 12-a):

No part of a person's property shall be taken by eminent domain and transferred, directly or indirectly, to another person if the taking is for the purpose of private development or other private use of the property.

The State Senate voted in the spring of 2006 to recommend this amendment to the voters by a vote of 24-0.

The idea that any private entity would threaten to use eminent domain in conflict with this amendment strikes at the very core of why New Hampshire voters adopted Article 12-a to our Constitution. This is why the House adopted HB 648 earlier this session by a vote of 317-51.

Members of our two organizations believe strongly that here in New Hampshire the private property rights of New Hampshire citizens must be defended against the inappropriate use of eminent domain. Each of our organizations has been working with private landowners for more than a century to assure that the stewardship of the State’s working forests is in good hands. These landowners expect us to stand up for their rights as property owners. We expect our elected officials to do the same.
Please join the strong majority of your House colleagues, and the strong majority of voters who established Article 12-a in voting to support HB 648.

Jasen Stock, Executive Director

New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association
54 Portsmouth Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 224-9699

Jane A. Difley, President/Forester

Society for the Protection of NH Forests
54 Portsmouth Street
Concord, NH 03301
(603) 224-9945

May 24, 2011

"It's not for sale, period.": WMUR Channel 9 Special Report

WMUR's Adam Sexton presents the Northern Pass controversy in a special report that can be viewed here. Colebrook landowner Roland Cotnoir is featured.

May 23, 2011

A Closer Look at the Existing HVDV Corridor

Reporter Michael Cousineau  of the Union Leader delves into the issues involved in the potential use of the HVDC transmission corridor running through Vermont and New Hampshire here. As Cousineau reports, "PSNH CEO and President Gary Long, in a recent interview, said routing the project partly through Vermont would increase the cost and “doubles the risk of approval” with two states then needing to approve the project."

May 20, 2011

Iminent Eminent Domain and HB648

The Senate Judiciary Committee held its hearing on HB648 on Thursday, May 19, a bill meant to reaffirm constitutional protection of landowners from the use of eminent domain by private companies for private purposes. The bill passed the House overwhelmingly in late March. For a recap of the hearing, read Garry Rayno's story in the Union Leader here.

Clearly many present in Representatives Hall on Thursday would have HB648 be a referendum vote on the relative merits--or significant lack thereof--of the Northern Pass proposal itself. And there can be little question that the Northern Pass transmission line proposal has put a spotlight on the inconsistencies between Article 12 of the state constitution and RSA 371:1. These inconsistencies have led us to this: Northeast Utilities, PSNH, and Hydro-Quebec clearly believe that current law will let them use eminent domain for Northern Pass despite the constitutional protections in Article 12; opponents of the Northern Pass proposal, including the Forest Society,  believe that in voting for a constitutional amendment in 2006, 85% of New Hampshire citizens made it clear that private projects for private gain, such as Northern Pass, should not have access to the government's power of eminent domain.

Therein lies the conundrum HB648 attempts to resolve. Among those who made the most compelling case for the need and urgency of passing HB648 was Bob Baker, an attorney who lives in Columbia, NH, and represents 27 landowners who have already been impacted negatively by the Northern Pass proposal.

"The property owners have suddenly found that they can neither sell their properties for fair market value; nor get lenders interested in financing them or re-financing existing mortgages,"  Baker testified. "They have all, to a person, put a hold on further development and renovation of their properties. They all want to know more about their future and the prospects for keeping their land without it being taken by the state’s power of eminent domain for a private transmission line that none of them want—indeed that they believe will destroy the very reason for their ownership of their properties in the first place."

Furthermore, Baker argued, because of the extended timeline of the Northern Pass permitting process and the explicit use by Northern Pass representatives of the threat of eminent domain, the "taking" of property value has in fact already occurred. HB648, and a clear statement that eminent domain should not be used for a private proposal like Northern Pass, is the only way to restore the rights of those impacted landowners.

Northern Pass Media Roundup

Some recent coverage and published opinion surrounding the Northern Pass issue:

Read a fiery op-ed from former State Senator Jim Rubens here.

NBA player, New Hampshire native Matt Bonner voices his opinion on Northern Pass here.

John Harrigan opposes the use of eminent domain for Northern Pass here.

The Montreal Gazette begins to cover the Northern Pass controversy here.

Concord-based AP reporter Kathy McCormack's coverage of the State Senate hearing on HB648 can be read on here.

May 11, 2011

State Senate to Take Up Property Rights Bill May 19

The State Senate will hold a hearing on HB648, a bill that would require utilities to prove a proposed transmission project is necessary before using eminent domain to force landowners to sell their land or grant a corridor easement. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at 1:15 in Representatives Hall at the Statehouse in Concord.

Recognizing the deeply rooted New Hampshire respect for individual property rights, the NH House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (317-51) in favor of HB648 in late March. The bill prevents the use of eminent domain for energy transmission facilities where no documented public need or benefit has been established, and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Rappoport (R-Colebrook), HB 648 proposes to amend RSA 371:1, which already prohibits the use of eminent domain by a public utility for the construction of an electric generating plant, to expand that prohibition to a “transmission facility, so long as the transmission facility is not needed for system reliability.”

Rappoport has said that from his standpoint the bill is not about Northern Pass but about protecting property rights and making RSA 371:1 consistent with the New Hampshire Bill of Rights. Article 12 of the constitution was amended in 2006 to read "No part of a person's property shall be taken by eminent domain and transferred, directly or indirectly, to another person if the taking is for the purpose of private development or other private use of the property." That amendment passed the Senate 24-0 in 2006 before being approved by voters 85%-15%.

For those planning on attending the hearing, these guidelines for submitting testimony may be helpful. Written testimony can be submitted via email by sending to Susan Duncan ( sure to request that your testimony be made part of the record relative to HB 648.

May 8, 2011

Hands Across the Border

Awareness by Canadians--and the Canadian media--of the widespread opposition to the Northern Pass transmission line has been growing. Americans reached out to their Quebecois neighbors on Saturday May 7 at an event billed as Hands Across the Border. Watch video coverage courtesy of the Colebrook Chronicle here.

The Impact on Tourism

Concord Monitor reporter Tara Ballenger visits the town of Lincoln, NH, where local business people express their concern over the impact of the proposed Northern Pass transmission towers on the tourism trade. Read the story here.

May 6, 2011

Concord Chamber Forum on Northern Pass

Suffice it to say that the Forest Society and PSNH, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, have different points of view on the relative merit, impact and real public benefit of the proposed Northern Pass transmission line. PSNH CEO Gary Long and Forest Society VP of Policy/Land Management Will Abbott presented those differing views at a forum hosted by the Concord Chamber of Commerce on May 5. Read Ben Leubsdorf's coverage of the forum in the Concord Monitor here. Read the Forest Society's presentation by Will Abbott here.

April 12, 2011

Forest Society Responds to Northern Pass

In response to comments submitted by Northern Pass to the Dept. of Energy today, The Forest Society is renewing its call for Northeast Utilities, PSNH, N-Star and Hydro-Quebec to withdraw their Presidential Permit application.

"These latest comments reinforce the fact that this proposal is not ready for the Permitting Process and needs to go back to the drawing board," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. "This latest filing also underlines the reality that there is little, if any, public benefit in the proposal and is designed to benefit Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec."

Northern Pass acknowedged that certain of their alternative routes "are so lacking in public support that they should no longer be deemed practical alternatives," and consequently withdrew their support of those alternatives.

"Unfortunately, they seem to only be able to hear out of one ear," said Jack Savage, VP Communications. "We have maintained that their preferred route is also lacking in meaningful public support. For that reason, as well as the many other substantive problems with the proposal, Northern Pass should start over."

In its 13-page legal brief, Northern Pass maintains:

1. That its Presidential Permit is complete, and that it has no obligation to describe alternatives that do not "serve the purposes for the Project."
2. That a post-scoping public comment period, as requested by several organizations including the Forest Society,  is "unwarranted."
3. That burying the proposed transmission line is "not practical" and "would have a prohibitive cost."
4. That placing the proposed transmission line underwater is "not a reasonable alternative".
5. That using the Champlain Hudson Power Express (CHPEI) line because "it would not meet the Project's purpose."
6. That it only wants to consider its preferred route and no longer supports certain alternative routes because "several of the alternatives...are so lacking in public support that they should no longer be deemed practical alternatives."
7. That it supports an extension of the scoping period (as previously requested by the Sen. Shaheen, Sen. Ayotte, and Congressman Bass,) in order to "pursue the identification of different potential routing options for portions of the preferred route", particularly in the North Country.

Paula Tracy has a good follow-up on reaction in the print-only edition of the Union Leader. Kathy McCormack's AP story can be read here. Read Tara Ballenger's story based on PSNH's announcement can be read in the Concord Monitor here.

April 11, 2011

Yesterday's Technology for Tomorrow's Needs

Rebecca Brown, executive director of the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT), penned this op-ed that appeared in today's Concord Monitor. The ACT is a land trust that focuses its work on the western White Mountains (Littleton, Whitefield, Franconia and nearby towns), taking its name from the Ammonoosuc River. The Northern Pass power line corridor and associated towers would cut through ACT's area.

April 10, 2011

Hydro-Quebec's Dirty Secret

For an interesting point of view on the environmental impact of Hydro-Quebec's massive hydropower installations, read this article by William Marsden that ran in the Montreal Gazette April 9.

April 8, 2011

Ayotte, Bass Oppose Northern Pass as Proposed

Senator Kelly Ayotte and Congressman Charlie Bass wrote in a letter to the Dept. of Energy that they oppose the Northern Pass project as proposed.

"While we appreciate your consideration of our request to extend the comment period, we are also writing to oppose the Northern Pass Transmission Project as currently proposed. Although we recognize the potential benefits that a project of this scale could have on New Hampshire and the New England region, it is vital that we protect our state’s economy, natural resources, and quality of life." The full text of their joint letter can be read here.

In a letter to Energy Secretary Steven Chu, Ayotte and Bass encouraged the Department of Energy (DOE) to study alternative options as it prepares a draft Environmental Impact Statement, including: the feasibility of burying the transmission line; the feasibility of burying the transmission line under the Connecticut River; and the relative impact of using only existing rights-of-way, or other appropriate routes, while also eliminating or minimizing the use of tall towers.

Read about it in the Concord Monitor here.

April 7, 2011

Shaheen, Ayotte, Bass Ask DOE for Comment Deadline Extension

Senators Shaheen and Ayotte, along with Congressman Bass, sent a letter to Secretary of Energy Steven Chu requesting that the Dept. of Energy extend the deadline for comments on the scope of the Environmental Impact Study until April 30, 2011. The current deadline is April 12. As reported by Chris Jensen on NHPR here, the Delegation felt some New Hampshire communities (such as Deerfield) were just now finding out about the Northern Pass project.

April 6, 2011

The View from Deerfield

Deerfield residents turned out in force to discuss how the Northern Pass power line proposal will impact their town, where the preferred route follows existing AC transmission corridor. The meeting was organized by local residents who are more than a little concerned. As power company representatives themselves have pointed out, in "the existing ROW between Franklin and Deerfield, the most common structure height would be taller, around 110 feet, due to the height and configuration of the existing lines." That is to say, taller on average than any where else along the 180-mile route.

Some residents were also surprised to learn that an alternative route would clear all new corridor-essentially a second corridor--through Chichester, Loudon, Pittsfield, Epsom, Northwood and Deerfield.

State Senator Jack Barnes was on hand, and spoke to the crowd, several of whom urged him to support HB648, which would make it more difficult for Northeast Utilities, PSNH, N-Star and Hydro-Quebec to use eminent domain to take private property for their Northern Pass project. At least two State Representatives attended, as well as local selectmen.

As has frequently been the case, residents expressed frustration over a lack of communication from Northern Pass officials and downright anger over the permitting process, which seems to favor the applicant to the detriment of community and individual rights. Northern Pass was invited to attend the meeting, but declined.

You can read Tara Ballenger's coverage of the meeting in the Concord Monitor is here. Dan O'Brien's story in the Union Leader can be read here.

April 5, 2011

Trade Deficit

So here's a proposal for you: We in New Hampshire allow a crown corporation of Canada to spent more than a billion dollars ripping a scar across our landscape and building more than 1,000 towers across 180 miles in 44 towns. In exchange, New England electricy users send all their money to Quebec.

One wonders whether Gov. John Lynch will be arranging other such business arrangements during his trade mission to Canada later this week--a trade mission that would appear to be sponsored in part by PSNH. For just under $2,000 you can join the Governor--see the flyer here.

April 4, 2011

Thanks, But No Thanks

The Canadians are starting to figure out that their New Hampshire neighbors are less than enthusiastic about the extension cord they'd like to run to southern New England---this Montreal Gazette article makes interesting reading here.

Dear DOE

The Forest Society was among six organizations that sent a letter to the Dept. of Energy last week formally asking them to do at least two critically important things. First, to issue a report identifying the alternatives and impacts to be studied in the required Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) and to provide for public review and comment on that report BEFORE commissioning the EIS. Second, to issue a written decision on the various formal comments regarding the incompleteness of Northern Pass's Presidential Permit application. Read Paula Tracy's story about the letter in the Union Leader here.

March 30, 2011

House Rules: Eminent Domain Bill Wins 86% of Vote

A 'crushing defeat' for Northern Pass is what more than one legislator called the 317-51 House of Representatives vote in favor of HB648--the bill meant to curtail the use of eminent domain for private commercial power transmission projects like Northern pass. It is good news for the overwhelming number of people against the Northern Pass proposal, and the House should be commended for recognizing the fundamental injustice of using the government's power of eminent domain for a private commercial venture. The only way to get over 300 votes in a 400-seat legislature is to have support from all over the state. Coos County sends only 11 legislators to Concord--Grafton County only 26.  Further evidence that the opposition to the Northern Pass proposal is not only deep, but wide.

But the bill must still go through the Senate. Should it survive Senate, it may not be a welcome guest in the Governor's office. Read the Forest Society's press release regarding the House vote here. Paula Tracy's story in the Union Leader can be read here.

Oh Canada!

Opposition to Northern Pass is not limited to the U.S. side of the border, as described here in the Sherbrooke Record. It's worth remembering that even in Quebec, whose citizens perhaps stand to benefit economically from Hydro-Quebec selling power to the New England market, there are considerable concerns--over the negative impact to their landscape as well as the reliability of their own electric supply.

March 28, 2011

Burton Calls for Northern Pass Withdrawal

Executive Councilor Ray Burton made good on his promise to send an open letter asking that the Northern Pass proposal be denied a Presidential Permit. In a letter to the Dept. of Energy, Gary Long of PSNH, Hydro-Quebec and Tom Wagner of the White Mountain National Forest (where the proposed expanded corridor would need a Special Use Permit), Burton wrote "It is time for Hydro officials Brousseau and Vandal, and PSNH officials to fold their tent and this project and go home! And for PSNH to buy local electrical power!" Burton also invited Gov. John Lynch and the Congresssional Delegation (Shaheen, Ayotte, Bass and Guinta) to join him in opposing the project.

Burton has been a vocal advocate for the local woodburning energy plants, noting that bringing in cheap foreign electricity would likely put them out of business.

March 27, 2011

The Incredible Shrinking Towers

Northern Pass would like New Hampshire residents to think that the view of the proposed towers won't be all that bad, and have been putting out scaled drawing as those seen in a story in the NH Sunday News by Paula Tracy and Sara Young-Knox that you can read here.

But it would seem that potential real estate buyers would beg to disagree, as the market for any property with a potential view of the towers has disappeared since the Northern Pass proposal gained notoriety last fall. Even property owners in Franklin, where city officials like the tax benefits that the project would bring, are concerned about the falling values of their properties.

The DOE hearing in Haverhill, NH, was of particular interest because they know exactly what living near towers and HVDC lines is like thanks to the existing National Grid line. Note that not one person spoke in favor of Northern Pass in Haverhill.

Watch going forward as Northern Pass attempts to not only minimize the impact of the proposed towners, but tries to marginalize the public opposition.

March 25, 2011


Power Companies Should Listen to the Public, Go Back to the Drawing Board

Concord, NH, March 25—Using full-page ads in newspapers around the state, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (Forest Society) is calling for the chief executive officers of the power companies involved in the unpopular Northern Pass power line proposal to voluntarily withdraw the project from consideration due to the overwhelming public opposition.

“On behalf of the thousands who stand in firm opposition, we are respectfully asking the CEOs of Northeast Utilities, PSNH, NStar and Hydro-Quebec to voluntarily reconsider their Northern Pass proposal, “ said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society.

In addition to the advertisements calling for withdrawal, the Forest Society is sending letters directly to the CEOs asking them to listen to the will of the New Hampshire people.

“We believe that public opinion is a pass-fail ingredient of determining the ‘public interest’ of a proposal like this,” Difley said. “This should be especially true for a merchant project like Northern Pass, a private commercial development that is not based on market demand nor for system reliability.

“After the Dept. of Energy (DOE) hearings last week, it’s clear to anyone willing to listen that the project as proposed is not wanted by an overwhelming majority,” said Difley. “The responsible thing to do is withdraw Northern Pass from the permitting process and go back to the drawing board.”

Seven DOE hearings were held March 14-20 to get public input on the scope of an Environmental Impact Study that would evaluate the environmental, economic and social impact of 180 miles of power line corridor running from Hydro-Quebec in Canada through New Hampshire to deliver electricity to southern New England. The proposed project includes 140 miles of high voltage direct current (HVDC) from the Canadian border in Pittsburg, NH, to Franklin, NH, and from there 40 miles of AC corridor to a substation in Deerfield, NH.

“Planting more than 1,000 towers up to 135 feet high across the New Hampshire landscape is not a reasonable alternative,” Difley said. “The Forest Society has a legal and ethical obligation to defend conservation lands from this kind of commercial development, and a long history of protecting the New Hampshire landscape.

“Common sense suggests that the time and money required for Northern Pass to overcome the will of the people would be better spent building consensus around solutions to our energy needs that are compatible with New Hampshire values as articulated by the thousands who have spoken out in opposition to this proposal,” said Difley.

Speakers at the DOE hearings voiced their strong objections to the loss of property values, impact on local energy generation, environmental damage, potential health issues, and unfair use of eminent domain, among other detrimental effects of the project as proposed.

At Town Meeting this month, 29 towns voted to oppose Northern Pass, more than half voting unanimously. Legislative hearings on bills related to the proposal, including the controversial use of eminent domain, have drawn hundreds of people opposing Northern Pass. Earlier this week more than 2,600 letters asking Governor Lynch to oppose the project were delivered to his office. The Forest Society has also been collecting the names of thousands who don’t wish the project to go forward as proposed.

March 24, 2011

Seven Hearings: Was Anybody Listening?

Existing HVDC lines in Haverhill, NH.
More than 2,500 people attended seven hearings held by the Department of Energy (DOE) on seven consecutive days in March in seven different New Hampshire towns. The DOE's goal was to hear public input on what should be included in the Environmental Impact Study that would evaluate the environmental, economic and social impacts of the proposed Northern Pass HVDC power line.

More than 300 people spoke at those hearings. More than 95 percent of those spoke in opposition to Northern Pass. It was evident from the buttons, signs and symbolic hunter-orange clothing that virtually all who attended--outside of the Northern Pass representatives themselves--were in opposition to the proposed power line and towers.

While the arguments against the power line were varied and often emotional, they reflected a strong attachment to the landscape. But not just as a scenic backdrop--though the notion of scarring our hillsides found no friends outside of Franklin--but as a way of life.

Speaker after speaker took his or her three minutes at the podium in the hopes that the DOE might understand what the Northern Pass applicants have not: that the opposition to 180 miles of power line is not just about the view, nor just about a home. All along the proposed routes homeowners don't just just live on the land, the land provides their livelihood. And for many, it has done so thanks to the backbreaking work of many generations. Offering someone a job--a temporary job at that--to replace a chosen lifestyle as if that were somehow equivalent is an insult like no other.

Dairy farmer John Amey of Pittsburg perhaps best summed up the many emotional appeals to the DOE to reject the Northern Pass Presidential Permit: "There is no way landowners can be adequately compensated for the loss of a way of life."

In Franklin, where a 25-acre facility would be built to convert the HVCD current to AC before sending it on to Deerfield, a few people connected to city hall spoke of their need for the resulting tax revenue. Nearly as many Franklin residents spoke against the proposal, fearing the drop in property values on and near the facility and lamenting how it might brand Franklin forever as an undesirable community in which to live.

In Haverhill, where the last of the hearings was held, those who live in the area already know about living under, near, and in sight of an existing HVDC National Grid line running from Canada to Massachusetts. Their up-close experience only cemented their opposition to a proposed alternate route that would run through Haverhill and surrounding towns should Northern Pass fail to acquire a special use permit to go through the White Mountain National Forest. Even the option of using that existing corridor for additional DC lines got poor reviews, with testimony about the noise of the lines in wet weather.

It was in Haverhill that Tom Thomson threw down the political gauntlet for 2012, advising every candidate for local, state and federal office--including those coming for the Presidential Primary--to "do their homework on this issue."  It should be noted that Sen. Kelly Ayotte appeared in person in Haverhill, as did Congressman Charlie Bass, as well state rep Rick Ladd and others. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen had a representative at every hearing.  Executive Councilor Ray Burton was omni-present and in opposition. The most visibly absent award went to Governor John Lynch, who had a representative at one meeting but was otherwise unseen.

Sam Cataldo and Jackie Calli-Pitts, two state reps with seats on the Science, Technology and Energy Committee, both made the trip to fellow Committee-member Rep. Larry Rappoport's home district of Colebrook for the hearing there in anticipation of further discussion about HB648 regarding the use of eminent domain. Other state reps and many local officials attended hearings and spoke in opposition at each of the hearings as well.
The DOE representatives, who were exceedingly polite, respectful, and attentive throughout their hearings, are now back in Washington, D.C. They will continue to accept comments on the scope of the EIS through April 12. They will then sift through all comments, and based on those (presumably) determine exactly what will be studied as part of that EIS. The draft EIS is not expected to be presented for at least a year.

Perhaps the biggest issue of in all this is to what extent public opinion matters. Although New Hampshire residents and landowners, seeing little or no public benefit to the proposed project, clearly have said 'Nay' to Northern Pass, there is in fact no vote.  Will the process take into consideration that public outcry? Do the Presidential Permit and state Site Evaluation Committee processes that Northern Pass must go through even consider overwhelming public opposition as clear evidence of a lack of public benefit?

As with many questions surrounding Northern Pass, that one, too, remains unanswered.

March 23, 2011

Gov. Lynch Gets 2600 New Pen Pals

It is increasingly clear--at least to anyone who chooses to listen--that the people of New Hampshire are not in favor of the Northern Pass proposal. More than two dozen towns have voted to opposed the power line project and the recent week of DOE scoping hearings drew more than 2500 people who were overwhelmingly opposed. Gov. John Lynch has been quoted as saying that if the communities of New Hampshire don't want the project, then he won't support it.

Many individuals have been writing to the Governor to express their oppostion. On Tuesday, Pam and Peter Martin of Plymouth came to Concord to deliver the more than 2600 letters they have collected to the Governor in the hopes that he will listen to his constituents and come to their aid. You can read the Martin's press release here.

For more about the grass roots opposition to Northern Pass, listen to Chris Jensen's piece on NHPR here.

You can email the Governor here. You can write the Governor at this address: Office of the Governor,
State House, 107 North Main Street , Concord, NH 03301.

Or maybe just pick up the phone and give him a call: (603)271-2121

Second Chance on Eminent Domain Bill

The good news about HB648, a bill relative to the use of eminent domain, is that the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee voted Ought to Pass (OTP) on Tuesday after long discussion and an amendment to the original wording as proposed by primary sponsor Rep. Larry Rappoport (R-Colebrook). The committee had previously voted to retain the bill (hold for future study), and by voting the new version of the bill OTP it will have a chance to be acted on this legislative session.

Much of the discussion surrounded the key issues that surround the eminent domain issue. When should the power to take an individual's property be used and by whom? Assuming the answer to that question lies in the greater public benefit of a proposed project, who decides whether that public benefit in fact exists, how is "public" defined, and could purported regional needs trump the constitutional rights of New Hampshire citizens? What role might the federal government play should a state like New Hampshire preclude the use of eminent domain for a project like Northern Pass?

There will be more discussion. The Committee should be commended for taking seriously the concerns of citizens over the use of eminent domain by Northern Pass. The bill as voted on would not stop Northern Pass, however.

March 21, 2011

A Village Fears for Its Future

Katie Beth Ryan's story in the Valley News about some of the impacts of one of the alternate routes of the Northern Pass in the Upper Valley can be read here.

March 20, 2011

"No Right Way to Do the Wrong Thing"

Whatever Brian Mills and his fellow representatives from the Dept. of Energy think about the proposed Northern Pass project after a week of scoping hearings, they won't return to Washington, D.C. without a clear understanding about how the overwhelming majority of people in New Hampshire feel about it. As Colebrook's Samuel Bird said, "There is no right way to do the wrong thing."

Some 250 people showed up for Saturday afternoon's hearing in Colebrook, bringing the total attendance for six hearings (a seventh is being held in Haverhill, NH, today) to well over 2,000. Few have spoken in favor of the propsed power lines and towers, and the Colebrook contingent was no different.  If anything, the hearings have made New Hampshire people more upset, not less.

Dairy farmer John Amey of Pittsburg perhaps best summed up the many emotional appeals to the DOE to reject the Northern Pass Presidential Permit: "There is no way landowners can be adequately compensated for the loss of a way of life."

Speaker after speaker took their three minutes at the podium in the hopes that the DOE might understand what the applicants have not: the opposition to 140 miles of DC powerline is not just about the view, nor just about a home. All along the proposed routes homeowners don't just just live on the land, the land provides their livelihood. And for many, it has done so thanks to the backbreaking work of many generations. Offering someone a job--a part-time temporary job at that-- to replace a chosen lifestyle as if that were somehow equivalent is an insult like no other. As Bill Schaumburg of Columbia said, "What part of no don't they understand?"

Third-generation farmer Haven Haynes, Jr., of Colebrook made the excellent point that in a place like the North Country the farms, woodlots and sugarbushes the power lines would devastate are not just homes, but they are family businesses that would be put out of business.

Daryl Burtnett of the New Hampshire Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, which stewards the Vickie Bunnell Preserve in Colebrook, made the key point that what we know as the Northern Forest of New Hampshire, Maine, Vermont and upstate New York is "a globally important forest," noting that this is why The Nature Conservancy, as a worldwide conservation organization, is directing their resources to helping protect it." Observing that TNC has "yet to see any compelling need" for the proposed power line, Burnett urged the DOE to choose the 'no-action' alternative.

Yvonne Nanasi, representing the New Hampshire Preservation Alliance and the National Trust for Preservation, offered offered important testimony on the need to study the impact on significant historial and cultural resources that the proposed power lines would impact. She called for the identification of historical resources to be 'comprehensive and complete', and such a survey needed to include 'the area for at least one-half mile on either side of the proposed routes and those within sight of the powerline.

Sara Young-Knox covered the hearing for the Union Leader's Sunday print-only edition.

March 19, 2011

Plymouth Rocks

Another packed house at the Silver Center for the Arts, hundreds more urging the Dept. of Energy to study the true economic, environmental and social cost of the Northern Pass proposal. Read John Koziol's story in the Citzen of Laconia here.

March 17, 2011

The Lincoln Log: DOE EIS Hearing #3

It was standing room only at Loon Mountain in Lincoln as some 200 people packed the Hancock Room for the third Dept. of Energy hearing regarding the scope of the Environmental Impact Study that will be conducted as part of Northern Pass application for a Presidential Permit. No one spoke in favor of the proposed power line and towers that, if built, would carry electricity from Hydro-Quebec through New Hampshire to southern New England.

Given the location of the hearing Lincoln, a key center for tourism and recreation associated with the White Mountain National Forest, many of the comments asked the DOE to include in the EIS a study of the impact of the proposed towers on property values and the tourism economy.

Of particular importance were comments made by Ken Kimball representing the Appalachian Mountain Club. Among the points he made was the AMC's contention that the application for the Presidential Permit is incomplete and should not have proceeded to the EIS stage. He noted that any proposed mitigation for negative impacts is absent in the application.

"With zero substantive environmental or mitigation information in the Application, though it exists, the public is strongly disadvantaged in this EIS scoping process," Kimball said.

 He also urged the DOE to include in the EIS descriptions of the negative impacts the Hydro-Quebec power generation given that the applicant is relying on the purported positive benefits as a reason to go forward with the permit. Read AMC's full statement here.

More than one speaker noted that the large scale hydro facilities that would be generating the power to be transmitted via the Northern Pass towers would not be permitted in the U.S. due to their negative impacts.

The high point of the many emotional pleas for the DOE to withhold the Presidential Permit came when Katie Rose used her three minutes to sing "Live Free or Die," her 'Northern Pass opposition song,' which can be heard here.

Executive Councilor Ray Burton, who has made his opposition clear for several months, reiterated his strong stand against the proposal and said he would be calling on PSNH and Northeast Utilities to "fold up their tents and go home." Hear Chris Jensen's report on NHPR.

March 16, 2011

More Ethical Questions

Within days of asking the Dept. of Energy to change environmental consultants because of conflict of interest concerns, the Northern Pass team created more problems for themselves when lobbyist Donna Gamache was found to be texting a member of the Science, Technology, and Energy Committee during the hearing on HB 648/9 related to the use of eminent domain. Read John Gregg's story in the Valley News here.

Division of the House in Franklin

The surprise at the DOE hearing held in Franklin was not that local public officials spoke in favor of the Northern Pass proposal, but rather the extent to which the crowd at the historic Franklin Opera House was divided. Native son Daniel Webster likely would have been proud of the public debate (and unlikely to limit himself to the allotted three minutes the DOE allows each speaker).
Tara Ballenger's story in the Concord Monitor can be read here. In the Laconia Evening Citizen, Bea Lewis' recounting of the hearing can be read here.

If the Northern Pass project were built as proposed, Franklin would host the facility where the DC power would be converted to AC before traveling on to Deerfield for dispersion into the grid to serve southern New England. The Franklin City Council members have been vocal proponents of the tax revenue the project would bring to the city, and they outlined their arguments as expected. Other Franklin residents voice their opposition, questioning who will want to live near the proposed facility, lamenting how it will 'brand' Franklin as a undesireable community, and suggesting that no other more positive development would occur if the facility and power lines were built.

It's a fascinating debate over community values. Will lower taxes thanks to undesireable development lead to community growth? Or will creating a more desireable community (as a small riverfront city in the Lakes Region with good access to I-93, Franklin has tremendous potential) lead to sustainable growth and a vibrant population?

Here's a likely scenario: should the project get built as proposed, those people who ultimately get the few permanent jobs that Franklin city officials covet today will end up paying their own property taxes in the surrounding communities, where they will choose to live. But they will buy a quart of milk in Franklin on their way home.

March 15, 2011

Popular Opposition to Northern Towers Evident at DOE Hearing

More than 350 people traveled from Deerfield to Pittsburg to attend the first Dept. of Energy scoping hearing held in Pembroke on March 14. The representatives of Northern Pass were on hand to hear the 60 people who spoke--all but two of them spoke out against the proposed power line. The purpose of the hearings is to offer input to the DOE on what should be included in the Environmental Impact Statement they will commission to evaluate the environmental, economic and social impacts of the power line development if it were built.

"We urge you, in evaluating the ecological, economic and social impacts of this proposal, to envision and rigorously analyze a broad range of alternatives, among them the “no action” alternative," said Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. "As a nation we should adhere to the tenet of medicine and 'First, do no harm'.

A recording of Difley's comments can be heard here thanks to WTPL 107.7 The Pulse.

"There has been a suggestion that the opposition to this project as proposed is simply a NIMBY, or “not in my backyard” reaction to visual blight and ecological harm," Difley said. "It is unfortunate that the proponents of Northern Pass do not consider 180 miles of New Hampshire part of their own back yard. We do. In fact, the Weeks Act was signed 100 years ago this month to establish the eastern National Forests—most notably the White Mountain National Forest—in large part because the nation recognized that our forested landscape was its back yard, and that protecting our timber, water, wildlife and tourism resource was paramount. We believe this is more true today, not less."

You can read Difley's complete comments here. Read Tara Ballenger's coverage of the hearing in the Concord Monitor here. WMUR Channel 9 coverage can be found here. Dan O'Brien's story in the Union Leader can be read here.

March 11, 2011

Northern Pass Losing Big at Town Meetings: 23 Say No So Far

The Northern Pass proposed tower and power line proposal is being discussed at a number of Town Meetings this March, and the early results indicated that few, if any, residents support it. Results are now in from twenty of the towns--all voted to oppose Northern Pass, in most cases unanimously.  (Holderness voters were unanimous Wednesday night: 180-0.) The list so far also includes Bath, Bethlehem, Bridgewater, Campton, Clarksville, Colebrook, Columbia, Dalton, Easton, Haverhill, Jefferson, Lancaster, Landaff, Littleton, Northumberland, Orford, Pittsburg, Stewartstown, Stratford, Sugar Hill, Wentworth, and Woodstock.

Governor Lynch has been quoted as saying that he would not support the proposal if the communities don't want it. Let's hope he's listening.

Eminent Domain Still a Key Issue

The Science, Technology and Energy committee voted to retain HB 648--pertaining to the use of eminent domain for projects like Northern Pass--rather than send it on to the legislature for a vote. (See Gary Rayno's story in the Union Leader here.) The hundreds of Northern Pass opponents who showed up at the Statehouse on Wednesday in support of the bill and the thousands of others who share their opinions are understandably wondering why elected officials continue to ignore the overwhelming public sentiment against the Northern Pass proposal. However, legislative politics work in funny ways and there's reason to think that the legislature may take up the important issues aired thanks to yesterday's committee hearing. Stay tuned.

March 10, 2011

Cart Before the Horse for Eminent Domain

Whatever the legislative outcome of HB648, the bill that would restrict the use of taking of land through eminent domain for the purpose of a private, large-scale transmission line, yesterday's committee hearing served to air important legal and constitutional issues surrounding the Northern Pass proposal. More than 150 landowners and others opposed to Northern Pass showed up to express their support for the bill.

Issue #1: Jim Dannis of Dalton summarized one of the most troubling issues, pointing out that because Northern Pass is a commercially funded proposal (not in the rate base of the public utility), it has essentially sidestepped a crucial part of the process--the determination of public benefit or need great enough to warrant the use of eminent domain. The private nature of the proposal is reinforced by the fact that the transmission line would be for the sole use of Hydro-Quebec and its client, Northern Pass. "In other states," Dannis testified, "the process of determining need comes at the front of the process. [With Northern Pass] we are left to twist in the wind for years as a result of the process here." Dannis argued that HB648 fixes that problem and "puts into legislation what is in the constitution."

Issue #2: Which brings us to a second big issue. As Bob Baker of Columbia pointed out, the Northern Pass proposal would almost certainly be challenged on consitutional grounds on the basis of Article 12-a in the New Hampshire Bill of Rights.
[Art.] 12-a. [Power to Take Property Limited.] No part of a person's property shall be taken by eminent domain and transferred, directly or indirectly, to another person if the taking is for the purpose of private development or other private use of the property.

It would seem that at the very least Northern Pass as proposed is facing years of litigation regardless of the outcome of its Presidential Permit and state Site Evaluation Committee. As landowners pointed out, the mere spectre of this proposal has dropped property values in towns along the proposed 180-mile corridor and brought real estate transactions to a virtual halt.

You can read a fair summary of the hearing by Paula Tracy in the Union Leader here. Kathy McCormack's Associated Press story ran in the Concord Monitor.

The bill is sponsored by Colebrook Rep. Larry Rappoport, among others, and is coming out of the Science, Technology and Energy Committee.

March 8, 2011

DOE Scoping Hearing Schedule

There are now seven scheduled Department of Energy Environmental Impact Statement Public Scoping hearings, with the first scheduled for Monday, March 14 in Pembroke. Note that the meeting place for the Plymouth hearing on Friday March 18 has been changed from a previous announced location.

The Forest Society will be attending all hearings. We have registered to speak at the first hearing in Pembroke.

Here's the DOE's description of the purpose of these hearings:
Members of the public are invited to attend to obtain information about the proposed project and make comments. DOE and project personnel will be available for informal discussions. Information on this project can be obtained from DOE's website related to the project at For further information about these public hearings or the EIS process, please contact Brian Mills at (202) 586-8267 or by e-mail at

Northern Pass Transmission Scoping Meetings
Pembroke, NH
Pembroke Academy cafeteria
209 Academy Road
Pembroke, NH 03275
Monday, March 14, 6-9 pm

Franklin, NH
Franklin Opera House
316 Central Street
Franklin, NH 03235
Tuesday, March 15, 6-9 pm

Lincoln, NH
The Mountain Club on Loon, Hancock Room
90 Loon Mountain Road
Lincoln, NH 03251
Wednesday, March 16, 6-9 pm

Whitefield, NH
Mountain View Grand Hotel and Resort, Presidential Room
101 Mount View Road
Whitefield, NH 03598
Thursday, March 17, 6-9 pm

Plymouth, NH
Plymouth State University,
Silver Center for the Arts
114 Main St.
Plymouth, NH
Friday, March 18, 6-9 pm

Colebrook, NH
Colebrook Elementary School
27 Dumont Street
Colebrook, NH 03576
Saturday, March 19, 1-4 pm

Haverhill, NH
Haverhill Cooperative Middle School
175 Morrill Drive
North Haverhill, NH
Sunday, March 20, 1-4 pm

March 7, 2011

Trees Not Towers: Why the Northern Pass proposal is Bad for New Hampshire

President/Forester Jane Difley's op-ed about why the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has concluded that the proposal from Hydro-Quebec and Northeast Utilities provides little or no benefit for the people of New Hampshire while causing unecessary harm can be read here. If you'd like to read Gary Long's defense of the tradeoffs involved in the proposal (Long is President/COO of PSNH, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities), you can do so here. It's also interesting to read the public comments that follow each op-ed--clearly Mr. Long is not yet making a convincing case.

March 2, 2011

Landowner Feels Harrassed by Northern Pass

According to a Lorna Colquhoun  in this week's Colebrook News & Sentinel Dr. Margaret K. Jones, a Massachusetts dentist and seasonal resident of Stratford for more than a decade, filed for the protective order in Coös County Superior Court in mid-January. The petition names Phil Stearns of Caron's Gateway Real Estate in Groveton and the Massachusetts-based engineering firm, Coler & Colontonio. Mr. Stearns works for the engineering firm on the Northern Pass project.

UPDATE: Margaret Jones attempt to get a restraining order against Northern Pass representatives was rebuffed by the court, as reported in the Union Leader here.

February 28, 2011

Landowners Should Be Able to Say No to Northern Pass

This story in the Union Leader by Paula Tracy begins to tell the many stories of individual landowners who would be directly and negatively impacted by the proposed Northern Pass towers and power lines. And as many landowers will tell you, even the mere proposal has dropped property values and stymied real estate sales.

February 27, 2011

Additional DOE Scoping Hearing Scheduled

The Department of Energy will hold an additional "scoping" meeting on March 18, from 6 - 9 p.m. at the Plymouth Regional Senior Center, 8 Depot Street, in Plymouth. U.S. Senators now seem to be engaged in the Northern Pass issue. See the press release from Sen. Shaheen here. The DOE list of all six public hearings can be found here.

Shaheen Urges Transparency and Fairness in Northern Pass Proposal

The Northern Pass debacle has reached the ears of U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen. In a meeting with the many opponents of the proposed Northern Pass tower and powerline proposal, Sen. Shaheen said that it's her goal "to make sure the process ... is transparent and fair." Read Union Leader reporter Lorna Colquhoun's story here.

February 24, 2011

EIS Conflict of Interest Still Unresolved

The Dept. of Energy apparently has not figured out how to deal with the issue of the conflict of interest inherent in assigning a Northern Pass contractor to work on it's own Environmental Impact Statement for ...Northern Pass. Read the latest story by Tara Ballenger of the Concord Monitor here.

February 17, 2011

Northern Pass Scoping Hearings Scheduled for March

Town meetings will be just a warm-up for those citizens looking to offer public input on the scope of the Environmental Impact Statement that must be prepared as part of the process for Northern Pass to acquire (if that's possible at this point) a needed Presidential Permit to cross the Canadian Border with new proposed HVDC lines and associated towers. Scoping hearings have been scheduled by the US Dept. of Energy as noted here

DOE's EIS Process Under Fire

The Dept. of Energy is being pressured to reconsider it's process for selecting the firm tagged to conduct the all-important Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Northern Pass project, as reported by NHPR's Chris Jensen here. Tara Ballenger of the Concord Monitor also reports the story well here

Northern Border War

The Forest Society's Washburn Family Forest, 2,100 acres and six miles of upper Connecticut River frontage conserved in Clarksville, is among the protected lands that will be impacted by the newly revealed international border crossing of the proposed High Voltage DC power lines and associated towers. Coverage in the Union Leader by Paula Tracy and Lorna Colquhoun can be found here.

February 11, 2011

Towering Over Concord

The Homestead on Garvin Hill, built by Jesse Garvin in 1820

Patty Humphrey of Chichester was one of the last to speak at Tuesday's hearing at the Statehouse, and she reminded listeners that the visual blight of the proposed Northern Pass will  have significant impacts in central New Hampshire as well as up North. Northern Pass's proposed preferred route would tower over historic Garvin Hill in Chichester where she lives. She was kind enought to send me a note restating her point of view:
Dear Jack,
Like many of those who made statements concerning the advent of Northern Pass at the hearing on February 8, my husband Gordon and I love our home, love our land and love New Hampshire. We have tried to be good stewards and good neighbors during the 30 odd years we have had the privilege of living here.
What many of those who testified didn't seem to realize was that the power line not only threatens large swathes of raw wilderness, scenic beauty, and private property in the North Country, but also hundreds of parcels of land and historic structures in the Concord area.
Pending a waiver by the FAA allowing the line to stay on the ROW close to the Concord airport, it will leave the ROW in the Broken Ground section of Concord, cross I393, and continue through historic residential areas of Chichester and Pembroke. As was stated about other areas, it would appropriate property through eminent domain, debase the environment, destroy economic value, and decimate the tax base of the affected areas.
Residents of Chichester and Pembroke are banding together to save their towns and the Concord area from devastation.
Patty Humphrey
Chichester, NH

February 8, 2011

Stop the Towers at the Statehouse

Tremendous turnout at the Statehouse in Concord for the press conference about HB302 and the opposition to the Northern Pass proposal. For an mp3 audio file of the press conference, featuring remarks by Jim O'Brien (Conservation NH), John Harrigan, Valerie Herres, John Amey and Jane Difley (Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests), click here. Conservation NH posted videos of the press conference here, here,  and here.

Short Circuit on HB302

So here's the question of the day. If, as HB302 sponsors claim, the attempt to rewrite the renewable portfolios bill had nothing to do with allowing cheap imported ower from Hydro Quebec to qualify for renewable energy credits...then what WAS it about? Listen to NHPR's story about it here, or read about it in the Concord Monitor here. Meanwhile, dozens of opponents from the North Country will be arriving at the statehouse for a press conference at 12:30 Tues, Feb. 8 about HB302 and Northern Pass.

February 6, 2011

Burying the True Costs

Northern Pass likes to say that the power they would import from Hydro Quebec is inexpensive. Yet, as this Associated Press story by Kathy McCormack demonstrates, the idea of burying the transmission line is "too expensive", which begs the question: too expensive for whom? What the story does not include is the point that the proposal completely ignores the economic cost of lower property values, local jobs and tourism to New Hampshire businesses and residents, nor the cost of the environmental degradation caused by 45 miles of new transmission corridor superhighway.

February 4, 2011

Harrigan on Point

John Harrigan's latest salvo on the Northern Pass proposal hit the Union Leader on Thursday and is online today here. John is a stahlwart opponent who understands intuitively that the proposed corridor offers nothing for New Hampshire and everything for corporate interests in southern New England. I'm glad the UL put this one online so that people have the opportunity to comment.

January 21, 2011

Waking Up to the Bad News in Concord

Today's Concord Monitor includes a story that begins to address the considerable impact the proposed Northern Pass would have in the center of the state. Residents are starting to wake up to the fact that the proposal isn't just bad for the North Country, it's bad all the way to Deerfield.

January 20, 2011

TNC Comments Oppose Northern Pass

As the opposition blog 'Bury the Northern Pass' noted in a posting this week, the New Hampshire Chapter of The Nature Conservancy is opposing the Northern Pass project. In the conclusion of comments that can be found via the link below, TNC writes that "...we do not believe based on the information provided in the application that the applicant has demonstrated an overall benefit of this project to New Hampshire and the region..."

Here's a link to Bury the Northern Pass blog:

January 12, 2011

On Second Thought

It's becoming a common experience: after thinking through the dramatic impacts of the proposed Northern Pass project, thoughtful opinion leaders are coming to the conclusion that it's just not a good idea for New Hampshire. Former State Sen. Deb Reynolds of Plymouth writes this week that after initially 'welcoming' the project, she has since concluded that its not at all good for our economy.

Northern Pass Sass

Good story by Lorna Colquhoun in the Union Leader that starts to explore the impact of the proposed transmission superhighway on individual landowners. The UL wouldn't show a picture of the sign uncensored, so I've included it here. A fundamental problem of this proposal is that there would appear to be no public benefit to New Hampshire, even as landowners like Mark McCullock and Chelsea Petereit are being asked to sacrifice their lifestyles and livelihoods.

January 11, 2011

White Mountain News Editorial

Interesting editorial by Jeff Woodburn of White Mountain News. Jeff is a veteran journalist in the North Country, so his take on this is worth noting. Northern Pass has tried hard to establish an aura of inevitability, and those who think its a particularly bad idea for New Hampshire need to know that it's not a given.

January 4, 2011

Union Leader Editorial Related to Northern Pass

The point of this Union Leader editorial isn't crystal clear, but I gather that they are saying that, like Northern Pass, RGGI also carries with it certain consequences. True enough. What one might take issue with, however, is the assumption that the Northern Pass proposal is "green". The jury is still very much out on that.