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.

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