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.