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Tensions high at latest Northern Pass hearing in Plymouth

Union Leader Correspondent

September 24. 2013 9:42PM

PLYMOUTH — Opponents and those favoring Northern Pass argued loudly at a public hearing Tuesday night.

The hearing turned nasty at times, as passionate speakers on both sides of the issue were cheered and heckled by crowd members at Plymouth State University’s Hanaway Theater.

District 1 state Sen. Jeb Bradley drew the loudest applause from more than 100 in attendance at the Department of Energy’s hearing seeking public input on the Northern Pass project’s revised plan to transport electricity from Canada through New Hampshire.

Bradley said the project will mainly benefit neighboring residents of southern New England states, “who would never allow this in their back yard, yet they don’t seem to mind it” if it runs through New Hampshire, he said.

“Putting towers above our tree tops doesn’t make for good neighbors,” he said. “We should send a message: Bury the lines.”

Other speakers also favored burying the power lines from the project instead of erecting towers for them. Woodie Laverack, the vice chair of the Holderness Board of Selectmen, brought a letter of opposition from his board to the DOE committee studying the proposed 1,200-megawatt Hydro-Quebec project.

He said the state of New York has developed a similar project that buries all of its lines.

But the board flatly opposes the project, he said, because “the project is all cost with few if any savings.”

The crowd loudly applauded opponents of the plan, and a few of those favoring Northern Pass, including several speakers from Franklin, a primary beneficiary of the project because of a proposed electrical converter station to be built in that city, also drew mild applause.

By the time Ray Shakir — a member of the Conway Planning Board — finished speaking, the crowd had to be calmed by several moderators.

Shakir called those opposing Northern Pass “subversives,” saying Northern Pass would provide New Hampshire and New England with a needed reinforcement of the reliability and integrity of the region’s power systems.

He said he was surprised and angry that the project has taken this long to be approved. The proposed mountain-top towers that people complain about will be partially covered by the fauna around them, like other power transmission towers, he said.

“Subversives will reject Northern Pass, but rejecting this proposal is clearly irresponsible,” he said. “Their solution is to go back to the Stone Age.”

Opponents of Northern Pass booed and laughed as Shakir finished speaking and returned to his seat.

Shakir nodded his head as they jeered him. “These people are obviously very ignorant,” he said.

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