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Shaheen, Gregg voice opposition to North Country electricity lines

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 18. 2013 9:10PM

In this January 2003 photo, U.S. Sen. Judd Gregg looks on as Gov. Jeanne Shaheen shakes with Dan Lynch, assistant director of New Hampshire Fish & Game, after signing an agreement between The Nature Conservancy and the state to preserve 25,000 acres in the North Country. In an opinion column today, Gregg and Shaheen express their opposition to the Northern Pass plan to run transmission lines through part of the total 146,000 acres they worked to protect. (UNION LEADER FILE)

Two former governors who were instrumental in creating the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters conservation area agree with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests that the area is off limits for the Northern Pass hydroelectric project.

Democratic Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and former Republican Sen. Judd Gregg, both of whom also served as the state's chief executive, recently released a jointly written opinion piece. "When we worked together in 2001 and 2002 to protect this land, we imagined towering trees protected for future generations, not transmission towers," they wrote. "We believe the state has a responsibility to actively protect these lands for our children and grandchildren."

Shaheen was governor at the time the conservation area was created and Gregg the state's senior senator. Shaheen is now the state's senior senator, and Gregg is the new CEO of the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association (SIFMA), one of Wall Street's largest lobbying trade associations.

Shaheen and Gregg shared memories of how they came together in 2001 to protect the land when International Paper Company announced plans to sell timber ownership of 171,000 acres in Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown, including the headwaters of the Connecticut River.

"We created and co-chaired the Connecticut Headwaters Partnership Task Force, a broad coalition of community and business leaders, state and federal officials, private nonprofit organizations and other interested parties, to create a future for the land that would reflect the best interests of our citizens, economy and quality of life," they wrote.

The statement comes a month after the Forest Society released a legal opinion supporting their view that the state cannot authorize use of its easement in the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters conservation area for the 1,200-megawatt power lines designed to bring hydroelectric power from Quebec into New England.

A Forest Society analysis of land acquired so far by Northern Utilities suggests that the route would have to pass through a small portion of the conservation area.

Northeast Utilities officials have declined to comment on the legal opinion or on any aspect of the proposed route until it is announced. Company executives told industry analysts in May that the route would be revealed in July.

"Sen. Shaheen and former Sen. Gregg's op-ed is a powerful statement in favor of New Hampshire's natural resources," said Jane Difley, president of the Forest Society. "Given their involvement a decade ago in the conservation easement that protects the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters, their opinions matter. Equally important, we think their opinions are shared by most people in the state."

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