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June 28. 2013 12:47AM

Proposal gets a cool, cautious reception

Reaction to Thursday's announcement of a new proposed route for the Northern Pass project ranged from cautiously optimistic to continued skepticism.

Dalton landowner Jim Dannis, who has been a vocal opponent of the project, called the proposal to bury lines "a step in the right direction" that he hopes will lead to a "serious discussion" about putting all of the lines underground. He said he isn't sure how Northern Pass officials made the determination that some areas were more deserving of protecting than others.

"How do they say it's more important to preserve views and landscape and a sense of community and an individual sense of place in upper Coos County but not in Deerfield? This really should have no legs if there's no discussion on burying the entire line," Dannis said. "I believe Northern Pass has got to do more to make this a viable project."

John Harrigan of Colebrook, a New Hampshire Union Leader columnist who has been fiercely opposed to the project, said he didn't believe Northern Pass officials had done enough to appease the concerns of groups opposing the project.

"It's not over until the fat lady sings," he said. "We're still going to fight the blight. They've still got a long ways to go.

"If they win here, it will be a sad day for northern New Hampshire's landscape," he said.

U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said in a statement that she had opposed the original route."Protecting New Hampshire's pristine landscape is inextricably linked to preserving our state's identity as well as a key source of economic strength," she said. She said she has "made clear that burying transmission lines is an option that should receive strong consideration. I look forward to carefully reviewing this proposal in consultation with New Hampshire stakeholders and local officials. I remain committed to ensuring that the application process is responsive to the views of New Hampshire citizens, and I will do everything in my power to ensure that those views are heard."U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-N.H., said in a statement that she was relieved Northern Pass would avoid the Connecticut Lake Headwaters Conservation Area.

"We must protect New Hampshire's natural treasures for our citizens, economy and quality of life," she said. "Moving forward, I'll continue to closely monitor this project as the application undergoes its review. I hope that throughout the review, the process is transparent and gives all parties opportunities to express concerns and provide feedback about the project."

The Conservation Law Foundation, an opponent of the transmission project, said the new proposal does little to assuage any concerns of local communities and those who want to protect the North Country landscape.

"The measures announced today by PSNH to alleviate the myriad concerns about the current Northern Pass proposal amount to putting a Band-Aid on a gaping wound," Jonathan Peress, vice president and director of clean energy and climate change for the foundation, said in a statement. "The modest changes that Northern Pass has proposed add insult to injury. What we are dealing with here is quite clearly a poorly conceived attempt by (PSNH President and COO) Gary Long to rescue PSNH's failing business model, which relies on charging New Hampshire residents and businesses inordinately high rates to prop up its dirty, old, inefficient coal-fired power plants."

tbuckland@unionleader.com


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