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Nancy Martland: Who do you think you’re kidding, Northern Pass?

July 28. 2013 4:44PM

TODAY’S MAIL brought a Northern Pass brochure touting its “new route.” It paints a rosy picture, the colors are soft and inviting, and the graphics look nice, but it is disingenuous at best. Beginning with the headline, “We’ve listened.”

I’ve got news for Northeast Utilities and Hydro-Quebec. Your past efforts to buy us, threaten us and mislead us have not gotten you what you want, and this attempt will not succeed either. You simply cannot fool all of us all the time. If you had “listened,” you would know that. If you had reached out in good faith, things might be different. Instead, you chose once again to manipulate us and we are just not having it.

The damage inflicted by Northern Pass will impact the full 187 miles of its route. This includes towers crossing the White Mountain National Forest. Most of the affected private property owners live along the existing 140-mile right of way, where NP believes it can do whatever it likes because there is already a line there. Do you really expect us to swallow the fairy tale that adding a row of huge metal towers beside a low-visibility line of wooden poles will not degrade private property near it? Does anyone believe that gigantic towers crisscrossing I-93 will not sully the iconic White Mountain approach? A slight reduction in tower heights will not change these effects. Who do you think you’re kidding?

Underground transmission lines are eminently practical for the entire route. Private developers in Maine, Vermont and New York are turning a profit using buried lines. After years of claiming it was out of the question, you now propose to bury nearly eight miles of the line — because you cannot get through any other way. Suddenly you can put lines underground where you have to, but elsewhere hideous, antiquated towers are required? Are the other 179 miles of the route simply not that important? Who do you think you’re kidding?

The Champlain-Hudson Power Express in Vermont/New York and Northeast Energy Link in Maine price underground lines along roadways at less than $6 million per mile. You claim it will cost $150 million to lay close to 8 miles underground along roadways in Coos. That’s nearly $20 million per mile. If other projects can bury lines under similar conditions for less than $6 million a mile, surely you can. Who do you think you’re kidding?

Placing the new line underground in state corridors like I-93 would bring transmission fees to the State of New Hampshire. You insist on using the right of way you already have. You want those transmission fees for yourselves, you want to squeeze every last buck out of this project and too bad for property owners whose land will be unnecessarily degraded — for the good of New Hampshire? Who do you think you’re kidding?

Everybody wants clean energy, that is what your PR consultants tell you to claim Northern Pass delivers, and it makes for an appealing argument. However, these claims are factually incorrect. Flooding vast tracts of forest — 7 million acres to date — creates significant greenhouse gas emissions that offset reductions in conventional generation. Millions of acres of carbon-capturing trees are lost. Ironic that NP touts its carbon reduction in terms of forest acre equivalents while big hydro destroys trees by the acre. This is robust science that Northern Pass refuses to acknowledge, choosing instead to falsely tout inflated estimates of carbon emissions savings from large-scale hydro power. Who do you think you’re kidding?

Northern Pass is about one thing: MONEY. It will damage private property and public landscapes to support power company executives’ multi-million dollar salaries, corporations’ outlandish profits, and Northeast Utilities’ stock value. Why should New Hampshire’s citizens pay for that through loss of local clean energy businesses, lowered private property values and a degraded landscape?

So here’s the bottom line. Northern Pass executives, take note. We’re onto your game. If you want to move power through our state, you can’t do it at our expense. We have no intention of rolling over and letting you trash New Hampshire. You must build your entire transmission line responsibly, using modern, cost-effective, underground methods that do not deface our landscape or destroy private property values. The sooner you come to your senses and recognize this fact, the better for all of us.

Nancy Martland of Sugar Hill is coordinator of Sugar Hill Tower Opponents.

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