Another View -- Greg Reynolds: Real New Hampshire greens oppose the Northern Pass project
Istill remember the shock, driving to the height of land on Route 31, near Pillsbury State Park, on seeing the newly erected giant windmills looming on the horizon of the once bucolic scene of fields and farmhouses. These mechanical behemoths require government subsidies, are not profitable, and are very noisy. But worst of all is their impact on the beauty of our landscape. This is the central problem with the Northern Pass proposal.
I have never hugged a tree, nor can I imagine doing so, unless chased by a bear. I was raised a New Hampshire boy with a different attitude toward the natural environment than the green environmentalists. I have never believed the earth to be my mother. Mine was much kinder, and along with Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and 4-H, she taught me to love and enjoy the natural world. This used to be called “conservation,” and it is what motivates the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests.
I believe in free enterprise, and I also believe that free people have the right to control the ways in which businesses that have no vested interest in local communities impact their lives. I once did a lot of permitting for Burger King in northeastern New England. I always urged BK project managers to respect local community aesthetic requirements — this usually included clapboards and modest signage. Beauty, not just dollars, matters.
Northern Pass officials claim that this project would provide “low-cost, carbon free power.” But Northern Pass stands to make a substantial profit, and it offers no actual facts to tell us how much it will save New Hampshire ratepayers, or why it is carbon-free. In fact, it will defoliate the countryside of carbon-capturing, oxygen-producing trees and “inundate billions of carbon-capturing, oxygen-producing trees in the Far North,” as John Harrigan has written.
New Hampshire will not receive, and does not need, the power generated by this project. The project’s job creation will be small, low-paying, and temporary. Adjacent and overlooking land values, and thus municipal taxes, will be decreased, much to the hurt of an already depressed North Country. It will threaten their one great remaining resource — its beauty — and thus its tourism.
To call this a “green” project is just part of the tiresome and often disingenuous sales pitch used by many businesses today, signifying nothing. The truly green project would be saving the millions of trees that would be removed from the far north, never to be replanted.
Ironically, the Hydro-Quebec website has a page devoted to “Better living in neighborhoods with underground lines.” The company, parent of Northern Pass, even suggests that aesthetic considerations are important: “Today, people like to relax and entertain in the backyard. Imagine your backyard, your street, your entire neighborhood without utility poles or overhead lines …Discover the advantages of undergrounding.”
Why is this not important for the company’s distant neighbors in New Hampshire? Thankfully, a legislative study committee is investigating undergrounding. Northern Utilities and Hydro-Quebec claim that undergrounding is “cost prohibitive,” but what about the aesthetic cost of 1,100 ugly towers, ranging from 80 to 135 feet, cutting a path through some of the most beautiful scenic country in New England? (The maximum height of the towers, according to Northern Pass officials, is being reduced to 85 feet. See story, Page A1.)
If money and efficiency trump everything else, we’re in big trouble. Our mobility has disconnected us from our sense of place and the value of our land. We owe it to our northern neighbors, who have suffered so much economically in recent years, to defend their right to maintain the beauty of their land.
The best way to oppose this desecration of New Hampshire’s green beauty is to make sure that the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests can purchase the land necessary to block this project. In the absence of eminent domain, Hydro-Quebec is attempting to buy off the North Country. We can stop this power play by donating to the “Trees Not Towers” fund at the Society’s website http://www.conwayscenic.com/pubs/2012NotchFares.pdf. The society needs $2.5 million by Oct. 31. You can also get a bright yellow yard sign to add a little color to your political tapestry. It says, “Stop Northern Pass.” It’s a case of yellow truly favoring green. This is beauty!
Greg Reynolds and his wife Robin were raised in New Hampshire. He is pastor of Amoskeag Presbyterian Church in Manchester and editor of “Ordained Servant: A Journal for Church Officers.”