BRETTON WOODS — During Monday’s work session at the 38th Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, two things were clear: The regions have many ties and a proven history of working well together, and Canadian hydropower will be coming to New Hampshire eventually.
Held at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel, the conference was co-chaired by Gov. Maggie Hassan and the Hon. Tom Marshall, premier of Newfoundland and Labrador with attendees, including M. Philippe Couillard, premier of Quebec; Mass. Gov. Deval Patrick; Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chaffee; Conn. Gov. Dannel Malloy; and Vt. Gov. Peter Shumlin as well as representatives from Maine and New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island.
Marshall, who will host the 2015 NEGECP conference, said his province is well-known for “fish and trees” but noted that it recently added oil, which was found in four fields and is already generating more than a third of Canada’s petroleum production.
Then Marshall spoke about the Muskrat Falls and Gull Island hydroelectric projects on the lower Churchill River in Labrador.
Combined, the two facilities will have a combined capacity of more than 3,000 megawatts or about three times that of the Northern Pass transmission project which would bring 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectricity from Quebec, through New Hampshire and into the needy New England power grid.
Unpopular with many Granite Staters, but especially those in the North Country who want to see Northen Pass transmission lines buried or gone entirely, Northern Pass was the subject of a protest Sunday in a rest area off Route 302 about a mile from the Omni Mount Washington Hotel, but it generated little discussion Monday among the governors and premiers.
Muskrat Falls and Gull Island, did, however, with Marshall telling his audience that the plan is to bring power from them into Maine, New Hampshire and then southern New England. Ironically, Marshall sees Quebec as an end recipient of power from Labrador and Couillard replied that he’s not opposed to it coming, but that somebody has to pay for the transmission lines.
Later, during a press conference, Malloy underscored the bigger picture: New England is energy-dependent. With several power plants scheduled to go off-line and with last winter’s natural gas price spike that he noted cost consumers $3.2 billion throughout the six states, the region needs additional natural gas pipelines, Malloy said.The governors and premiers unanimously by voice vote approved three resolutions: to hold a regional forum in late 2014 for a “public-private dialogue on the ongoing changes in the energy landscape” in the region; to affirm their pledge in 2013 to promote “transportation choices,” including alternative-fueled and electric vehicles and to have “five percent fleet market share penetration” by 2020; and finally, to establish a process to identify “shared opportunities, challenges and barriers associated with economic development and trade in the region and assessing potential collaborative actions that could enhance the region’s economic competitiveness.”