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February 19. 2013 10:31PM

DRED nominee faces opposition for Northern Pass stance

CONCORD - Gov. Maggie Hassan's nominee to head the Department of Resources and Economic Development will come under fire for his position on the Northern Pass hydroelectric project when his nomination comes before the Executive Council at a public hearing Thursday.

The nomination of Jeffrey Rose, director of public affairs at BAE Electronic Systems in Nashua, to become commissioner of DRED is being opposed by Responsible Energy Action, a citizen group opposed to the Northern Pass.

In testimony filed with the council, the group claims that Rose has "consistently and publicly stated his strong, unequivocal support for the Northern Pass."

"Northern Pass will come before DRED for critical 'make or break' approvals," according to the written testimony. "We believe Mr. Rose's bias and pre-judgment in favor of Northern Pass clearly put him in a conflicted position and render him unsuitable to serve as DRED commissioner."

Rose responded by expressing his appreciation for the scenic beauty of the North Country and pledging neutrality.

"One of the most important roles of the DRED commissioner is protecting New Hampshire's beautiful natural resources. As an avid outdoorsman myself, I have spent much time exploring the mountains and terrain of the North Country," he said. "If I'm afforded the opportunity to serve as DRED commissioner, one of my primary responsibilities would be to impartially evaluate any project to ensure we protect the natural resources that drive our economy, including our scenic landscape. I would bring no-preconceived notions on the project to my role as DRED commissioner."

The central issue for Rose's opponents appears to be his role on the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce, which has come out in favor of the project. Rose is currently listed as a board member on the chamber website.

Nashua Chamber President and CEO Chris Williams explained that the information is out of date and inaccurate. The chamber is redesigning its website, he said, and "some of our pages from the past have been activated as current."

He said Rose's position on the board ended in March 2010, while the chamber's statement in support of Northern Pass was issued in December 2012.

"Jeff's term as a member of our board of directors had already expired long before our chamber took up discussions relative to support of the Northern Pass project," Williams said. "Those who wish to connect the Nashua Chamber's position on the Northern Pass project to Jeff Rose are simply barking up the wrong tree and are in the wrong forest altogether."

In their testimony, the Northern Pass opponents acknowledge that Rose may not be officially on the board, but say he is still associated with its position.

"Only a few weeks ago, Rose promoted the high transmission line power initiative during a Nashua chamber breakfast for legislators," they wrote. "Mr. Rose cannot undo the reality or the public perception of his prior unambiguous support for Northern Pass."

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, one of the most active groups in opposition to the Northern Pass, will take no position on Rose's nomination, according to Jack Savage, society spokesman.

"We do not ordinarily engage in advocating for or against gubernatorial nominations," he said. "Rather, we try to clearly identify the larger issues of performance associated with a position in state government that deals with natural resources. DRED is responsible for 200,000 acres of public lands, and a number of large conservation easements on privately owned land.

"We believe that a nominee to the position of DRED commissioner should have a demonstrated command of and commitment to the stewardship of these vital assets. SPNHF believes that the Executive Council should only vote to approve a nominee to this position who demonstrates such a command and commitment."

dsolomon@unionleader.com


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