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March 04. 2013 10:38PM

Business, labor oppose energy project slowdowns

Business and labor groups are lining up to kill legislation designed to slow, if not halt, controversial large-scale energy projects in the state, including hilltop wind farms and the Northern Pass high-voltage energy transmission lines.

"It's not often that we're on the same page, but we certainly are on this one," said Joe Casey, business manager of the Local 490 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers.

Casey said he contacted all 400 members of his Concord-based trade union to encourage them to telephone their state representatives to oppose four pieces of legislation expected to be considered today by the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.

The bills call for:

--A moratorium on wind and transmission projects.

--A popular vote prior to approvals of such projects.

-- The burial of transmission lines.

--The required placement of transmission lines along state rights of way in most cases.

"It could be devastating to us, especially the moratorium," Casey said. He said IBEW electricians worked on the Lempster Mountain wind farm, and they would likely work on construction of the Northern Pass transfer station in Franklin.

IBEW electricians earn about $27 an hour, along with health care benefits and retirement, he said.

The Business and Industry Association has also gone on record against the legislation.

BIA Vice President Mike Licata said the organization has not taken a stand one way or another on Northern Pass or any specific wind farm. But he said BIA has had a strong philosophical opposition to legislation that targets a specific business or project. He said the state has an existing process - the Site Evaluation Committee - to review projects to make sure they comply with regulations and are good for the state.

"It's inappropriate for the Legislature to insert itself into the existing process and change the rules," Licata said.

He said the BIA is not coordinating opposition with labor groups.

Whatever recommendation emerges from the Science, Technology and Energy Committee will have to go to the full House, then the Senate before landing on Gov. Maggie Hassan's desk for a signature.

mhayward@unionleader.com


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