The Franconia Notch Regional Chamber of Commerce is the latest North Country chamber to go on record as opposed to the Northern Pass hydroelectric project.
In a recent statement, the chamber cited impact on the tourism industry as a major concern, and expressed the view that the project “may not contribute in any meaningful way to the region’s long-term economic health, reducing both tourism, local property values, and our renowned quality of life in New Hampshire’s North Country.”
Local power producers and future renewable energy projects could be put at a competitive disadvantage to benefit a foreign utility, the statement claimed, adding, “There are no guarantees that the imported power will lower electric power costs in New Hampshire or the North Country once added to the New England regional grid.”
“We firmly believe that Economic Impact Studies performed have over-estimated the Northern Pass project’s short- and long-term benefits and underestimated the negative effects on the North Country economy,” the chamber stated. “The Franconia Notch Regional Chamber of Commerce is a pro-business organization, but we do not feel that the Northern Pass as proposed or amended will benefit the North Country, its businesses, communities or citizens in any economic, financial or civic way.”
The project calls for 1,200-megawatt power lines to transport hydroelectric power from Quebec into the New England grid, via New Hampshire.
Chambers in the heavily developed southern tier of the state have come out in support of the project, while North Country chambers have been opposed. The Franconia Notch chamber joins chambers in Colebrook, Plymouth and Littleton in voting against the Northern Pass, while chambers in Nashua, Manchester and Rochester have endorsed it.
PSNH, a main developer of the project, recently presented a new route through the North Country that calls for buying about eight miles of the line.
The regulated utility, a subsidiary or Northeast Utilities, has scheduled a series of informational luncheons for state lawmakers from Aug. 7 to Sept. 13, starting at the Puritan Conference Center in Manchester and ending at the Portsmouth Sheraton.Other stops along the way include Nashua, Keene, Berlin, Laconia and Concord.
All 424 state legislators have been invited to attend one of the legislative outreach sessions, according to Northern Pass spokesperson Mike Skelton. “We’ve scheduled multiple sessions in different parts of the state and legislators are able to attend whichever one fits with their schedule,” he said.
The costs associated with these events, or any other costs related to Northern Pass, are paid for by Northeast Utilities shareholders, not PSNH customers, Skelton said.
“We’ve listened and improved our route from our original proposal and continue to solicit feedback from residents and legislators on how we can address additional concerns going forward,” Skelton said.