First, Northern Pass presented its scores of miles of power lines as a job-creation program for the North Country. Look, construction jobs! The good people up north saw right through that, and Northern Pass was left with massive amounts of bad will.
Now the company brass have a new plan for passing off the project as a job generator. If the massive, snaking trail of power lines is approved, the company will give $7.5 million for a fund to finance unspecified job training and creation initiatives. Former state Sen. John Gallus of Berlin called it a “once in a lifetime opportunity.”
Actually, the North Country already has two entities designed specifically to accomplish much of what this fund is supposed to do. They are the White Mountains Community College in Berlin and the Littleton Academic Center. Through these institutions, students from all over the North Country can receive job training, even advanced degrees, in many fields of study. And in the last few years the Community College System of New Hampshire has made an aggressive effort to tailor job training to local industries that are growing and hiring.
The Northern Pass fund might add to that effort, but it is hardly a once in a lifetime opportunity. Rather, it is a transparent attempt to buy public support for the controversial project by paying what amounts to a tiny sum to smooth the way for a $1 billion investment.
North Country residents ought not weigh this fund very heavily when measuring whether to support the Northern Pass project. These funds would soon be spent, and the power lines would remain for generations. The real cost-benefit analysis remains unchanged: Does the benefit of all that new power reaching the New England grid (bringing lower prices, presumably) outweigh the cost of the unsightly power lines cutting through New Hampshire towns and forests?