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July 10. 2014 8:11PM

AMC asking N.E. governors to stop Northern Pass lines

An official with the Appalachian Mountain Club has sent letters to New England governors in advance of a conference being held in New Hampshire next week, asking them to oppose the proposed Northern Pass electric transmission line project.

Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC) Vice-President for Conservation Susan Arnold sent letters on Wednesday to leaders of states throughout the Northeast, expressing AMC’s opposition to the controversial proposal and asking them to support Gov. Maggie Hassan, who has publicly stated her opposition to the project as proposed. (Click here to view the AMC website and a link to the letter.)

The letters were sent in advance of the 38th Annual Conference of New England Governors and Eastern Canadian Premiers, which Hassan is scheduled to host at the Omni Mount Washington Hotel in Bretton Woods Sunday through Tuesday.

“We in New England deserve better than Northern Pass, and most especially New Hampshire deserves better,” wrote Arnold, in part. “We will not trade away the majestic beauty of New Hampshire. We will insist on smart, modern, and well-planned energy projects that protect our invaluable natural and scenic resources, not compromise them.”

The $1.4 billion Northern Pass project would bring 1,200 megawatts of hydroelectric power from Quebec into the New England power grid through New Hampshire over a new 187-mile transmission line, much of which would be built within existing PSNH transmission rights of way where power lines exist. A new 32.25-mile right of way and two sections of underground construction, totaling about eight miles, are part of the 187 miles. The project is expected to be in service in 2017, according to Northern Pass.

Public Service of New Hampshire and Northern Pass Transmission LLC, which would own all of the Northern Pass transmission lines and facilities in New Hampshire, share the same corporate parent, Northeast Utilities. Northeast Utilities has an agreement with HydroQuebec for it to lease the Northern Pass transmission lines.

“All six New England governors have warned that our region is facing a severe energy crisis and that we must act quickly to find solutions,” said Martin Murray, a spokesman for Northern Pass and PSNH. “While we cannot speculate on any proposals the governors might introduce, we can say that Northern Pass is clearly well-positioned to assist the region by providing clean, reliable hydroelectric power.”

In her letters to New England’s governors, Arnold cites the possible negative impact the project could have on New Hampshire’s tourism industry, which annually brings in $4.2 billion in consumer spending, $293 million in state and local tax revenue and supports an estimated 49,000 jobs, according to the New Hampshire Division of Travel and Tourism Development.

“But to those that live here, NH’s natural scenic character means even more,” writes Arnold. “The North Country’s natural and cultural heritage is part of the identity of this great state and its people. It’s something that many of us have long fought fiercely to preserve and protect.”

“While some professional opposition groups are working to defeat Northern Pass, it is important to keep in mind that public surveys consistently show there is more support than opposition for the project, and support continues to grow,” said Murray. “Next week’s conference comes at an important time for New England and our neighbors in Canada, and we hope the discussions are informative and constructive.”

The U.S. Department of Energy is reviewing about two dozen alternatives for the proposed project, including burying power lines under waterways or roads or connecting with transmission lines in neighboring states.

Officials are working on reaching a power purchase agreement that would give New Hampshire customers a break on their electric bill for running the high-voltage transmission lines through the state.

A study for PSNH reports the project would save electric customers between $20 million and $35 million a year. The study said the project also would bring an estimated $28 million in new local, state and county tax revenues yearly.

An application for the project is expected to be filed with the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee in January, 2015.

On another environmental front, a group called the Tar Sands Free Northeast Coalition will host a “No Tar Sands!” protest outside the governors conference to call attention to the threat of dirty, carbon-heavy tar sands in the northeast. The group claims New England is at risk from dirty tar sands created by the proposed Portland-Montreal Pipeline reversal, the proposed Energy East pipeline, and other projects.

The protest is scheduled to begin at noon Sunday across from the entrance to the Omni Mount Washington Hotel.

pfeely@unionleader.com


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