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BIA Perspective: Opposition to energy pipeline is reflexive, not reflective

BIA Chairman

August 11. 2018 10:47PM

New Hampshire has, unfortunately, developed a reputation for antipathy toward energy infrastructure projects. Such opposition to construction of new transmission lines and pipelines seems terribly shortsighted given that New Hampshire's electricity costs are consistently 50 to 60 percent higher than the national average year-round - not just in the grips of a frigid winter or sweltering summer.

Even more alarming, securing a reliable supply of fuel has become a chief concern for the region's independent electrical grid operator, ISO New England. ISO released a report last January warning that by 2024-2025 New England may no longer be able to secure enough fuel for power generators to meet demand, resulting in rolling blackouts. Yes, that means the lights will go out in New Hampshire if something doesn't change.

These facts are what make opposition to Liberty Utilities' proposed Granite Bridge natural gas pipeline project so surprising. Granite Bridge is a proposed 27-mile-long pipeline constructed through a state-designated "energy infrastructure corridor" along Route 101, completely within state-owned right of way. The line would be buried a minimum of four feet underground, connecting existing natural gas pipelines in Manchester and Stratham to a Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) storage facility tucked away in an abandoned quarry in Epping.

The pipeline and LNG storage facility would allow Liberty Utilities to essentially charge a large "thermal battery" during the summer when natural gas prices are low and store the fuel until winter when natural gas for home heating and electricity generation is scarce and expensive. This will not only save families and businesses money on their bills, it will also free up natural gas capacity for power generation, putting downward pressure on electric bills. The new pipeline will also provide millions of dollars in property taxes to the communities it passes through.

This infrastructure project won bipartisan support from 22 of 24 state senators. Republican Senate President Chuck Morse said Liberty Utilities has "proposed a project that minimizes impacts and provides access to needed natural gas." Democratic Sen. Martha Fuller-Clark calls it "a smart, responsible and forward-looking approach to meeting our state's energy needs." Several chambers of commerce and business organizations - including the Business and Industry Association - have also endorsed the plan.

Why do some still oppose Granite Bridge? This innovative project checks all the boxes opponents claim are deficient in other infrastructure proposals. It's minimally invasive. It takes no private property. It utilizes a "State Energy Infrastructure Corridor" designated by the Legislature for such projects. The storage tank is isolated, unseen and safe. There are limited, if any, environmental impacts. And it generates property tax revenue for the communities that will host it.

Opposition to Granite Bridge shows an unfortunate disregard, indeed insensitivity, to the plight of New Hampshire residents and businesses alike who currently pay some of the highest energy prices in the country. This is a classic case of making "perfect" the enemy of "good." There is no perfect form of energy. There's no valid argument for rejecting Granite Bridge. Opponents are proving their reaction to the project is reflexive, not reflective.

Opponents to Granite Bridge may have missed news reports last winter that said natural gas spot prices in New England were the most expensive on the planet. ISO New England said power plants nearly ran out of fuel. The region was so desperate for oil it imported it from Russian companies sanctioned by the U.S. government, companies that obtain their supplies by drilling through the permafrost in the Arctic Ocean. But as the Boston Globe editorial staff wryly noted, at least no one was offended by an inch of pipeline. Even the Globe agrees these activists need a "reset" on their positions.

Politicians and others trying to make hay out of Granite Bridge, especially in an election year, reveal themselves to be ignorant, insensitive, or both to the energy crisis homeowners and businesses grapple with every time they open their monthly bill. By being an automatic "no," they forfeit the right to be a legitimate voice on energy policy in New Hampshire. As demonstrated by overwhelming support for Granite Bridge in New Hampshire's state Senate, key public policy leaders have confirmed they are more pragmatic than some opponents are sensible.

Tom Sullivan is the chair of the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire. The BIA, New Hampshire's statewide chamber of commerce, produces this column monthly, exclusively for the Sunday News.

Business Energy Environment Manchester Epping Stratham State Government

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