Northern Pass foes: Fight isn't overBy MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
April 23. 2017 8:28PM
CONCORD — Speakers told several hundred people attending a rally opposing Northern Pass on Sunday that the fight against the transmission power line project isn’t over and that they should write to legislators and a state committee considering the project.
“There is nothing that we will not do to fight this project, legally,” Sugar Hill resident Dolly McPhaul told the crowd from the steps of the State House. “I want to say that the opposition cannot be silenced and we cannot be bought.”
McPhaul told the story of a Stewartstown dairy farmer who turned down an offer of millions to sell his land for the project, which will include 132 miles of overhead power lines that opponents believe will hurt some of the state’s scenic views.
“This man was my hero and he has exemplified what is so much a part of the North Country people,” she said. “We treasure our land. We treasure our heritage. We treasure our views and we will not allow them to be destroyed, especially for money.”
That farmer, Roderick McAllaster, in a phone interview Sunday, said he was offered “in the vicinity of” $4 million for land to provide a route for Northern Pass to go through his dairy farm of 1,400-plus acres.
He said people he understood to be representing interests of Northern Pass made the offer several years ago before project officials decided to bury power lines near his property instead.
“If you bury these power lines (for the entire project), you don’t have to sacrifice the state of New Hampshire,” McAllaster said.
Northern Pass officials have said burying the entire 192-mile line — rather than 60 miles as proposed — would add an extra billion dollars to the existing $1.6 billion price tag.
Several rally speakers urged opponents to write to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, which is holding hearings on the project, and to the legislature, which is considering a bill to make it possible for Eversource to carve out for New Hampshire consumers a portion of the project’s power.
“The time is now to stand up and be counted,” said master of ceremonies Brian Tilton of Hooksett. “We have to tell the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee that is currently reviewing this project that we stand united in saying no to Northern Pass because their big question that they need to know is will this project benefit New Hampshire and what’s your answer.”
No,” the crowd roared.
Rally organizers, Protect the Granite State, put the crowd size at “nearly 500.”
Opponents at one point encircled the State House, waving signs as people drove by.
Confident of success
Northern Pass said it expects by year’s end to have secured three required federal permits and hopes it can begin operating in late 2019 or early 2020. The Site Evaluation Committee is expected to decide this summer.
Northern Pass said the project will bring benefits to ratepayers and clean energy to the region.
“We all want what is best for New Hampshire and for our families — and that includes clean and economic sources of energy as well as jobs,” said project spokesman Martin Murray. “There are some who disagree with how Northern Pass proposes to deliver those significant benefits.
“We have to earn a permit from the N.H. Site Evaluation Committee,” Murray said in an email. “Its decision will be based on facts — and on our demonstration that our proposal is a sensible one. We are confident that we’ll be successful.”
On Sunday, opponents flew a balloon 135 feet above the ground near the State House with the message of “power line height 135 ft.”
Murray said the project includes about 1,800 total structures, about 20 of which would stand 135 feet tall or higher.
Not everybody in Concord was against the project.
“I’m for it,” Londonderry resident Wayne MacLeay said while walking downtown. He welcomed the hydropower and said he didn’t think views would be hurt.
“I hike a bunch of mountains and you see fire towers at the tops of the mountains,” he said. “They don’t bother me either.”