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Speakers lining up to blast Northern Pass

New Hampshire Union Leader

June 12. 2017 9:14PM

More than 115 people have signed up to give their views on Northern Pass during upcoming hearings — with about 70 percent indicating they oppose the project.

Steve Rand, co-owner of Rand’s Hardware on Main Street in Plymouth, worries about weeks of construction in downtown Plymouth that he fears will keep customers away.

“The point is it’s not just for the period of time that is the construction period,” said Rand, a Plymouth legislator scheduled to speak July 20. “It’s all of the newly formed habits that will be created by (customers) not coming back to us and that can last for decades.”

Legislators, residents and business people are among those who have pre-registered to speak at one of three hearings in Concord before the Site Evaluation Committee, which Monday released the list of speakers.

Supporting the project at Thursday’s hearing will be Mike Skelton, president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.

“With New Hampshire’s energy costs running 40 percent higher than the national average, it’s imperative the state add new low-cost sources of energy to support our business climate,” said Skelton, who said the chamber first endorsed the project in 2012. “Northern Pass represents the most significant large-scale energy project in New England that will lower energy costs and bring economic benefits to the state in the form of jobs and tax revenue.”

The committee said more such hearings will be added later.

Speakers will be limited to three minutes each.

The proposed $1.6 billion project needs several state and federal approvals before it can start operating in late 2019 or early 2020. Project officials hope to garner all necessary approvals by the end of this year. The route runs from Pittsburg to Deerfield and includes 60 miles of buried lines.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said Northern Pass hasn’t yet calculated or produced a schedule for proposed underground construction work through Plymouth. He said Plymouth officials had ended discussions about possibly using other streets, and that Northern Pass officials “are quite open to exploring construction options to reduce the total amount of construction time in the town.”

Forty speakers are lined up for the first hearing for public statements on Thursday morning, including John Dumais, president and CEO of the New Hampshire Grocers Association and Andrea Bryant from Environmental Action for Northern New Hampshire.

Thirty-six people are registered to speak during a second hearing, June 22, including Rep. Bing Judd, R-Pittsburg, and Edward Jeffrey from New Hampshire Central Railroad.

Forty-one people are scheduled for the third hearing, July 20, including Rep. Neal Kurk, R-Weare, and an executive from BAE Systems in Nashua.

“Mark Bailey, facilities director at BAE Systems, is attending the Northern Pass hearing speaking in support of the project,” said BAE Systems spokesman Paul Roberts. “Given the soaring cost of energy in New Hampshire and New England the company decided to support an ‘all-of-the-above’ approach to energy generation and transmission infrastructure projects which will improve system reliability and lower the cost of energy in the New England market.”

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