By Nancy West
CONCORD – Thirty-five people spoke out Wednesday evening at the last public hearing on the Northern Pass project – all of them opposed to the plan to bring Hydro-Quebec electricity down a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield.
About 100 people filled the meeting room at 49 Donovan St. in Concord before the Site Evaluation Committee. The adjudicative hearings that will decide whether the SEC approves the project will continue on Thursday and through the rest of the month, at least.
From the far North Country to Yale University, people spoke passionately and sometimes tearfully against the $1.6 billion project that has been a part of some of their lives for as long as seven years.
District 1 Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney opened the testimony at 5 p.m. laying out why he is opposed. Of the 31 towns that the Northern Pass project touches, he represents 24 of them from Pittsburg to Hill.
“My position has been clear from the beginning that Northern Pass should not be built at all, or if it is permitted, it should be buried,” Kenney said.
Kenney said he agrees with his predecessor Ray Burton, the popular executive councilor who died four years ago, that “we should not rely on a foreign country for our power …”
Kenney praised the competing Granite State Power Link project, which would bring up to 1,200 megawatts from Monroe to Londonderry on the National Grid system.
“…(T)here appears to be little opposition to this expanded energy project up to this point because the right of ways already exist. No need for the Northern Pass Project,” Kenney said.
Northern Pass offers far more negatives than positives, Kenney said.
“It is clear that there is value in nature’s beauty, whether it is at Weeks State Park in Lancaster, a wedding photo along Forest Lake State Park in Dalton or a family taking a picture along a hiking trail in Franconia Notch,” Kenney said.
Discussions about construction on small state road right of ways along Routes 116 in Easton, 18 in Bethlehem and 145 in Clarksville have raised legitimate concerns about whether they have the capacity to take on high-voltage power lines, not to mention construction disruptions, Kenney said.
“My gut instinct is that Northern Pass is a bad deal for New Hampshire,” Kenney said.
Concord City Councilor Jennifer Kretovic spoke out forcefully against the project and said as proposed, Northern Pass lines would be visible from many conservation and recreation areas, including Broken Ground Conservation Area and Oak Hill Trails.
Views of the towers may be seen from as far away as White Park and Dimond Hill Farm, she said.
“The new industrial lines will also be visible from the second floor windows (and above) of many buildings on our recently reconstructed Main Street,” Kretovic said.
David and Linda Chappell of Clarksville showed the Site Evaluation Committee a map with a cemetery next to Old County Road, not where Northern Pass has located it on maps.
Linda Chappell, a genealogist and former cemetery trustee, tearfully testified about six generations of her family living in the area, and what appear to be seven graves under the grass within 16 feet of the road and two more graves under the road.
“I want to speak for those who can’t speak for themselves,” Linda Chappell said.
If this plan is approved, it will go past several cemeteries from Clarksville down Old County Road into Stewartstown, she said.
“These people have had their resting place disturbed … I would like you to consider these people who can’t speak for themselves,” Chappell said.
SEC Chairman Martin Honigberg opened the 5 p.m. public hearing saying 1,500 written comments about Northern Pass have been received and they run about 11 to 1 against the proposal.
Honigberg also announced earlier that Senior Assistant Attorney General Peter Roth is leaving and will be replaced as Counsel for the Public by Assistant Attorney General Christopher G. Aslin.
Roth has accepted a position as revenue counsel at the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration.
Former state Sen. Jim Rubens spoke against Northern Pass, pointing to what he called failed promises of electricity savings from Eversource in the past.
Craig Savage of Concord spoke about making the choice to move to Concord 45 years ago.
“We made a conscious choice because of the beauty and majesty and opportunity and everything Concord could provide to us,” Savage said. “We’re hikers, skiers and try-to-be golfers. …This is not right for New Hampshire. I am vehemently opposed,” Savage said.
Yale University students
Three students from Yale University also spoke against the project. They have been pressuring Yale to end a controversial lease between Bayroot, LLC and Northern Pass that allows the project to go forward.
The amount being paid to Bayroot, which is mostly owned by Yale, has been deemed confidential. The SEC denied a right-to-know request from InDepthNH.org to unseal the lease and also denied a request for sealed testimony by Northern Pass financial expert Julia Frayer.
Yale student Robin Canavan told the committee: “My University, Yale is allowing Northern Pass to cross 24 miles of land it owns through a front company called Bayroot LLC. With its $25 billion endowment and unparalleled academic resources, Yale could be pushing the nation and the world toward policies to combat climate change.
“Instead it has chosen to join Eversource in building Northern Pass while trying to hide behind a secret lease and a shell corporation – actions that make it impossible for the Yale community to even have a constructive dialogue, let alone give input into a critical policy decision,” Canavan said.
Earlier in the day, intervenors continued to cross-examine Northern Pass’ historic preservation expert Cherilyn Widell of Widell Preservation Services in Chestertown, Md. Attorney Bob Baker of Columbia questioned Widell about the Indian Stream Republic.
“It’s very unusual. They had their own independent country in 1830s and it was part of a larger border dispute between Canada and the United States,” Baker said.
During a break, Baker was critical of Widell for not going to Pittsburg to ask local people about Indian Stream Republic, instead deciding it was not necessary to consider it based on information from the U.S. Department of Energy.
Baker said he was able to establish that the SEC rules require consideration of a property’s historic importance based on state significance. Widell appeared to largely base her estimation of historic importance on whether a property is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places, he said.
Elizabeth Merritt, deputy general counsel at the National Trust for Historic Preservation, pressed Widell for more information about the 10 cultural landscapes that haven’t been submitted to the Site Evaluation Committee yet.
The SEC is required to review all historic properties, she said, adding there’s a significant body of information that is not yet finished.
“These are the kinds of properties – because they are landscapes – in which the adverse effects could be significant such that the line cuts through the heart of the property,” Merritt said.
InDepthNH.org’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC hearings on Northern Pass.
April 13, Day 1: Eversource NH Chief Quinlan On The Hot Seat At Northern Pass Hearing
April 14, Day 2: Eversource Chief Questioned About ‘Clean’ Energy Claims And Northern Pass Costs
April 17: Day 3: Eversource: Hydro-Quebec Revenues Could Fall Short In Northern Pass’ First Year
April 18: Day 4: Northern Pass’ Potential Health Concerns Debated At Hearing
April 19: Day 5: Concerns Raised About Northern Pass Affecting Health of Sherburne Woods Residents in Deerfield
April 30: Is NH Getting ‘Hoodwinked’ on Health and Safety By Northern Pass?
May 1: Day 6: Testimony: 44 New Access Roads Needed To Build 192-Mile Northern Pass in NH
May 2: Day 7: Northern Pass Expert: 3 Months of Construction Likely In Downtown Plymouth
May 3: Day 8: Project Official: Northern Pass Construction Limited To 7 am to 7 pm, Noise Assessed Daily
May 3: Eversource’s Chief Quinlan Listed as ‘Host’ For Sununu Fundraiser
May 4: Day 9: Grafton County Attorney Grills Northern Pass Experts On Land Buys
May 5: Day 9, story 2: Common Man’s Alex Ray: Northern Pass Disruption in Plymouth Would Be ‘Fatal’ To Business
May 8: Forest Society Calls Northern Pass Inflated Land Buys a ‘Shell Game’
May 25: Hydro-Quebec Explores Opportunities in New England, New York
May 31: InDepthNH.org, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
June 1: Day 11: Applicant: Northern Pass Would Mitigate Impact On Endangered State Butterfly
June 8: Day 12: Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass Financial Expert’s Perspective ‘Unnaturally Optimistic’
June 9: Day 13: Portions of Northern Pass Hearings Held In Closed Session, Again
June 12: Public Statement Hearings On Northern Pass Begin June 15
June 13: Day 14: Analyst: Customer Using 300 kw Would Save $1.50 a Month With Northern Pass
June 14: Day 15: Regulator: Committee Could Consider Conditioning Approval for Northern Pass
June 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
June 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
June 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
June 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
June 23: Day 20: Northern Pass Seeks 15 More Hearing Days For Total of 57
June 26: Day 21: SEC Members Quiz Northern Pass Experts On Wetland Protection
July 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
July 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
July 20: Day 24: Pessamit Innu, Lawmakers, Citizens, Businesses All Have Their Say on Northern Pass
July 21: Day 25: Deputy Solicitor: Northern Pass’ Tax Breaks Not So Great for Concord Property Owners
July 27: More Competition & Northern Pass Commits $10M To Help Low-Income Mass. Customers
July 31: Day 26: Public Counsel Grills Northern Pass Expert On Property Value Impact
Aug. 1: Day 27: Northern Pass’ Real Estate Expert Questioned About Data Accuracy
Aug 2: Day 28: Northern Pass Real Estate Expert Concedes Power Lines ‘Thin The Market’
Aug. 3: Day 29: Northern Pass Expert Asked How 1,284 ‘Significant’ Properties Pared Down to 6
Aug. 29: Day 31:
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-738-5635