OPINION: Councilor Andru Volinsky Says Northern Pass Is About Money, Power

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Andru Volinsky

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By Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky

For the last five years, Eversource has been trying to build nearly 200 miles of high-voltage transmission lines through some of the most pristine and beautiful wilderness areas in New England.

Their plan for Northern Pass is to connect large-scale hydropower in Quebec to customers in Massachusetts. Last year, the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee, which is charged with reviewing large power projects, rejected the project application, and on Wednesday the case went to the New Hampshire Supreme Court. 

Full disclosure: I didn’t argue this case, but some of my clients are among the project’s opponents. Before the Site Evaluation Committee reached their conclusion, my clients produced a video about the economic and environmental impact the project would have on the North Country. You may find the video here.  I’m struck by a comment in the video by Pittsburg resident Jason Balint, “It doesn’t seem to be about power, but money, and the power of money.”  

In 2014, the year before the application for this project was submitted, Eversource and its Northern Pass subsidiary spent half a million dollars on lobbyists. Despite having a set of statutes, rules and regulations that are as favorable to the industry as possible, Eversource still failed to prove that the Northern Pass transmission lines won’t interfere with the orderly development of the regions through which the lines pass. 

The application failed because Eversource and its experts were not credible when they asserted that the project would have no adverse effect on virtually anything. This includes no adverse impact on local land use planning and no adverse impact on tourism despite their projections of years of road closures for construction. The Site Evaluation Committee found that the Northern Pass expert on property values lacked knowledge of the New Hampshire real estate market and found his methods to be “shallow and not supported by data.”  

Northern Pass isn’t about electricity, it’s about money and the power of money. Governor Sununu has accepted more Eversource utility money than any governor in modern history.  He supports Eversource without question or compromise. The utility’s contributions are an investment in the Governor.  What do they expect as a return on their investment? 

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