This week’s testimony from witnesses for Northern Pass will conclude at the Site Evaluation Committee. Witnesses for the Counsel for the Public and intervenors who oppose the 192-mile high voltage transmission line will begin to take the stand. Northern Pass made its case – despite the massive adverse impacts on New Hampshire – that the project is just “too big to fail.” Well, that’s not how we do things here in New Hampshire. Now it’s the people’s turn, those of us who will pay the bill and live with the consequences if this line is built.
Despite the fact that only witnesses who support Northern Pass have testified so far, public opposition to Northern Pass has grown by leaps and bounds. Thousands of people from across New Hampshire, not just the communities along the transmission route, have taken the time to submit written comments to the SEC opposing Northern Pass. To date, comments opposing Northern Pass outnumber those supporting it by an overwhelming 12 to 1 ratio. In fact, opponents to Northern Pass have dominated the four public statement hearings held by the SEC. More than 100 state legislators have come out in opposition. Petitions with 20,000-plus signatures opposing Northern Pass have been submitted to the SEC. Business leaders, elected officials, Republicans and Democrats alike, all have united to say ‘No’ to Northern Pass.
Northern Pass’s biggest talking point for why New Hampshire should bear the burden of an enormous transmission line that would gash the state from the Canadian border to Deerfield - that it will lower our electric rates here – was undercut by its own economic expert, Julia Frayer. To the extent Northern Pass lowers electric rates, it will do that in all the New England states, not just New Hampshire, according to Frayer. And that best case extent to which Northern Pass’s own expert says it will lower your electric rates? Enough for a family to buy a cup of coffee per month. A SMALL cup of coffee.
The truth is, New Hampshire gets no special benefit from Northern Pass but will shoulder all the downsides of this 192-mile behemoth. According to Frayer, only half of the construction workers will come from New Hampshire and only two permanent direct jobs – just TWO JOBS - will be created in the state. And that best case scenario Northern Pass’s expert presented, saying rates will be reduced enough to get you that extra small cup of coffee? Well, soon we will hear from the economist for the Counsel for the Public that at best the reduction will be less than one third of a cent per kWh. Now we’re literally talking savings to buy penny candy with. Under questioning from the Chair of the SEC, Frayer begrudgingly admitted that almost all of the economic benefits she claimed for Northern Pass would disappear if another hydro project came on line first.
In order to get a site certificate from the SEC, Northern Pass must prove that it will not have an unreasonable adverse effect on aesthetics, historic sites, air and water quality, the natural environment, and public health and safety in New Hampshire. Northern Pass also must prove that it will not unduly interfere with orderly development. Their expert witnesses fumbled the ball again and again in making their case. A few highlights from their testimony of its expert include the following facts:
- Its safety expert did not know how close the transmission line would be to homes and a playground in Concord;
- There is no written plan yet for how traffic would be managed while the transmission line is built and one won’t be prepared until after the SEC hearings end;
- If the buried portion of the line can’t avoid disturbing gravesites, Northern Pass will move the graves;
- Northern Pass already has asked the state Department of Transportation for nearly 200 exceptions to conditions imposed by the DOT;
- Its environmental expert testified that NH Fish & Game will be responsible for managing the replacement of damaged rare species, while admitting they have no idea how much it will cost and that they have no agreement with NH Fish & Game;
- Northern Pass still hasn’t provided the DOT with required boundary surveys;
- Its historic preservation expert didn’t speak with any local historic commissions;
- The company rejected the recommendation from its visual impacts expert that he survey the public about reactions to visual impacts from the lines and towers; and
- Their tourism ‘expert’ from 3000 miles away somehow concluded that building enormous transmission towers somehow won’t impact tourism in New Hampshire.
It’s clear there will be countless adverse impacts from Northern Pass, but their experts concluded that because the project is 192 miles long, none of the various harms to New Hampshire jobs, economy and environment are unreasonable because…wait for it… the project is 192-miles long.
It’s a twist on “too big to fail” - if you propose a big enough project, the SEC must approve it.
That’s the case Northern Pass made with its witnesses for six months, and for six months Protect the Granite State has joined so many thousands of others in throwing the flag on this disastrous proposal. We now look forward to hearing the opposition make its case in chief against Northern Pass.