PLYMOUTH — A crowd comprised largely of opponents to Northern Pass urged federal officials last night to reject the $1.6 billion electric transmission line project that would run 186 miles through the state, including parts of the picturesque and largely unspoiled North Country.
Elected officials and private citizens commented at the public hearing about the project's impact on the state's economy and scenic beauty. The 635-seat Hanaway Theater at Plymouth State University was filled almost to capacity for the first part of the hearing. But more than half left after the first hour of public input.
State Sen. Jeb Bradley had a blunt recommendation for officials from the federal Department of Energy and other agencies. "The clear message in this (environmental impact statement) needs to be this: Bury the lines," the Wolfeboro Republican said to thunderous applause.
Many of the Northern Pass opponents who spoke last night called for the entire line to be buried, and not just 8 miles in northernmost Coos County as Northern Pass officials are now proposing.
Northern Pass supporters said the project would benefit the state's economy by bringing in jobs, creating additional tax revenues in communities through which the line would run, and would provide an environmentally acceptable way to meet growing electrical demand.
"If consumers want power when they most need it, then Northern Pass is certainly part of the answer," said state Rep. Leigh Webb of Franklin. "The demand for energy will never decrease."
There is significant support for Northern Pass in Franklin because a relay/conversion facility is planned for that community that would add considerably to the property tax base.
Two other public hearings on the project are scheduled — one this evening in Whitefield and another on Thursday evening in Colebrook.