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Corporations should respect will of the people and not run roughshod

  • Published in Letters

To The Daily Sun,

I think the folks who read The Sun might be interested in my responses to an e-mail I received from Amanda Wilson, a Community Relations person for the Northern Pass. I think we need to consider what she wrote and my responses if we are to examine the situation in a sensible manner. I have put sections of her e-mail in italics, followed by my comments.


Thank you for your responses to my e-mail, but I think you missed many of my points (I am a professional ecologist with a PhD in LImnology):


Hydropower from Quebec is a clean, renewable energy source. The carbon dioxide (CO2) emission levels of Hydro-Qu├ębec's hydroelectric developments are 40 times lower than those of a natural gas power plant, are comparable to those of a wind farm (excluding the fossil plant emissions required to back up a wind generator when the wind is not available), and less than that for a photovoltaic solar facility. As noted in page 10 of our amended application to the Department of Energy (seehttp://northernpass.us/assets/permits-and-approvals/northern-pass-amended-application-final.pdf ) other state and regional policies recommend importing Canadian hydro as an energy source.

Hydropower from Quebec is not a clean source of energy. To produce the hydropower, HydroQuebec had to drown huge region of Quebec. The outcome of this was the destruction of huge areas of northern boreal forest, thus decreasing the amount of CO2 that would have been absorbed if the forests were there. Secondly, by drowning the areas for the reservoirs, there is now a net movement of metals out of the substrate and also from the atmosphere into the reservoir waters. This happens because for the most part the reservoirs are somewhat acidic and as a result dissolve the heavy metals and put them into solution. Down wind circulation brings mercury from other source areas and the mercury gets methylated and ends up in the water column of the reservoir. These metals get into the food chain and get passed up the food chain often bioaccumulating in creatures at the top of the food chain. As a result, it is not safe to eat the fish from many of the reservoirs in Quebec.

NH's Power Need

New Hampshire is part of the New England grid (along with Maine, Vermont, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island) and currently uses approximately 10 percent of the energy on the New England grid. ISO-New England, the operator of the New England grid, projects N.H.'s peak electricity demand will grow by more than 17 percent over the next decade. Additionally, ISO-NE is projecting 8,300 megawatts of existing power generation is at risk of retirement from the regional market by 2020 and New England will need to build at least 5,900 megawatts to replace the energy from these retirements (see http://www.iso-ne.com/pubs/pubcomm/pres_spchs/2013/final_rourke_raab _061413.pdf ). The 1,200 megawatts of electricity from Northern Pass will ensure that at least part of the energy required to meet future demand will be clean, low-cost, and reliable. With NH currently relying on natural gas for the generation of more than 50 percent of its energy demand (which ISO-NE recognizes as a risk to grid reliability) the Northern Pass project will provide a source of energy that is low-cost, reliable, and less susceptible to cost volatility.

The power from HydroQuebec is not necessarily reliable. What happened in 1998 when the ice storm hit northern New England and Quebec? Montreal was out of power for a substantially long period of time because of the damage caused by the ice storm to the transmission lines. We need to move from central distribution of power to distributed distribution of power if the region is going to be sustainable over the long haul. Many of us have already put photovoltaics and solar hot water on our roofs, thus decreasing demand for power. If a large majority were to do this (and the money being spent on the Northern Pass could probably fund a huge number of these projects) then the total demand will go down (check out what is happening in Germany). I realize that we are part of the grid, but as all the figures show, N.H. is exporting power at the present time. Therefore, the problem of power use is for the folks in MA, CT, and NY to solve by decreasing their long-term demands and not relying on out of state sources of power that let them to continue to be wasteful in their energy usage. We also have a number of wind farms that are coming on-line and although the power from wind generation is not as reliable as from a coal or natural gas fired power plant, it is distributed power and not centralized. Also there are new innovations taking place not only in the way that we can grab wind energy, but also store it and smooth out the bumps. Check out what has happened in Denmark and Spain in terms of wind energy. Finally, another point; although reservoirs can regulate their flow (that is provide the flow needed to produce whatever the power demands are, the raising and lowering of the reservoir level wrecks havoc on the littoral area of the reservoir (just view some of the photos taken over the last decade of Lake Powell in Utah).

Northern Pass Underground

Northern Pass is proposing to underground a small portion of the route. Although burying the entire Northern Pass line has visual appeal, there are several major obstacles that make this option technically impractical and cost prohibitive: the cost associated with underground burial of transmission lines is 5 to 10 times more expensive than overhead (see http://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.cfm?id=7250); linear trenching required for underground burial involves more extensive and permanent disruption to the environment by limiting opportunities to avoid wetlands and other sensitive resources; underground construction would require the mobilization of large, heavy equipment (flatbed trucks and cable reels that are 12-14 feet high and weigh approximately 25 to 30 tons each) to remote locations along significant portions of the route; and underground lines have a shorter life span, take longer to repair, and have higher repair and replacement costs than overhead lines.

If underground is so costly, why is it the most of the new power lines in Europe and in some areas of the U.S. are now being put underground. If building underground power lines is so complicated, how is it that the power produced on the South Island of New Zealand is delivered to the North Island via underwater power lines across the Cook Strait (I do realize that it is a great deal easier to lay power lines in water than on land, but I think it is a bit more awkward to repair the same lines than those on land). It seems like folks can drive from the Canadian border to the proposed end of the transmission lines. Why would it be so tough to use the same network of road that take a car from the border to the end as a place to bury the transmission lines? Although the roads might be somewhat remote, regular cars can travel them so it shouldn't be a big deal for construction vehicles to carry supplies, etc. over the same network. As to cost, this is private enterprise that is carrying this project out. If private enterprise is unwilling to pay the extra costs, then why should the citizens of N.H. subsidize private enterprise by allowing the company to construct a cheaper form of transmission line? Of course, if N.H. really doesn't need the power, why should we subsidize the folks in the other New England states so they can get cheaper power? Burying the lines might cost them more, but they should be willing to pay the extra cost, rather than the citizens of N.H. paying the environment costs.

As to the drop in assessment values, I end with this example. If you buy a house next to a freeway, you do not pay full value. Because of noise and other problems, in many cases, the DOT moves in and builds a huge wall between you and the freeway to block out the view and to block out the noise. Those houses are not ideal houses, but people will purchase them because the price is right. Is the northern Pass going to build a wall 70-100 feet tall adjacent to my property line which abuts the right-of-way with a mural Stinson and Moosilauke (my normal view)? They could even put tin foil in the wall the block the EMFJ.

Corporations should respect the will of the people and not run roughshod over the people. This feels like HydroQuebec is running roughshod over us to make a profit of the sale of their surplus power. HydroQuebec has run roughshod over the citizens of Quebec. Those citizens have had little control over what a quasi-governmental corporation has done to their province. The company has drown too much of Quebec and we shouldn't have to be the solution to their over-reaching plans.

Larry Spencer