Plymouth: No to Northern Pass

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State Sen. Bob Giuda speaks to the crowd during yesterday morning’s press conference in opposition to Northern Pass held at the Plymouth Commons on Main Street. (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)

Project criticized in rally


PLYMOUTH — The Northern Pass proposal would spoil scenic vistas and disrupt towns and businesses, speakers said at a rally Tuesday while a state committee looked at areas that would be crossed by the 192-mile power transmission project.

Plans call for burial of transmission lines through downtown Plymouth, where about 100 people, some with “Stop Northern Pass: Live Free or Fry” signs, gathered to listen to state Sen. Bob Giuda and others criticize the proposal.

Excavation and major construction would do lasting harm to the downtown area, said Giuda (R-Warren).

“We know that Plymouth, if allowed to suffer from the Northern Pass plan, is going to be devastated,” he said. “Your main street will be trashed. Your businesses will suffer, if not, in fact, cease to exist.”

He also said members of the state's Site Evaluation Committee, which stopped in Plymouth Tuesday, did not talk to the people gathered there.

“I'm embarrassed that they asked us not to engage them in conversation,” Giuda said. “I find that to be a betrayal of the very things we believe as a community and a nation.”

The committee on Tuesday also visited Ashland, Bristol, Concord and Deerfield – all areas to be crossed by the project, which would carry electricity generated by Canadian hydropower facilities. The route covers much of the length of the state.

Proponents say it could bring down electricity prices while providing clean energy and that efforts have been made to minimize impacts on the environment, business and the public. They also say the hydropower would help diversify the region's energy supply.

The lines would be placed underground in much of the northern leg of the project, including the White Mountain National Forest. South of Plymouth, the lines will be strung on power poles, some as tall as 165 feet, that will go through Ashland, Bridgewater, Bristol, New Hampton, Franklin, Concord and Pembroke.

Giuda said the main beneficiaries of the power project will be corporate interests and states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut, which he said have not adequately maintained their own power-generating capacities.

“We become the bearers of the burden for transporting energy from a foreign country through our state to other states that have made poor decisions with respect to their energy portfolio,” he said.

Executive Councilor Joseph Kenney also spoke against the project.

“I'm very concerned that our natural environment is under attack,” he said.

He urged people to write to their elected representatives to register their concerns.

Rep. Steve Rand, D-Plymouth, whose family has owned a hardware store on Main Street in Plymouth for 109 years, said the downtown area is the heart of the community and must be protected.

“Northern Pass is not a knife in the heart, but it would sever our carotid artery,” he said. “This surgery is not necessary and we don't need the energy, but they are willing to operate on us for more profit.”

In an interview and a letter to the editor, Martin Murray, a spokesman for Northern Pass Transmission, said placing the lines underground in Plymouth would be a big project, but he said plans have been formulated that take into consideration impacts on traffic, parking and businesses.

The project would be beneficial to the region, he said.

“Northern Pass is a clean energy project that will transmit enough hydropower to power 1 million homes,” he said. “It will reduce CO2 emissions by 3.2 million metric tons a year, the equivalent of taking 670,000 cars off the road.

“The project is consistent with New Hampshire’s Clean Energy Action Plan and will provide an affordable and reliable baseload source of clean energy as older power plants close and we continue to add more intermittent sources such as solar and wind.”

He said that by adding more power to the Northeast grid, it has the potential of lowering wholesale electrical prices.

The Site Evaluation Committee will determine whether to approve or deny the application for the project. It can also set various conditions.

The Committee is made up of representatives of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, the state Departments of Environmental Services, Resources and Economic Development, Transportation, and Cultural Resources; and the public.

It has extended its hearings on the project to the end of this year and isn’t expected to make a decision until 2018.

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Opposition to Northern Pass was widespread among the crowd gathered during yesterday’s press conference at Plymouth Commons.  (Karen Bobotas/for The Laconia Daily Sun)