By RICK GREEN, LACONIA DAILY SUN
ASHLAND — Lawmakers from areas in the path of the Northern Pass power line say a state committee's rejection of the project shows the regulatory process works even when local people are up against a major corporation.
Northern Pass officials, on the other hand, issued a statement expressing shock and outrage and saying last week's Site Evaluation Committee action shows the process is broken. They promised an appeal.
The committee was unanimous in finding the project failed to pass the criteria of not negatively impacting the orderly development of the region.
Sen. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, represents a district that includes communities along the Northern Pass route, among them, Plymouth, Ashland, Bridgewater and New Hampton.
“To be honest, it restores some sense of my faith in government,” he said Monday.
“That they could have arrived at any other conclusion would be unconscionable, but the fight is not over.”
The project includes transmission towers of up to 110 feet in height. People fear views will be harmed and property values will be reduced.
“A really telling factor is that thousands of people in whose backyard this would go said this would cause irreparable harm,” Giuda said. “Once you tarnish the view, you're not getting it back.”
Northern Pass said the $1.6 billion, 192-mile transmission line, which would transport Canadian hydropower to Massachusetts, would provide 2,600 new jobs during construction and $62 million in annual energy savings for New Hampshire consumers.
Another benefit is a $200 million economic development program the company would create. The project would also generate $30 million in additional state and local tax revenue annually. The city of Franklin was in line to benefit from a $350 million substation.
Giuda said there are other ways to bring more electrical power to the state that would be less disruptive and less harmful to the natural beauty of the area.
Rep. Steven Rand, D-Plymouth, owns a hardware store on Main Street. He participated in a rally last year in which people complained that the huge job of burying a major power line under the Main Street area would devastate local businesses.
“It's not hard to see how important Main Street is to the main functioning of our community,” he said Monday. “If you cut the artery, the patient doesn't survive very long.”
He was surprised that the voices of local citizens and municipalities took precedence in the Site Evaluation Committee's decision.
“I guess the basis for this astonishment is that we've come to know that our government is propelled mostly by money interests and this is like actually pushing against the tide in that department,” Rand said.
He is skeptical that the project would produce lower-priced power for New Hampshire. Most Northern Pass jobs would be temporary, he said.
Meanwhile, today, a state House committee will hold a public hearing on a proposed constitutional amendment that would give local communities more say within their borders concerning projects like Northern Pass.
There is a movement for so-called community rights-based ordinances intended to give municipalities a greater voice over major projects that could harm the local environment.
Plymouth voters adopted such an ordinance last week, and Ashland residents will vote on one on March 13.
Former Ashland Selectman Tejasinha Sivalingam said Northern Pass “would be harmful to Ashland.”
He said people in town have concerns that the project could disturb wetlands, reduce property values and possibly do harm to the town's well water. Electromagnetic energy from the power line could even impact human health, he said.