An opinion column by Marc Brown of the New England Ratepayers Association has been published in several newspapers recently, focusing on the future reliability of our region’s energy grid in the wake of news that Vermont Yankee will close in 2014.
Mr. Brown writes…
“The Vermont Yankee announcement means that New England ratepayers will be even more beholden to the fluctuations of the natural gas markets and the intermittency of when the wind blows. More fuel diversity for reliable, affordable baseload power is needed.”
We agree and have noted on several occasions that the region’s growing dependency on natural gas, which ISO cites as the top risk factor facing the region, is a critical challenge that must be addressed through fuel diversity and the development of new sources of clean, low-cost energy, like that of the Northern Pass.
Mr. Brown also notes that with the expected retirement of more generators, Northern Pass should be part of the region’s future energy mix…
“The likelihood of new nuclear or coal plants being built in New England is slim to none. Combine that with a restricted pipeline capacity that will handcuff natural gas generators, and you have limited options to a dwindling baseload power supply that has become over-reliant on natural gas. ISO has gone on record as stating that we are going to have to replace an expected 8,000 megawatts of retired capacity in the not-too-distant future. With the closing of one of the last nuclear plants in the region, Northern Pass is going to have to be part of the solution.”
The full column is available here.
In last week’s Colebrook Chronicle, Coos County Treasurer Fred King detailed his thoughts on the Northern Pass project, our revised route in the North Country, and the recently announced Jobs Creation fund.
From Mr. King’s letter…
“…a positive reaction from the utility has been the proposal to provide a substantial contribution to communities in Coos County impacted by the new transmission line by offering to fund economic development with millions of their dollars. Some call this a bribe. I prefer to think that PSNH, as they looked at the economy in Coos County, at last recognized that there was a need for assistance for our communities in order to restore our job base.”
Mr. King also discussed his thoughts on hydropower as part of our future energy portfolio…
“…if there were no hydro generation on the Connecticut River there would not have been a need for a First Connecticut Lake or Lake Francis in Pittsburg or a Lake Umbagog in Errol to store water until it is needed by downstream power producers. In this case it is Canadians who have developed a huge, well-planned facility that has expansion capability. So what should we do as we consider this proposal to bring hydro power from Canada to southern New England through or North Country?
We must first remember that our Seabrook nuclear plant, like the one in Vermont, has a limited life expectancy, coal as a fuel is very unpopular and the natural gas supply is limited. However, water will run downhill forever.”
The full letter can be viewed on page 23 of the most recent issue of the Colebrook Chronicle.
Mr. King’s letter follows a recent post detailing several other positive letters to the editor we’ve been seeing in newspapers around the state.
We recently hosted open houses throughout the North Country, answering questions and talking to residents and landowners about the benefits of the project. Next week, we take our open houses further south with an event at the Holiday Inn in Concord.
Through these discussions we’ve learned there are many people who support Northern Pass or are at least seeking further information in order to inform their opinions. We hope to continue these discussions and are pleased to see more people speaking out about the benefits of Northern Pass.
We noticed recently that a number of local leaders and citizens have sent letters to the editors of New Hampshire newspapers discussing the project’s many upsides. The need for jobs is a top issue for New Hampshire residents. A major theme in these letters is that the 1,200 jobs created during construction are much needed, as well as the many long-term jobs the recently announced $7.5 million North Country Jobs Creation Fund will create in years to come.
Others wrote about the increased tax revenue, not just for cities and towns, but at the county and state level, as well. There were also letters about the need for more clean, renewable energy projects like Northern Pass. We wanted to share with you what people in your community are saying about Northern Pass, and have included some highlights below.
Temporary Construction Jobs Can Turn Into a Career, by Norman Brooks, Colebrook
“It’s truly a bonus when you can build something that creates jobs and helps the environment. … We need a source of low-cost power to bring manufacturing back to our state. The Northern Pass will help do just that.”
North Country Needs Jobs, by Donald Dostie, Colebrook
“Last week I went to a meeting with about 40 other local businesspeople from Colebrook, Pittsburg, Stewartstown, Clarksville and other area towns with officials from Northern Pass. There was a lot of information shared. We asked questions about the project and local jobs. There were questions asked that they didn’t have answers to, and Northern Pass committed to getting back to us with information. It was a calm, informative discussion.
Contrary to what we have been told about Northern Pass, I found the people representing Northern Pass to be honest, factual and forthcoming with information. I look forward to this discussion continuing and getting more information about the project.”
Project Could Ease Strain on Coos County Taxpayers, by Paul Grenier, Berlin
“The estimated Northern Pass annual tax payment is approximately equal to the cost of all county workers’ salaries in the sheriff’s department, register of deeds and corrections department combined. It would cover roughly half the annual cost of salaries for all nurses at the West Stewartstown nursing home.
Debates about the future of the county farm, county jobs and other services become less challenging with economic growth and an expanding tax base. Most important, an expanding tax base reduces the financial pressure on existing taxpayers.”
We Don’t Need ‘None of the Above’ Energy Policy, by Landon L. Placey, West Stewartstown
“Whether the Northern Pass gets approved will be determined through open debate – and I look forward to that debate. But at a time when we need good jobs and a long-term energy solution, I really hope that we build Northern Pass and get New Hampshire back to work.”
The board of directors of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce recently endorsed the Northern Pass project and Chamber President Chris Williams published a guest commentary in Sunday’s Nashua Telegraph detailing why the group believes the project is good for New Hampshire businesses and residents.
In his commentary, Williams cites the need for fuel diversity, lower energy costs, and clean energy as the key drivers behind the Chamber’s support for the project:
“This project is anticipated to bring lower-cost energy to New Hampshire that is environmentally sound and provides more diversity to New England’s long-term energy landscape.”
The Greater Nashua Chamber joins the Greater Manchester Chamber in supporting Northern Pass. The Greater Nashua and Manchester Chambers are the two largest Chambers in New Hampshire.
LandWorks, an independent firm skilled in landscape study, is working on the development of a visual impact analysis which is a necessary component of the project’s permitting process.
The firm has recently authored a document describing how that analysis will be produced.
In related news, the Appalachian Mountain Club (AMC), which has previously stated that it is opposed to The Northern Pass project, has produced a document critical of the work that is still to be done by LandWorks. Unfortunately, in an attempt to stop a clean energy project that will bring much needed jobs and low-cost power to New Hampshire, the club has chosen to misrepresent the actual process for evaluating potential view impacts.
What AMC is calling its “visual impact assessment” is, in fact, a deeply flawed document written by club staff with no apparent qualifications or experience conducting a professional visual impact assessment.
The Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce recently voiced support for the Northern Pass project, citing the creation of jobs and reduced energy costs, as significant benefits for New Hampshire’s business community, and others:
“…Reducing energy costs for all customers, substantial job creation, generating new tax revenue for state and local government, protecting our environment by reducing carbon emissions, and planning for our future energy needs are all laudable policy goals that our state is striving towards. Meeting each of these goals individually is a challenge, yet Northern Pass is a chance for New Hampshire to take a step forward on all fronts. We simply cannot afford to let an opportunity like Northern Pass slip by…
Northern Pass is how the free market is supposed to work – private enterprise working to bring superior, lower cost products to consumers. It’s time to work together to make this project a reality…”
Chamber President and CEO Robin Comstock outlined the group’s endorsement in a document that was published in the Sunday News on July 29. It is republished here with the permission of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
Northern Pass project has benefits for state
By Robin Comstock
As one of the state’s largest business organizations with nearly 1,000 members, the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce advocates on a variety of issues that have a significant impact on New Hampshire businesses.
One such issue that has been hotly debated as of late is the Northern Pass Project, which the Chamber believes will advance two of our organization’s strategic goals: promoting regional economic development and promoting a sound infrastructure.
Looking past all the controversy, emotion, and rhetoric surrounding this project, it is clear the Northern Pass project will greatly benefit our state’s business community.
The price of energy is commonly cited by our members and businesses across New Hampshire as a concern. Northern Pass will bring 1,200 megawatts (enough to power one million homes) of cheap, renewable energy from Canada into New England. This translates into significant energy savings for New Hampshire and the region. Indeed, Northern Pass will reduce energy costs for New Hampshire customers by $20-35 million annually.
In addition, Northern Pass will provide New Hampshire with fuel diversity at a time when New England is becoming more and more dependent on natural gas, the price of which will likely not always be so low. Diversity, which brings stability, is good for business.
On the job front, Northern Pass will create 1,200 jobs per year over a three-year construction period at a time when job creation in the state remains sluggish. Northern Pass is committed to using local New Hampshire companies and labor for this project first, giving a shot in the arm to our neighbors and the local business community. In the long term, the creation of an additional 200 New Hampshire jobs per year is anticipated as a result of reduced energy costs as businesses can afford to invest elsewhere when energy is more affordable.
These economic benefits can be realized without compromising New Hampshire’s environment, an element of the project that appeals to members of the Chamber’s Green Committee. Indeed, the cheap, renewable hydropower made possible by the Northern Pass Project will improve the environment by reducing regional carbon dioxide emissions by up to five million tons each year – the equivalent of a year’s worth of emissions from one million cars.
It should also be remembered that the construction of transmission lines to import hydroelectric and wind power from Canada is an action recommended by the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan issued in March, 2009.
Reducing energy costs for all customers, substantial job creation, generating new tax revenue for state and local government, protecting our environment by reducing carbon emissions, and planning for our future energy needs are all laudable policy goals that our state is striving towards. Meeting each of these goals individually is a challenge, yet Northern Pass is a chance for New Hampshire to take a step forward on all fronts. We simply cannot afford to let an opportunity like Northern Pass slip by.
Northern Pass is how the free market is supposed to work – private enterprise working to bring superior, lower cost products to consumers. It’s time to work together to make this project a reality.
Robin Comstock is president and CEO of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce.
A recent Granite State Poll* by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center reports increasing support for the project.
The survey of 527 randomly selected NH adults indicates that there is more support for the project (42 percent) than opposition (37 percent) among those who are familiar with the project.
Strong support of the project has increased modestly to 16 percent, compared to 14 percent last April; while, Somewhat Support has grown to 26 percent from 19 percent.
Meantime, Strongly Oppose has remained flat at 23 percent; while, Somewhat Oppose decreased to 14 percent from 15 percent.
In his State of the State address today, NH Governor John Lynch reiterated his support to bring more renewable energy to New Hampshire, and mentioned The Northern Pass specifically.
From his prepared remarks:
“We should not dismiss out of hand hydro power from Canada. We should be open to exploring approaches for accessing this power,” Governor Lynch said. “But the proponents of Northern Pass need to listen better. This project cannot happen without local support. And it should not happen with eminent domain.
We agree with Governor Lynch that New Hampshire needs to diversify its power sources and bring more renewable energy to the state.
The Northern Pass will bring that diversity, in the form of renewable energy that actually helps reduce energy costs here and across New England.
We amended our project application last year, after listening to public concerns, and we are now working successfully with property owners to purchase land or easements to develop an acceptable route in that area of the North Country where there is no existing transmission right of way.
The project currently has property rights to the vast majority of the land necessary for building the transmission line within existing rights of way, and we reiterate our position that The Northern Pass is not predicated on the use of eminent domain.
We’ve heard reports that presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, former Speaker of the House, supports the concept of The Northern Pass but has voiced concern about some aspects, specifically – above ground structures in the area north of Groveton, NH, where transmission rights of way do not currently exist.
We appreciate Speaker Gingrich’s suggestion that the project be placed underground in some areas. While our studies show that may not be sensible using traditional underground technology, we are continuing our research.
PSNH has been working for months to minimize the visual impact of overhead construction and we will continue to work to find a route which is acceptable to the State given the input and advice we have received to date.
The next President will face a number of decisions regarding energy development, from electric transmission and natural gas transmission to oil pipelines, and certainly it sets a poor precedent for candidates to make decisions on these projects before they are finalized.
This is a good reminder that The Northern Pass is still in the very early stages of a rigorous federal and state review process. Our project will continue to evolve as the multi-year permitting process continues.
We look forward to continue working collaboratively with many individuals, communities and agencies to complete a project that will deliver jobs, lower energy costs, and clean renewable that will significantly reduce emissions of carbon,
National Grid and Bangor Hydro Electric Company recently announced a proposed “Northeast Energy Link,” that could transmit 1,100 megawatts of energy along a 220 mile long High Voltage Direct Current (HVDC) line that may be placed underground.
We see this filing as a positive step toward the development of wind energy resources in Maine, and we’re also pleased that NEL has adopted the “participant funded” approach that originated with The Northern Pass. (Costs associated with the transmission line construction will be recovered through the sale of energy, instead of through a transmission charge.)