I admit it, I haven’t been paying attention.  I’ll bet you haven’t either.  Quick, someone tell me what the Northern Pass project is.  Don’t be embarrassed if you’ve never heard of it.  I had no idea of its existence at all until a good friend told me to get off my blogging butt, look into it and write about it.

In essence, the plan is to take a huge swath of New Hampshire beauty and carve out a 140-mile path from the Canadian border all the way down to the small town of Deerfield New Hampshire.  The goal?  Deliver up to 1,200 megawatts of Quebec-Hydro generated electricity into the lower New England power grid.  Oh yeah, that would mean Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Connecticut.

Okay, so here’s the first sign that I’m going to have a problem with this.  The project website touts this as “A Unique Opportunity in time”.  It goes on to inform me that the goals of the New England states are to reduce carbon emissions as part of their climate change action plans.  Say what? When the hell did I vote on putting high power transmission lines from the border of Canada right through the heart of some of the most beautiful real estate in New Hampshire, using coercion and eminent domain, so we could give Hartford and Springfield 2 cent per kilowatt hour electricity rates?

So is this about climate change?  Really? We’re going to use climate change as an excuse for every misguided, destructive piece of legislation or project from now on?  Let me take a step back here a minute:  First, we needed renewable energy; this is from MY youth, and that was the mantra for years.  Clean renewable energy.  The solution?  Hydro.  Except that didn’t work.  That offended the other side of the eco-weenie spectrum and we could no longer build dams because we were killing off various species of fish.  Why Hydropower from another country is any more appealing, I don’t know, but hey, if you’re selling climate change, hypocrisy isn’t one of your hang-ups. I’ve been following the news around Maine over the last few years, as they’ve been busy tearing down one dam after another in an effort to reclaim the rivers and return them to the wild. Of course, they also closed Maine Yankee, one of the first nuclear plants I’d ever seen.  (Yeah, I know, not green, not renewable…) Where the heck does Maine get its power from one wonders?  For that matter where does New Hampshire get theirs?  Seabrook nuclear station? Eight years of protesting, one reactor got built, one was delayed and eventually canceled. I’m constantly reading about complaints and protests over the Schiller station in Portsmouth, that nasty oil and coal fired monstrosity that just happens to warm the protestors houses when they get home from a hard day of, well, protesting in front of Schiller station.  Anyone see a trend yet? We can’t produce our own power locally, let alone in our own country.  But not because we don’t have the resources or technology.

At the very least, it’s the “not in my back yard” scenario all over again.  Build a power plant or two in southern New England.  Maybe some fancy wind turbines subsidized by the federal government so that they can actually break even within 50 years.  Oops, I forgot, you can’t have those unsightly beasts in certain areas, especially places like the Kennedy Compound.  You can put them in the White Mountains though.

Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I have the NIMBY virus and it’s affecting my reasoning.  I don’t know, I just feel that there’s something nefarious going on here and I’m not normally given to conspiracy theories. But to begin with, I could only find a few articles on the issue and no awareness of it here on the seacoast at all. The only large TV station in New Hampshire has reported on it twice.  I managed to find just two articles in the Union Leader, one from November of last year and another this February.  And consider; Jeanne Shaheen, who I find myself at odds with most of the time, wonders in a letter to the DOE secretary Steven Chu why the same company that is advising Northern Pass LLC, the company under scrutiny, will perform the department’s environmental assessment.

We do know that Quebec-Hydro already has a transmission corridor in Northeastern Vermont.  But if they widen that by increasing the right of way, PSNH loses out on profit.  Why should we allow them to stitch a large ugly zipper through the White Mountains just for profit? How does it benefit the state of New Hampshire to be someone else’s conduit?  How about Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island destroy their own landscape to supply their addictions or scale back demand.

This is the legacy we will leave our children?  We will continue to be dependent on foreign sources of power, whether it floats across the Atlantic in a tanker or crackles overhead from Canada.  All for the lure of short-term construction jobs, temporary increases in property tax revenue while we lose the industry that brings in the most revenue of all: the tourists.  And let’s not forget how quickly the land values will depreciate given the change in view.  Let’s pack the car and take the kids up to the White Mountains so we can hike under the high voltage lines.  Sounds like a great memory.

Maybe it’s the tourists who are causing the problems in the first place.  I mean after all, most of them come from Massachusetts and Connecticut to get away from it all, to enjoy the mountains, lakes and streams of New Hampshire.  They get to shop at the Timberland and LL Bean outlet stores, spend a weekend camping at the motel six and call themselves stewards of the land.

Once we’ve destroyed the attraction for them to come, they’ll stay home to enjoy the benefits of the sacrifice we’ve made as the economies of these small towns in New Hampshire wither away.

 

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