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Rep. Chandler asks Headwaters Committee to oppose utility projects

June 11, 2014
PITTSBURG — A resolution recommending that that "no new utility generating or transmission facilities be allowed within the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters conservation easement area (on 146,400 acres of privately owned 'working' forest) or the fee properties (28,364 acres) acquired by the state in 2003 was withdrawn by its sponsor after discussion at Saturday's meeting of the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters Citizens (Advisory) Committee in the Pittsburg Fire Station.

Committee member Rep. Gene Chandler, a Republican of Bartlett who is serving in this biennium as House Minority Leader, introduced a surprise resolution under "Other Business" at the end of the lengthy agenda at the well-attended meeting.

Chandler had copies of his proposed resolution ready for distribution, the key words of which read: "Whereas, the location of utility generating and-or transmission facilities above or below ground within the easement or any of the fee lands is inconsistent with the conservation purposes for which the state acquired these interests in these lands; Therefore, be it resolved, that the Connecticut Lake Headwaters Citizens Committee strongly recommends to the Commissioner of the Department of Resources and Economic Development (DRED) that no new utility generating or transmission facilities be allowed within the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters" lands.

Chandler explained that his proposed resolution was not solely directed at Northern Pass but would include any proposed "new utility generating or transmission facilities" that might come up.

Chairman Burnham "Bing" Judd of Pittsburg pointed out that the state Attorney General's office has already stated that the existing easement documents would prohibit the use of the Headwaters lands, even though Northern Pass continues to specify a tiny fraction as part of its "backup" transmission route.

"That's only a legal opinion," Chandler countered. "I believe this Committee should take a position."

A couple of camp-owners pointed out that the resolution's wording could potentially prohibit them from either using existing solar panels and-or generators or adding them to their leased camp sites, now called "licensed" camps.

Two Committee members — DRED Commissioner Jeff Rose, who represented Sen. Bob Smith over a decade ago when the Headwaters project was under discussion, and Fish and Game Director Glenn Normandeau — said they would have to recuse themselves from discussing or voting on the resolution because they must remain both neutral and open-minded on this topic. Both are members of the state's Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) that considers the location of any large proposed utility project, including Northern Pass.

Attorney Richard "Dick" Moquin of Bedford explained that he would also have to recuse himself because he was appointed by the House Speaker and thus represents her.

District 3 County Commissioner Rick Samson of Stewartstown roundly scolded the trio, pointing out their loyalty should be to the land without taking into account any other of their obligations.

Chandler then withdrew his motion, pledging, however, that he would bring it back to the next Commission meeting after he had had an opportunity to tweak it.

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