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Plymouth joins opposition to Northern Pass project

December 21, 2010
PLYMOUTH—Responding to a flood of citizen concerns and complaints about the Northern Pass proposal to construct electrical transmission lines running from Canada to the border with Coos County, through northern New Hampshire, to a substation in nearby Franklin, the Plymouth Board of Selectmen have submitted a letter of concern to the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at the Department of Energy in Washington.

According to Select Board Chair Valerie Scarborough, in that letter the board "strongly objects" to one proposed "alternative route" for the project that would take the new transmission lines through Wentworth, Rumney and Plymouth.

Plymouth is asking to be granted intervener status in the pending Presidential Permit process for the international project.

Northern Pass, a joint venture between Transmission Ventures, Inc. (a wholly owned subsidiary of Northeast Utilities) and NSTAR Transmission Ventures, Inc. would entail the construction of 45 miles of transmission lines from the Des Canton Substation in Quebec to the border of Coos County in the United States, then proceed for about 140 miles through northern New Hampshire to a proposed new converter terminal in Franklin. From there, it is expected to continue to Public Service of New Hampshire's Deerfield substation to provide 1,200 megawatts of power to various locations throughout New England.

The transmission lines will be mounted above ground on structures ranging from 90 to 135 feet on a concrete base measuring 30 feet by 30 feet. In some places, the proposed line will run parallel to existing lines or follow existing easements; in other locations, construction will require cutting a swath of 150 feet or more through public or private forest lands for the towers along an entirely new route.

The proposed route would take the transmission lines through a significant portion of the White Mountain National Forest, and crosses the Appalachian Trail in New Hampshire in two locations. One alternative proposed route would bring the lines into Plymouth, potentially impacting important conservation lands, including the Walter Newton Forest and Fauver Trail on Plymouth Mountain.

According to local residents, the transmission lines would also negatively impact the view shed and property values along Old Hebron Road, a designated New Hampshire scenic highway.

Local opponents of the project say they are deeply concerned about the economic, environmental and health impacts of the transmission line project throughout New Hampshire, as well as the effect on local property values.

According to the applicant, the Northern Pass proposal is intended to "deliver competitively priced low carbon power that will help satisfy the requirements of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) by reducing greenhouse gas emission, help achieve the goals of the New Hampshire Climate Action Plan by enabling importation of Canadian hydroelectric power, and help mitigate price volatility in the region's energy market by increasing the region's fuel diversity."

The complete Northern Pass permit application to the Department of Energy and additional information can be viewed online at www.oe.energy.gov/permits_pending, or by contacting the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability at (202) 586-2793. The deadline for filing protests or requests to intervene in the Presidential Permit process was Dec. 16, with a number of significant local parties signing on in opposition, including the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

Meanwhile, local opposition to the proposal is gaining momentum. On behalf of local residents, Ann Schneider appeared before the Plymouth Select Board last week to appeal for help in fighting the project and offer assistance to help the board raise awareness about the potential negative aspects of the plan.

"The alternative route is personally devastating to me and my neighborhood," said Schneider. "But it is about so much more than that. The project would take some of the most prized properties in Plymouth, assets that our state prides itself on and everybody values. We really need every single person of influence to stand up for our state because all of New Hampshire would be scarred stem to stern if this proposal goes through. It just goes against everything that we have to offer here in New Hampshire."

Martin Lord Osman
Varney Smith
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