All 50 speakers at local EIS hearing oppose Northern Pass
March 23, 2011WHITEFIELD — Orange ruled. About 350 people filled the at the Presidential Hall at the Mountain View Grand on Thursday night to capacity and beyond, sitting in 250 chairs with standing room only at the fourth of the seven kick-off "scoping" sessions of the Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) process of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) under the aegis of the federal Department of Energy (DOE). The large conference room was filled with the high energy and determination of like-minded opponents.
Although some attendees wore a little green to honor St. Patrick's Day, most wore orange vests, jackets, armbands, hats, and ribbons.
Every one of the 50 speakers who went to the microphone over the four-hour-long session opposed the proposed Northern Pass Transmission (NPT) project. The project proposes to bring a 1,200-megawatt high-voltage Direct Current (HVDC) line south from the Canadian border at Pittsburg through Coös and Grafton counties to a DC-AC converter station at Franklin connected to a similar AC line to Deerfield.
The proposed international border crossing requires a Presidential Permit from DOE. A state permit would also be required from the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC).
Valerie Herres of Lancaster asked that the DOE do a thorough cost-benefit analysis of the proposed NPT line in the interest of environmental justice, ensuring that the state's socio-economic minority clustered in the North Country would not have to bear a disproportionate share of the burden.
Marty Faulkner of Dalton pointed out that the North Country depends on both tourism and forest industries. "Views have value," she said, lamenting that the proposed project would bring towers as tall as 135-feet and continue the U.S.'s dependence on foreign energy.
Henrietta Moineau of Lancaster listed numerous negatives associated with the proposed line, highlighting that "Hydro-Quebec is a Canadian government-owned entity and not a private company." Moineau said opponents could win this fight, urging that activists "keep in mind the Biblical story of David and Goliath!"
Chelsea Petereit, a Lancaster School science teacher, and her husband, Mark McCullock, both of Stratford, explained that the proposed line would have "drastically negative impacts" on the 70 acres on which they built their log cabin with the help of friends. They lived 10 years off the grid, using oil lamps, before hooking up to PSNH for electricity. Since "the Northern Pass bomb dropped," this potential calamity has dominated their thoughts and given them sleepless nights.
Alice Baldwin of Lancaster reached back into history and called on the spirit of two New Hampshire heroes to bolster her opposition to NPT: General John Stark who stood up against tyranny as do opponents of the Northeast Utilities' initiative; and Massachusetts Senator John W. Weeks, a Lancaster native who led the fight to allow federal ownership of Eastern forests, allowing the forest to reestablish itself.
Frank Lombardi of Whitefield detailed the concerns of 14 scientists from around the world about low frequency electro-magnetic environments, and said that any potential pluses from the proposed line would not be worth the health risks.
Physicist George Davis of Dalton also warned of the suspected effects of the corona discharge from high-voltage lines.
Millard "Sonny" Martin of Lancaster, who owns Martin's Agway, spoke of how painful it is to think about the land that his family has owned for over 70 years and on which green and yellow beans and hay have been raised and wildlife supported would be sacrificed for what others believe is "for the greater good."
Ann Hawthorne of Lancaster said that construction of the proposed NPT would drastically alter people's lives and put an undue burden on an already impoverished population. Franklin is a devastated city, she said, "Would you want to live there?" Hawthorne said.
Wetlands specialist John Severance of Whitefield, speaking also for his wife, Roxie, spoke of the visual scar that the proposed 120- to 130-foot-tall proposed towers would create, blighting their view from their 217-acre property of the White Mountains, Cherry Mountain, Cannon Mtn. ski slopes, and the Kilkenny Range.
"There is no amount of money that can or will compensate for this loss of value to us as landowners who simply love their land," Severance said. Much of their land abuts the Pondicherry Refuge, a large and unique matrix of wildlife habitats that includes vernal pools, perennial streams, and dense softwood cover used by threatened and endangered species, he said.
Richard Samson of Stewartstown recalled the words on an orange sign that describes the proposed NPT project: "New Hampshire does not want; New Hampshire does not need; It's just someone's greed."
Lucy Wyman of Lancaster and others said that far more rigorous and widespread conservation measures would eliminate the need to generate additional electrical power.
Rebecca Brown of Sugar Hill, executive director of the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust (ACT), likened the NPT proposal to "a private toll road that would cut through the heart of the North Country — a toll road with no exits and no on ramps. We would not receive the power, nor could we use the lines to export our locally generated power."
She urged the DOE to recommend "no action," halting the project. "It is likely that within a few decades these enormous towers will be relics of a bygone era," Brown said. "Yet their scar on our landscape will continue," she said. "It is the wrong project, the wrong place, and the wrong time."
Jan Marvel of Thornton, who described herself as Cree and French Canadian, said that Hydro Quebec had decimated the Canadian wilderness and that "corporate money is what this is all about." The NPT proposal shows "blatant disrespect" for local people's "hopes, land, jobs, and way of life," Marvel said.
Rich Perry of Dalton said that allowing a Canadian company to benefit from eminent domain is completely Un-American. "We must all stick together; otherwise, "it's money talks, little people walk," he said.
John O'Neil of Hollis, a WMRHS graduate from Dalton, said the proposed line should be: "Underground, under water; or unapproved." The audience chanted this mantra with him, and he cried, "We'll take the 'unapproved!'"
Coös 2 Reps. John Tholl Jr., Herb Richardson, and Bill Remick spoke against the transmission line as now proposed. Rep. Evalyn Merrick, also of Coös 2, e-mailed her opposition the following day.
Steve Hight of Littleton said it irked him that no snowmobile trails are allowed on the WMNF but that a foreign country could have its U.S. partners ask for a special permit for transmission towers.
Sugar Hill selectman Margaret Connors said that the proposed NPT towers would disturb animals, fragment conserved lands, potentially introduce danger from electro-magnetic radiation, and mar the landscape with an industrial infrastructure.
Chris Thayer of Sugar Hill, the father of two young boys, asked the DOE to perform "due diligence in studying the impacts to wildlife, wetlands, forest resources, communities, and recreation areas along the proposed routes," including the WMNF, "which draws more visitors than Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks combined. Hydro-Quebec's hydropower cannot be considered "green," he said, because it comes from James Bay where 2.2 million acres were flooded and trees are no longer growing.
Former state Senator Harold Janeway of Canterbury, a Lancaster second homeowner, asked DOE to look into the feasibility of a newly developed underground cable system that only requires a narrow right-of-way now being used in New Mexico by a Massachusetts-based company. David van Houten of Bethlehem said that NPT is based on outdated energy systems and would fail to increase energy conservation. The region's four distinct seasons means that all needed studies should be done in each one of them.