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Northern Pass, Federal Agency Criticized At Hearing In Plymouth

The U.S. Department of Energy held its second “scoping” hearing on Northern Pass’s amended route last night in Plymouth.  Opponents criticized not only the hydro-electric project but the federal agency.It was the second of a series of four hearings being held this week and it was rowdier than the first meeting held Monday night in Concord.

Several times the crowd booed a handful of Northern Pass advocates who said jobs and the energy are needed, prompting the moderator to admonish the group. In one case, however, the boos came after the speaker called opponents of the project "very, very ignorant."

Speakers were given three minutes but were encouraged to provide longer, written statements. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR.

About 400 people gathered at Plymouth State University and over about four hours there were roughly sixty speakers, each of whom was allowed three minutes.

Those who spoke in favor of the project were outnumbered about ten to one by Northern Pass opponents, many of whom wore orange.

A major theme was that not enough had changed from the original route to make Northern Pass acceptable.

Another was that the entire line should be buried.

State Senator Jeanie Forrester, a Republican from Meredith said the DOE should demand that Northern Pass provide information on such an alternative.

“It is clear that burial of such facilities is where the technology is moving,” she said.

A frequent complaint was that the DOE is too easy on Northern Pass and should demand more information, including alternatives.

“As you have heard earlier neither DOE nor the applicant has much credibility with the public. This is tragic,” said Susan Arnold , the vice president for conservation at the Appalachian Mountain Club.

Arnold said the federal agency must drastically improve its process and its transparency.

There was also praise for Gov. Maggie Hassan's recent op-ed column in The Boston Globe in which she criticized the Northern Pass project.

Another hearing is scheduled today at 5 p.m. at the Mountain View Grand Resort in Whitefield.

The fourth and final hearing is Thursday in Colebrook from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at the elementary school.

Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

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