With Vivid Imagery and Competing Arguments, Northern Pass Gets Another Public Hearing

Jun 15, 2017

Laura Bonk of Suncook speaks in opposition to Northern Pass during public hearings in Concord on Thursday.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

Members of the public were given their latest chance to weigh in on Northern Pass, a proposed utility transmission project that would bring hydropower from Quebec to Southern New England via New Hampshire.

During two and a half hours of public testimony before the state’s Site Evaluation Committee in Concord on Thursday, everyone from buttoned-up businessmen to goat farmers had a chance to condense their arguments into three minute speeches.

“There is no perfect solution when it comes to building out our energy infrastructure, but it seems to me that Northern Pass has struck the optimal balance,” said Tom Farrelly, a commercial realtor in Manchester. He stated that the cheaper energy created by Northern Pass will help attract businesses to the state.

Eversource says that Canadian hydropower will save New Hampshire rate payers $60 million annually, though opponents dispute how much local electric customers may ultimately benefit.

(You can find NHPR's previous coverage of Northern Pass by clicking here.)

The company also contends that, after hearing concerns, it restructured the proposed route to minimize the visual impact of the towers. Many of those who testified against the plan say the route still spoils the North Country’s natural beauty, threatening tourism.

“From what I can see, the benefits to this project, they should be direct,” said Robert Mekeel of Lancaster. “People from New Hampshire should be receiving a benefit to tolerate this scar on our beautiful landscape, but we’re not.”

Those negative sentiments were echoed by a majority of the 30-plus speakers. Rather than a scar, Kathleen Sims of New Boston offered her own vivid imagery.  

More than 30 people delivered testimony both for and against the Northern Pass project in Concord on Thursday.
Credit Todd Bookman/NHPR

“The proposed army of giant towers marching across the spines of these towns will cripple tourism, property values, community spaces, and family recreation, not to mention, their children’s health,” she said.

If approved, Northern Pass’s utility lines would terminate in the town of Deerfield. That’s where the family of Meredith Briggs has called home for generations. She backs the plan, in part because of the construction jobs it will create. And like many speakers, she didn’t hide her passion.

“I want you to know and I want you to understand that I would cut out my tongue and dig out my heart with a spoon before I would come to any conclusions I believe would be injurious to the town I love so much,” said Briggs. “Deerfield is my past, Deerfield is my present, and Deerfield is my future.”

The future of Northern Pass won’t be decided for at least several more months. Adjudicatory hearings--including two more public statement sessions--are scheduled into the month of August.