Ignore the Northern Pass fear and rhetoric
Last October, the New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council joined Gov. John Lynch in announcing our support for the Northern Pass transmission project.Citing overwhelming economic benefits to New Hampshire and countless local communities, we believed that the project would receive thoughtful consideration on its path to approval. State and local leaders have voiced a desire for access to the clean, renewable energy, and the Northern Pass project would provide that without the taxpayer subsidy that typically accompanies any clean energy proposal.While the effort to increase New Hampshire’s use of low-cost, clean energy is an important factor in the development of this transmission line from Quebec, the potential economic benefits to the state are undeniable. Vermont recently announced a long-term partnership with Hydro-Quebec to provide in-state customers with electricity priced well below the market average. This agreement provides a roadmap to the potential opportunities that exist for New Hampshire, and should serve as a model for our state.Unfortunately, the same “not in my backyard” opposition that has fought countless job creation projects in New Hampshire has once again emerged, and places self-interests above the long-term welfare of our economy, children and working families.While thoughtful opposition should be respected and considered, New Hampshire should refuse to allow our state’s long-term economic health to become a casualty of obstructionist attitudes, unsubstantiated rhetoric and scare tactics. As president of the New Hampshire Building and Construction Trades Council, my primary responsibility is to the working men and women of the Granite State. Construction unemployment in New Hampshire is currently hovering at around 20 percent, with some regions of our state – including northern New Hampshire – facing prolonged economic depression and a severe lack of investment.Likewise, working families struggle daily against economic hardship with little reason for optimism.Fortunately, one of the biggest benefits of the Northern Pass project is its need for in-state labor. A recent economic study suggests that the project will employ an average of 1,200 workers per year during the five-year construction phase. In the near future, my organization will host job fairs and initiate outreach in the communities involved to recruit the workers necessary to complete this project. New Hampshire’s loggers, builders, equipment operators and laborers can all fill essential roles in the construction of the transmission line.Finally, at a time when our down economy has resulted in depressed wages for workers, the Northern Pass project will provide good wages and benefits.At a time when communities are struggling to provide basic government services, the influx of new tax revenue will allow many towns to address basic needs without increasing the burden on taxpayers. Consider that the town of Stratford is currently facing a 75 percent increase in school taxes just to maintain their current level of education. At the same time, opponents of Northern Pass are fighting the project’s estimated $35 million investment in that town.New Hampshire desperately needs the Northern Pass project, along with the economic and environmental benefits that it provides. Our working men and women deserve the opportunity to bring clean, renewable, low-cost energy to the citizens of our state. Our leaders must look beyond an opposition fueled by speculation, alarmist rhetoric and fear of change, and focus on New Hampshire’s continued economic progress and benefit to our local communities.Joe Casey is president of the New Hampshire State Building and Construction Trades Council.