N.H.’s economic future needs projects like Northern Pass
In the June 29-July 12 edition of New Hampshire Business Review, Jamie White attempts to address the very important topic of New Hampshire’s economic future in the context of considering the Northern Pass project (“Northern Pass risks region reaping benefits of economic change”).To be sure, New Hampshire’s economic future and Northern Pass are critical issues worthy of discussion. Unfortunately, Mr. White’s comments fail to deliver any significant analysis or relevant facts on the issue.The Northern Pass project would bring into New England from Québec 1,200 megawatts of clean, reliable and low-cost hydroelectric energy, enough to power about 1 million homes. Its transmission lines would be placed within 140 miles of existing rights of way south of Groveton, N.H., as well as 40 miles of new rights of way in northern Coos Country where no transmission rights of way currently exist.The project would result in a significant reduction of emissions of carbon, reduce the price of energy here at home and across the region by hundreds of millions of dollars annually, create more than 1,200 jobs during a three-year construction period, and add about $25 million annually in tax payments to New Hampshire communities for years to come.Yet, despite the promise of local jobs, a new source of taxable property, reduced energy prices and cleaner air, Mr. White contends that simply a glimpse of an above-ground transmission power line will be enough to send retired professionals fleeing New Hampshire.Mr. White attempts to argue that The Northern Pass project will threaten the migration of well-to-do professionals from Massachusetts and elsewhere to New Hampshire and, therefore, is a dire threat to the state’s economic future. He bases his criticism of the Northern Pass project on a 1999 book by Peter Wolf that says that successful, wealthy people are relocating by choice to attractive places. “This is where our economic future lies,” says Mr. White.It is interesting to examine what has actually occurred in New Hampshire towns that already host a high-voltage transmission line.Let’s look at Hopkinton and Bedford, for example. Both towns include the structures and power cables of a system that transmits energy from Québec through Vermont, New Hampshire and into Massachusetts. This system is actually larger than what is proposed by Northern Pass, both in terms of the amount of energy transmitted and the size of the structures. Yet, Hopkinton and Bedford are both highly desirable; both towns have experienced positive population growth over the last decade, and boast housing values that are well above the overall state average.Meantime, Coos County has experienced negative population growth during the past decade. Twice as many people have migrated out of Coos County as in, since 2005 and the county has, by far, the highest unemployment rate in the state.Northern Pass presents a rare opportunity to provide New Hampshire with significant economic, energy and environmental benefits. As with any project of this size, there are legitimate concerns and questions about the project. Northern Pass is working constructively with landowners, municipal and state officials, and any other willing stakeholders to alleviate these concerns.As an example, Northern Pass has worked for the past year with willing landowners to secure a new route north of Groveton. This activity was the direct result of the project listening to North Country residents about their concerns with the original proposed route in that area.This is the kind of constructive, meaningful dialogue that will ultimately yield a better project for New Hampshire. That’s good news for New Hampshire’s environment, energy supply, and economic future.Martin Murray is a spokesman for Public Service of New Hampshire and Northern Pass Transmission LLC, based in Manchester.