The benefits of Northern Pass can still be realized

The Site Evaluation Committee’s decision makes the state look anti-business

The recent decision by the NH Site Evaluation Committee to deny the application of the Northern Pass project was shocking, given my own experience with the SEC and the opportunity its process provides to address concerns that have been expressed and thus realize the tremendous benefits the project has to offer.

I was personally involved in 2010 with the Burgess Biomass project as it was evaluated by the SEC. All parties were provided the opportunity to be heard, raise concerns and explore the project’s benefits. Ultimately, the SEC approved and issued a permit, with conditions imposed to address the concerns raised. It was then left to the applicant to determine if the project could advance with the conditions imposed.

The SEC at that time did what was in the best interest of the state, its residents and its businesses. There was a true balance of varying interests. This is the process the SEC has followed for other projects as well, including large wind generation projects over Dixville, Groton and Lempster, whereby each project received approval with conditions that addressed concerns raised by parties during the process.

That did not happen with the review of Northern Pass’ application. During the deliberative process, no compromise or conditions were discussed that would have allowed for concerns to be addressed while realizing the many significant benefits the project would bring to New Hampshire and the North Country. The concept of conditions was not even entertained, but rather the deliberative process was cut short and the application was simply denied.

I was introduced to the Northern Pass project in 2011, years before its application to the SEC was submitted. In the intervening years I saw the project mature and develop after listening to the public’s concerns. Northern Pass made meaningful alternations and reworked its route to address concerns and fundamentally make it a better project.

I strongly believe in the many benefits the project will provide to New Hampshire, and especially to the North Country — a source of reliable energy capacity, access to renewable energy, creation of much-needed construction jobs, critically important tax revenues to communities that are in need, and many opportunities to further facilitate economic growth and development in the North Country via the Forward NH Fund. Now, I fear all these benefits may be lost. To spend 27 months in a review process and then rush to a vote in fewer than three days of the deliberative process just does not make sense to me.

Having worked on other development efforts in the North Country, including the Balsams Resort redevelopment currently underway, I am concerned about the message the SEC’s abbreviated deliberations and ultimate ruling sends to other developers or businesses looking to work with New Hampshire.

I fear our state comes across as anti-business, with little incentive for companies to consider locating here.

That said, I do believe a tremendous opportunity now presents itself — an opportunity to encourage and facilitate communication and dialogue between appropriate parties on how to address the concerns raised during the process and realize the benefits of the Northern Pass project.

This will send the right message to the rest of the country watching — that New Hampshire understands the importance of having projects like Northern Pass come to fruition, the importance of its residents and businesses having a platform to be heard, and that New Hampshire is solution driven.

I think the SEC should reopen the Northern Pass deliberations — to complete the process, including the consideration of conditions that will address the committee’s expressed concerns. We have this opportunity — let’s take it.

Alex Ritchie, who previously worked on development of the Burgess Biomass project in Berlin, is currently part of the development team working on the redevelopment of The Balsams Resort in Dixville.

Categories: Opinion