The campaign to approve the billion-dollar plan to bring hydroelectric power from Canada to New England is in full swing. The home page for the project features pictures of all the things we like about New Hampshire, things like pristine lakes and woods. What it doesn’t show are the 140 miles of transmission lines criss-crossing the White Mountains, with 135-foot high steel towers poking up through the trees every few hundred feet.
The information, so-called, talks about how the line will bring “much-needed” energy to the region. The fact is, there is no serious need for additional energy in that area. Much of what will be imported will be sold elsewhere. But just to make sure they have a ready market, the developers of the project, Public Service of New Hampshire and their affiliates also want a 40-year no-bid contract with the state.
They’re also looking for waivers from several other regulations that they would normally have to comply with.
Despite its name, PSNH is a private company, not a public utility, yet it wants to use eminent domain as a way to force reluctant property owners to give up their land to make way for the transmission lines. They’re also looking for changes in state law to make power drawn from the large-scale hydroelectric plant in Quebec as a “renewable resource” – disregarding the environmental damage that project has caused, and, not coincidentally, making them eligible for millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies.
The plan is opposed by other energy suppliers as being patently unfair, the tourism industry which fears the effect of a blighted landscape on its industry, and environmental organizations. Their voices are being drowned out by the all-out media blitz by PSNH.
Approval for the project is still some months away, but so confident is PSNH of government approval that they have begun buying up property along the way. And there’s a shroud of secrecy around these purchases – with property owners who have sold land not being allowed to discuss the deals publicly.
Does it feel as though the fix is in?