NH News
4:07 pm
Tue February 12, 2013

Anti-Northern Pass Bills Get Their Day Before The Legislature

The green shirts of the IBEW members outnumbered the orange of Northern Pass opponents in the somewhat empty chamber of the House o Representatives Tuesday
Credit Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

A New Hampshire house committee is hearing testimony on five bills inspired by opposition to the Northern Pass Transmission Project today. Three bills of the bills in question could require new transmission lines be buried, or placed along transportation rights-of-way. Others would create a moratorium on new projects, or require the state officials to consider the economic impact on local communities in the permitting process.

Republican Laurence Rappaport sponsored two of the bills, and voiced many of the concerns expressed by Northern Pass opponents. "I believe large transmission lines constitute a theft of homeowner value," he said.

Representatives of International Brotherhood of Electric Workers attended in force as well, like Tiler Eaton, who says the mandates in these bills would so be expensive they would deter investment. He called one of the five bills up for consideration "the biggest piece of job-killing legislation currently being considered before this legislature."

But not all of the testimony fell into the easy categories of for or against the proposals. Susan Arnold with the Appalachian Mountain Club spoke for five environmental groups, that say legislators should take the best ideas from these bills "and move a legislative vehicle forward this session that will fix what are widely recognized as deficits in the SEC statute and process."

The SEC or Site Evaluation Committee grants permits for new transmission and energy generation projects. It was established in 1971, and many opponents to energy projects feel it does not give ample consideration to the local impacts of such projects. 

Arnold got some push-back from the committee on this point. Democrat Nickolas Levasseur pointed out that last week the SEC denied a permit to the Antrim Wind Farm. "In that ruling they essentially showed that they are in fact doing every single thing that you would have us now legislatively do," said Levasseur, "Why should we ignore the obvious the fact that they are already doing everything that you would attack them for not doing?"

Arnold says her concerns stand even after the Antrim decision, and the SEC process needs to be empowered to regularize the process.

Next week the house Science, Technology and Energy committee will consider another set of bills inspired by wind power development that look to change the SEC process.