Three North Country Reps Voted To Kill Power Line Burial Bill

Mar 16, 2015

Three North Country legislators were among those who voted to kill a bill that would have recommended - but not required - elective, electric transmission lines on towers over 50 feet high be buried, ideally along state rights-of-way.

The bipartisan bill - H.B. 431 - was sponsored by Larry Rappaport, a Republican from Colebrook and several other North Country representatives. 

It would have provided legislative guidance in the form of a recommendation to the Site Evaluation Committee that the legislature has concluded burying the lines is preferred unless the utility can provide evidence that burial is impractical. But the bill did not require the lines be buried.

The Site Evaluation Committee must approve major utility projects.

The bill only covered elective transmission projects, which means those being done for commercial gain, rather than reliability.

The Northern Pass, which faces strong opposition in the North Country, is one such project.

The Science, Technology and Energy Committee had recommended killing the bill, voting it “inexpedient to legislate.”

By a 213 - 131 vote the House, indeed, ruled it inexpedient to legislate.

The three North Country representatives who voted to kill the bill were Edmond Gionet, Republican, of Lincoln; Herb Richardson, a Republican, of Lancaster and John Tholl, a Republican of Whitefield.

Gionet wrote in an e-mail he opposed the bill because “It's not fair and equitable . It's a bill in my opinion designed to help a self-serving group , wanting to use the legislature as a pawn. Obviously the vote was indicative of that fact.” He did not respond to an email asking for more details on what he meant by “fair and equitable.”

Tholl wrote in an e-mail that he supports burying transmission lines but “I don't think that digging up main streets in several towns is the proper method.”

Richardson spoke against the bill before the House, saying he was “representing the silent majority of the North Country.”

He said he opposed the bill because the “lengthy construction” time  needed to bury lines along state roads would hurt tourism, travel and business.

“My county cannot afford a piece of legislation that would negatively impact Franconia Notch, Interstate 93 or Route 3,” he said.

Richardson also said major timberland owners had complained they could lose the money a utility would pay for allowing transmission lines to run through their property.

Instead those lines would run along state rights-of-way. Rappaport has said the utilities would pay the state for that use.

Ten other North Country representatives– a mix of Democrats and Republicans – voted not to kill the bill. Three representatives were excused from voting.

Those who voted not to kill the bill were:

* Susan Ford, Democrat, of Easton

* Erin Hennessey, Republican, of Littleton

* Linda Massimilla, Democrat, of Littleton

* Wayne Moynihan, Democrat of Dummer

* Larry Rappaport, Republican, of Colebrook

* Leon Rideout, Republican, Lancaster

* Robert Theberge, Democrat, of Berlin

* William Hatch, Democrat, of Gorham

* Yvonne Thomas, Democrat, of Berlin

* John Fothergill, Republican, of Colebrook

Those excused from voting were:

* Brad Bailey, Republican, of Monroe

* Rebecca Brown, Democrat, of Sugar Hill

* Alethea Froburg, Democrat, of Berlin