2013-02-19 11:38:05 - Re: House Bill 580, Moratorium on wind turbine plants and electric transmission lines
New Hampshire House hearing Tuesday, February 19, 2013
Statement of Andy Martin, executive director, Stop Northern Pass
The People of New Hampshire
and New Hampshire’s Leading
Corruption Fighter Andy Martin
Stop the Northern Pass Power Line
Operation Walk The Line
Andy Martin, J. D.
Adjunct professor of law
you can call Andy:
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fax (866) 214-3210, or
144 W. Webster, #1E
Manchester, NH 03104
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Chairman Borden and Members of the Committee. I am pleased to appear and speak on behalf of HB 580, which seeks to impose a temporary moratorium on the construction of new wind turbine plants and electric transmission lines.
While I have primarily been identified as a leader of opposition to the Northern Pass electric transmission line, what I have to say is equally applicable to wind turbine operations. There is no doubt in my mind that the environmental and aesthetic issues raised by Northern Pass are also triggered by efforts to cover New Hampshire with wind turbine sites.
2. My background in environmental and utility law and litigation
I first became involved with environmental protection shortly after the passage of the National Environmental Policy Act NEPA. I filed one of the early NEPA cases to block a utility from erecting a high voltage power line a short distance from the runway of a local airport. I also participated as a party in regulatory proceedings at the Federal Power Commission, which was then chaired by a New Hampshire native. Technology has changed a great deal in forty-three years, but the underlying issues of environmental protection and reasonable regulation have not.
3. Northern Pass
After I came back to New Hampshire in 2011 the Northern Pass proposal was brought to my attention by local residents from the North Country all the way down to Epping where Northern Pass would terminate. I launched “Operation Walk the Line and began marching across the state, starting in Pittsburg, to dramatize my opposition to Northern Pass. (The march will resume once the weather is more favorable.)
Northern Pass is a massive project with little discernable benefit for New Hampshire. The construction jobs would go largely to out-of-state employees who are experienced in building electric transmission systems. The tax payments to local governments would start falling as soon as the project was completed, as Northeast Utilities asked for depreciation write-downs of its investment.
So why are Northeast Utilities and Hydro Quebec so insistent on building Northern Pass? I am not sue we have the answer. But I have a very real hypothesis. I now turn to my hypothesis, which I emphasize is a theory not a proven fact at this point.
4. Local vs. regional
The most important issue New Hampshire must debate, determine and decide is whether New Hampshire will develop locally-based power sources for local use, or whether New Hampshire will see an economic benefit from acting as an “energy colony” on a regional basis. Today New Hampshire generates more power than it consumes, so there is no urgency to adopt massive new energy initiatives.
Other states in our region, however, have limited their own power plant and power line construction for varying reasons ranging from the “NIMBY” movement not in my backyard to general anti-utility agitation. These states would be only too happy to see New Hampshire trampled to preserve their own aesthetics and environments. I am not anti-energy and anti-utility. I am pro-New Hampshire, pro-environment, pro-forest and, on the other hand, pro-growth. I am for full disclosure, and informed decision-making with maximum public input.
Many interests in New York State want to shut down the Indian Point nuclear generating stations at Buchanan, New York. Indian Point generators keep the lights on in New York City. Where would the alternative power come from if Indian Point is shuttered? I have no proof that Northern Pass is an anticipatory gesture to prepare for a potential shutdown of Indian Point reactors. But it sure looks that way.
Quebec Hydro is hungry to expand its power operations. But because both New York and Vermont do not look kindly on new transmission systems, Northeast Utilities could “wheel” power through New Hampshire on the Northern Pass system and provide a very real alternative for New York. In other words, New Hampshire would receive a paltry payment for locating the Northern Pass system here, but Northeast Utilities could make a bonanza by selling power to New York State to replace Indian Point. Is there a formal deal in place today? No, I don’t think so. But New Hampshire should not be played for a sucker by Northeast Utilities or New York State. We should receive fair pay for fair service. Or no pay for no service.
Today Northern Pass favors Northeast Utilities, not New Hampshire. I favor a balanced solution. I strongly support the efforts of the Society for the Preservation of New Hampshire Forests (please see link #1 below) to delay Northern Pass.
Turning from Northern Pass to wind turbines, are taxpayer-subsidized wind turbine plants being used to support New Hampshire’s energy needs or are they merely generating power that is ultimately resold for use elsewhere? The photograph in the Union Leader Monday of the Groton wind farm was a chilling one (please see link #2 below).
Because New Hampshire has an ideal “small government” structure we do not have a massive bureaucracy to sit in judgment on utility proposals. That is why citizen input is so crucial, and why I am here today.
I ask the General Court to “listen to the people and to adopt sound, sensible energy plans based on an overall view of what is in the best interests of New Hampshire today and tomorrow.
5. Policy vs. ad hoc decision-making
HB 580 is essential because it seeks to prompt a review of the state’s overall energy policies and economic policies. I have no quarrel with the state being used as an “energy colony” by other states, if New Hampshire is compensated fairly and if the people willingly adopt such an approach after being fully informed. (I personally disagree with such an approach, but the majority probably rules in that instance.)
What I strongly oppose is ad hoc decision-making, where powerful unities, corporations, economic interests and political players seek to change the environmental equilibrium of New Hampshire on an ad hoc basis.
Uncontrolled electrical and wind power development would sound the death knell for New Hampshire tourism, and New Hampshire’s quality of life. These are paramount considerations. There are tradeoffs to be made, but they should be informed tradeoffs, not stealth tradeoffs.
What we have today amounts to “stealth” regulation. We have policies in place, but they have not been updated and reviewed in light of current circumstances.
HB 580 would impose a temporary moratorium on new wind turbine operations and electric transmission lines unless and until the state conducts a comprehensive review and adopts a reasoned energy policy based on full and open debate and discussion of the alternatives.
I support adoption of HB 580 by the House and also by the Senate.
Andy Martin on House Bill 580, New Hampshire’s (and New York’s?) energy future