Understandable Anger in the Face of Arrogance
These days we’re flashing back to when people reacted with shock and anger to the initial proposal for the Northern Pass transmission line, as its recent alignment with the hoped-for Balsams redevelopment and the push for its Forward NH Fund have sparked a whole new wave of protest. Those who support or feel ambivalent about the Northern Pass project seem to have a hard time understanding why it generates so much venom.
While the vitriol has certainly made for an unpleasant atmosphere of late, it’s not really that hard to understand. People who feel like they’ve already been knocked down and kicked a few times don’t appreciate it when someone moves to step over them. Perfectly reasonable people might lose their tempers when a large corporation treats them with arrogance and condescension. And none of us appreciates having our intelligence insulted, or our consent taken as a foregone conclusion.
All of this has happened over the past six years, since the line was first proposed in 2010. Eversource has revised its route since then, but that amounts to the sole concession on its side thus far—aside from burying the line through the White Mountain National Forest, of course, while declaring further burial through our own neck of the woods financially impossible. And yet now the company is touting the $200 million Forward NH Fund, which apparently represents extraneous profits from this project that Eversource would then give back to the community in grants.
It may surprise some executives to know that even for us little people here in the north, this is pretty basic math to figure out. The original proposal called for 40 miles of new right-of-way in Coös County, and the revised route buries eight of those miles, leaving us with 32. The company has stated it would cost an additional $5 million to $10 million per mile to bury the line, so let’s call that an average of $7.5 million. The Forward NH Fund’s $200 million, divided by 32 miles, breaks down to $6.25 million per mile.
If the cost estimate for burial is high, then that $200 million should cover it. If not, then perhaps it’s a good starting point for negotiating what very few miles of line should remain above-ground, in remote areas where very few people would see them.
Of course, that’s if we’re stuck with the Northern Pass coming our way at all, and we’re not nearly there yet.