Opinion: Northern Pass Appeal Ignores Wishes of NH People

AUTHOR: Michelle Sanborn

Eversource recently appealed to New Hampshire’s Supreme Court, contesting the Site Evaluation Committee’s (SEC) denial of Northern Pass. This appeal was expected by those in the NH community rights movement because when corporations don’t get the answers they want, they challenge the decision-making system, with only required consideration for the wishes of people affected by a proposed project.

This kind of corporate jockeying is par for the course in a state and federal decision-making system made up of a web of regulatory agencies that operate not to protect people and planet but to facilitate corporate applications like that for Northern Pass. Were the system truly designed to protect rather than to facilitate, local people affected by proposed corporate projects would sit at the decision-making table with real authority, not merely with permission to make token public comments regarding their local needs.

Corporations like Eversource take advantage of this clear imbalance in determining power. In the case of Northern Pass’s SEC process, Eversource condescended to communities all along the way. Anyone opposed was disregarded as biased—as anti-progress, anti-“clean energy,” anti-supposedly reduced energy costs and anti-jobs. Dismissed were the voices of the people on the ground who would feel the real effects of the project where they live—effects including long-term disruption of their human communities and the ecosystems therein.

True, people spoke out against Northern Pass despite their mere advisory capacity, and true, the SEC denied the project application. But the two are not correlated. The SEC did not deny Northern Pass because the people didn’t want it. Nor did the SEC deny it because it wasn’t good for New Hampshire’s people, economy, or environment. Had either been the case, the SEC would have denied Northern Pass long ago, for the people clearly and vocally haven’t wanted it for some 8 years.

The SEC denied the project because the application didn’t meet the required criteria. If the application had met all the criteria, then the SEC would have been legally obligated to approve it because the SEC, like all regulatory agencies, is in place to facilitate the operating of corporate projects. Period.

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