Although from March 15, this editorial by Nancy Martland deserves repeating in the “My Turn” section of the Concord Monitor deserves repeating in light of the controversy surrounding wind energy proposals in the western highlands of New Hampshire.
“My Turn: Let’s make state energy policy fair”
By NANCY MARTLAND
For the Monitor
Friday, March 15, 2013
A March 11 Monitor editorial, “Planning New Hampshire’s energy future,” stated:
“Above all, lawmakers would be foolhardy to grant cities and towns veto power
over state approval of wind farms and transmission lines.”
Really? Most people I talk to at first refuse to believe me and then are shocked
and outraged to learn that towns have no decision-making role in the state
energy regulatory process. Or that a Site Evaluation Committee permit preempts
all local ordinances and regulations.
The very idea that a state agency can permit a project over towns’ objections
while excluding them from participation in the decision goes outside what most
people understand as democracy.
It would be one thing if the process were perceived to be fair, but many argue
that the rules and process currently in place are stacked in favor of big
corporations and that the present system is fundamentally unjust. Why? Because
towns have no decision-making role and opposition therefore involves legal
action. Who is best suited to wage legal warfare, small towns with limited
budgets or big corporations who have fleets of lawyers at their command? The
term “railroaded” is especially apt, since the doctrine of preemption originated
with 19th-century railroad barons who did not want to deal with localities while
Surely the Monitor is not in favor of big corporations riding roughshod over
local communities that seek to protect themselves from damaging energy projects.
Surely some formula which allows affected towns a role in the decision-making
process is only fair. Surely the Monitor does not suggest that simply because a
project is proposed, it should be allowed to proceed even if the process is
unfair and a remedy is available.
Which is more important: a streamlined regulatory process or a fair shake for
Incidentally, the state of New York “changed the rules with the game under way”
by removing eminent domain when New York Regional Interconnect, a proposed HVDC
line similar to Northern Pass, was on the table. The project was withdrawn,
since it could not complete its route with taking land forcibly. Guess what?
Champlain Hudson Power Express was proposed soon thereafter. Anybody who thinks
Hydro Quebec will let a little thing like a rules change stop it from selling
the United States its power needs to pay more attention. It’s amazing how
adaptable businesses can be when there’s a lucrative product to bring to market.
(Nancy Martland lives in Sugar Hill.)