By DAVID SNEDEKER
Caledonian Public Record
In first hearing of Massachusetts selection of the Northern Pass project over 40-plus other potential bidders to negotiate a contract for renewable energy to serve Massachusetts, I was admittedly surprised. Based on all information publicly available, many of the other bidders offered better and more affordable projects, including the Northeast Kingdom’s own Granite State Power Link (GSPL) project. I was somewhat relieved to hear more recent news coming out of New Hampshire indicating that Northern Pass may not become a reality.
From early on, the Northeastern Vermont Development Association (NVDA) – the regional planning and economic development organization for the Northeast Kingdom region of Vermont – has supported the Granite State Power Link. We see the enormous value GSPL will bring to New England and Vermont without jeopardizing our shared values. In fact, GSPL looked to be a sensible, low cost, low impact solution to bring renewable wind energy from Canada to New England by maximizing the use of an existing transmission corridor in the NEK that we have lived with for decades without issue. The GSPL project would provide an economic boost of hundreds of millions of dollars to Vermont and strengthen local tax bases, propel new job creation, provide support for community and economic development, offer energy assistance for low income residents, and create enhanced wildlife, habitat and recreational opportunities.
GSPL also stands out because the project developers are taking the time to make positive connections, listening to feedback from landowners and area sportsmen, and working with local companies like VELCO to figure out the right balance between the project’s objectives and the host state and community needs. That’s why in Vermont they’ve thus far earned the support of nearly half of the Vermont route communities, NVDA legislative representatives from the region, and the Vermont Association of Snow Travelers.
Importantly, the project would bring new Canadian wind power to the New England grid, which delivers massive carbon emissions reductions in the first 10 years (equal to removing over 11 million cars off the road). This is in stark contrast to Northern Pass and other proposed projects that reuse existing Canadian hydro, which provides no new environmental benefits.
While we don’t know all of the details that led to Massachusetts’ initial choice of Northern Pass, it always seemed to me there were better and less controversial choices for New England (and Vermont). I believe that the GSPL project provides a very good opportunity for Vermont moving forward – for our environment, for our economy and for our communities – and I am confident the project developers will find a clear path forward for this valuable project. I encourage Vermonters to let Massachusetts Evaluators know what a good project this is for the NEK region, Vermont and all of New England.
David Snedeker is the for Northeastern Vermont Development Association.