Tiny Dixville Notch upends power plan of giant utility group

Mon Jan 16, 2012 3:40pm EST
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By Jason McLure

LITTLETON, New Hampshire (Reuters) - Dixville Notch, a tiny hamlet whose early presidential primary returns have helped to dash the hopes of some White House contenders, has upended the power plans of a giant utility consortium.

An environmental group has raised enough money to purchase the conservation rights to 5,800 acres of land in Dixville Notch near the U.S.-Canadian border in a deal that will block the proposed route for a $1.1 billion electric transmission line bringing power to southern New England from Quebec.

In just five weeks, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests succeeded in raising $850,000 to complete the deal under an agreement with the trust of rubber tycoon Neil Tillotson, said Jack Savage, a society spokesman.

"It was a pretty quick turnaround," Savage said in an interview on Monday. "In the end it was clear that more people than ever were voting with their wallets for conservation of the landscape rather than high-voltage power lines."

Opponents campaigned under the slogan of "Live Free or Fry," a twist on New Hampshire's "Live Free or Die" motto.

A group of Canadian and U.S. power companies had offered $2.2 million for the land rights, a key part of their plan to build a 140-mile power line capable of delivering 1,200 megawatts of power from dams in Quebec to New England.

The trust rejected that bid last month and chose to sell to the conservation group for less money, leading the utilities to appeal to New Hampshire's attorney general to block the sale.

Northern Pass, as the project is known, is a consortium that includes state-owned Hydro-Quebec, Massachusetts-based N-Star and Public Service of New Hampshire.   Continued...