Students from Yale University visited Lancaster last week to get a feel for how the Northern Pass project will impact the area. Bayroot, LLC, an entity 98.8 percent owned by Yale has given the project the green light to build on its property. (Courtesy Photo) (click for larger version)
May 16, 2017LANCASTER — Students from Yale University recently toured the North Country, including Lancaster, to gather first hand information regarding the Northern Pass Project. Northern Pass seeks to run a $1.2 billion 192 mile transmission line from Canada and into southern New England.
Bayroot, LLC, an entity that is 98.8 percent owned by Yale's endowment, has leased a land agreement with Eversource. The lease that includes 24 miles of the Northern Pass route, is up for renewal this summer. Students along with local anti Northern Pass residents of Coös County are attempting to educate the powers that be to think twice before signing the dotted line.
Mehmet Dogan, a graduate student in the Physics Department at Yale University, was in Lancaster, and said "We came to New Hampshire after seeing the op-ed in the Yale Daily News. I'm from Turkey, and had never been to rural New Hampshire. You can't tell how big Northern Pass is from New Haven, and we were able to understand the impact that huge towers and a wide path through miles of forests will have on the environment and local communities."
Dogan added, "I was struck by the fact that almost every town that Northern Pass will go through voted to oppose it. I came away from our trip thinking that Yale shouldn't try to hide behind its investment managers. Yale owns this land and can stop this project if it wants to. Yale should listen carefully to the communities that are affected by its investments."
Dogan went back to Connecticut with a different perspective, saying "I was very moved by the passion and commitment of the people who are opposing Northern Pass. They are not in this struggle to gain any financial benefits etc; what drives them is a sense of pride in the beauty and the authenticity of northern New Hampshire. One of the moments I distinctly remember is when one of our hosts said, 'This place is now some place, but after Northern Pass it will be just any place.'"
In a letter to Dr. Indy Burke, the head of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, Coös County Commissioner Rick Samson said, "This line connects power from Hydro-Quebec's power stations, which have laid waste to Quebec's riverine systems and devastated the communities and traditional way of life of the Pessamit Innu First Nation. Conservationists have purchased land. Residents of Coos County have refused multimillion-dollar offers for land purchases with the goal of stopping this project. Unfortunately, Yale is undermining these sacrifices by leasing the only strip of land left that could still enable this transmission line's route."
Samson mentioned that the School of Forestry would never allow the forests that it manages in Connecticut to be managed in the way that the forests in Coös County have been managed.
He stated, "When challenged about the forestry practices of Yale's endowment in 2001, James Gustave Speth, then Dean of FES, said, 'What I have learned is that the University has a policy against the involvement of its academic units in endowment management.' He advised affected communities 'that they should distinguish between our school's forests, where we are responsible for management, and lands owned by the Yale endowment'."
The Commissioner stressed to Burke that passivity is not an option.
He wrote, "Yale's School of Forestry is one of the top forestry schools in the world, and it is Yale's moral agent for environmental issues. The school benefits from the endowment fund, and so it should not abdicate responsibility for the environmental harm that this fund inflicts. We have been fighting Northern Pass for seven years, and we cannot wait another moment while Yale's environmental leaders sit on the sidelines."
In a response to Samson, Burke said, "I can imagine the environmental impact of the transmission lines, and how you and the county are feeling about that. I'm of course very interested to learn about what options are being considered by the siting authorities, and whether there are any at all that minimize impact, or whether there are alternative sources of energy."
She went on to write, "In terms of our School supporting your group, my philosophy is that we do not generally advocate for any particular action or policy - we are a source of neutral information and analysis. Universities need to be places that do not take stands, for many reasons, related to credibility and growing public distrust that our scholarship and our teaching are driven by a particular agenda."
On May 10, a teach in at Yale was attended by Lancaster resident Liz Wyman, a 2004 graduate of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies. Wyman addressed the students and faculty in attendance. Samson and long time New Hampshire resident and logger Wayne Montgomery were alongside Wyman.
"Our message to Yale is to drop the Northern Pass lease and open up a broader conversation as well about Yale's management issues for this property," said Wyman.
Earlier on March 31, Samson and Wyman traveled to Connecticut to make students aware of the impact Northern Pass could have on Coös County. Along for the trip was Susan Arnold of the Appalachian Mountain Club, filmmaker Jerry Monkman and leaders of Quebec's Pesssamit Innu First Nations. The event sparked student interest and made headlines in the Yale student newspaper.
Next, Wyman says that a group of undergraduate activists is submitting a letter to Yale's investments office urging them to drop the Northern Pass lease.
"Rick, Wayne, and I have requested a meeting with Dean Burke to discuss the issue," she said.