Bury the lines, Northern Pass

That was the message last week from gubernatorial candidates Hassan and Lamontagne at a debate hosted by New Hampshire media.

Both candidates were asked the same question: “Would you oppose the Northern Pass project if it proves too costly to bury the power lines?

Northeast Utilities and Public Service of New Hampshire, backers of the proposed hydropower line from Canada, have said repeatedly that burying the lines is not feasible because of cost and geography.

Hassan’s answer: “If it proves too costly to bury the power lines and we can’t get community support for another proposal, yes.”

Lamontagne’s reply: “We need to look at what the actual cost benefits are of the project. They should be buried, and that’s what I’m looking for in the next proposal.”

Truth is, the governor does not have veto power over the proposed project or whether the power lines are in the sky or under the earth. Federal and state regulatory boards have that say.

But a governor so inclined could influence the project’s future.

We asked Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray to listen to the candidate’s remarks and respond.

“We share the candidates’ interest in reducing the project’s impact,” he said via email. “The decision to place a high-voltage transmission line underground in the Granite State requires significant consideration of the environmental, economic and reliability challenges it would present. We believe it is too early in the state and federal review processes to make such a determination. We look forward to working with the next governor on these and other energy issues in the months ahead.”