Despite the efforts of Yale students and environmentalist, a controversial electrical transmission line project with financial links to Yale looks set to move forward.
The 192-mile transmission line, called Northern Pass, would deliver hydroelectric power from Quebec through New Hampshire to the New England region. Yale owns lands in New Hampshire through its investment manager Bayroot LLC, and Yale’s land manager Wagner Forest Management in 2012 leased the land for the construction of the project. State officials in Massachusetts chose to approve the project on Thursday, but the electrical line is still being evaluated in New Hampshire.
After a teach-in last May, Richard Samson, a commissioner of Coos County in New Hampshire, requested to meet with Dean of the School of Forestry & Environmental Studies Indy Burke to discuss Yale’s involvement in a proposed transmission line project that would run through his county. Samson is among many who have voiced concerns about the consequences of the Northern Pass project, including the destruction of valuable forest land.
“What [Yale is] doing to the land up here and the people up here is just ridiculous,” Samson told the News this week. “We’re asking Yale to be a responsible land owner. That’s what they teach and that’s what they preach, but that’s not what they’re doing.”
He added that removing large tracts of Coos County’s scenic forests could devastate the county’s economy, which generates much of its revenue from tourism. Because portions of the transmission line must be built above ground, he continued, some forest areas in northern New Hampshire would have to be cleared, including the 24-mile piece of land owned by Yale.
Some Yale students have protested against Yale’s link to the project. Last October, students marched to the Yale Investment Office with an open letter asking the University to withdraw its support for the pipeline.
Other groups, such as the Pessamit Innu tribe and various environmental agencies, have expressed disapproval of the project.
Haylee Kushi ’18, former president of the Association of Native Americans at Yale, emphasized the hardship that the Northern Pass would impose on the Pessamit people. According to Kushi, the construction of the project would cause river flooding and harm the salmon population, which the Pessamit people have traditionally relied on for food.
“This project brings clean energy at the expense of marginalized people, so I don’t think Yale should be involved,” she said. “Yale isn’t taking into account the voices of the original people of this land or the residents of New Hampshire who have expressed that this is not something they want.”
Despite resistance from various groups, companies involved in the construction of the transmission line have maintained that it will bring clean energy to New England, lowering the region’s dependence on less sustainable fossil fuels.
Martin Murray, a spokesman for Eversource, the company overseeing the the project, told the News in November that New England’s state governments aim to “diversify the sources of energy” in the region and to reduce carbon emissions and lower energy costs. Murray declined to comment further on the article or opposition to the project.
In a June 2017 press release, the University stated that it has limited discretion over the decisions of its investment managers, including Wagner Forest Management, which leased the lands for the project. It also pointed out that Wagner did not have the option to decline a renewal of the lease, which was extended to expire in the year 2110. A representative from the Yale Investments Office wrote in an email to the News that Yale has not changed its perspective since making that statement.
Burke said that although School of Forestry and Environmental Studies does not play any role in Northern Pass, it is unlikely that either Yale or Wagner can change the direction of the project at this point.
“Yale has given management rights to Wagner legally, and Wagner signed a contract with Northern Pass in 2012 that they have no legal way to back out of,” Burke said in an email. “The recourse for concerned citizens is through government review processes, which do exist.”
The New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee is expected to make a decision on Northern Pass in early 2018.
Amber Hu | firstname.lastname@example.org