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New Hampshire governor lauds Northern Pass as a 'win-win' project

MONTREAL - The proposed Northern Pass hydroelectric project is a "win-win" deal for both Quebec and New Hampshire, the governor of the New England state said Monday.

The line is an interconnection aimed at linking the power grids of the two jurisdictions and increasing the flow of hydroelectricity from the province south of the border.

It has been challenged on the U.S. side of the border, particularly in the White Mountains area, for spoiling scenic landscapes, but New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu noted that parts of the transmission lines are to be buried.

In Montreal to speak to an international relations group and to meet with Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard, Sununu stressed the importance of the project, which is slated to be in operation in 2019.

"Given our economic dynamics in New Hampshire, given our need for lower energy prices, our rich history with our manufacturing industry, there is no doubt Northern Pass presents a great opportunity for New Hampshire, a great opportunity for Quebec," he told reporters.

"It's a win-win on both sides. It's a project I always said should happen, could happen and I believe has to happen."

The Republican governor said it's about lowering energy prices and building a certain level of economic certainty for businesses.

Asked if he's still shooting for 2019, Sununu replied: "I'd shoot for tomorrow if I could. I think we need to get this project done, completed, as soon as possible."

Couillard called Sununu's strong support for Northern Pass "very good news for Quebec."

Both politicians were also asked about the North American Free Trade Agreement, with Sununu saying he hopes it is not scrapped but rather updated to take into consideration industries that were not around when it was first negotiated.

He said it is important to bring in people with real expertise in order to avoid unintended consequences.

"You don't necessarily want to create a system that negatively taxes or imposes taxes and fees and regulations on one certain part of the economic sector while leaving the other one wide open," he said.

"You don't want to focus on one area and again not realizing the true impacts it can have on another. That's all. And the best way to do that is simply with experience."

Couillard said it is important to convince Americans of the importance of the free-trade deal to their own lives.

"The main losers, if markets are closed, would be American workers," he said. "It's clear. Trade among Canada, Quebec and the United States is of vital importance, not only for our economy, but for theirs as well."

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