You Say Tomato And I Say Toe-Mah-Toe
My latest opportunity to do that is with Eversource Energy, which held its annual meeting Wednesday at Hartford's Infinity Hall. At that meeting, Thomas May, the company's chairman, president and chief executive officer, confidently told shareholders that the company's Northern Pass transmission project would not be derailed.
May called opponents of the project, which will be built in New Hampshire, a “a vocal minority ... a small project of resistance.”
As anyone who has traveled through New Hampshire with any regularity can tell you, there are probably thousands of signs opposing Northern Pass. They can be found in towns all along the route that the transmission line will take as it brings hydro power from Canada to be included in New England's mix of energy options.
My story had the temerity to report that the company is talking with state officials about how it can remove any political opposition to the project. That's important because New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan is opposed to Northern Pass in its current form and the project requires state approval.
In the story, I referred to those discussions as "negotiations." And that sent Eversource Energy's public relation's army into a snit.
Martin Murray, an Eversource Energy spokesman in New Hampshire, told me the term negotiations "carries a legal meaning” that does not reflect what the company is doing in the state. And the company was so concerned about my story that they even devoted to short post to it in the blog they devoted exclusively to Northern Pass.
"We continue to solicit input from a broad range of stakeholders, including landowners along the route, municipalities, businesses, environmental groups, and elected officials, as we consider adjustments to the project that will provide substantial New Hampshire benefits," the Northern Pass blog post said in part.
All I can say is: I'm flattered that Eversource considers me such an influential journalist. We have published a clarification to the story, not because we believe that what we originally reported was wrong, but to be fair to the company in the court of public opinion.
I'll leave it to you, dear reader, to decide whether you can have negotiations without discussions or vice versa.
But consider this: If Eversource is so confident that Northern Pass will be approved at the state level that its own CEO is dismissing opponents as "a vocal minority," then why does the company "continue to solicit input from a broad range of stakeholders, including landowners along the route, municipalities, businesses, environmental groups, and elected officials."
And one final thought as you ponder the answer to that question. An Eversource shareholder asked May during the meeting how much it cost the company to change its name from Northeast Utilities to Eversource Energy, a change which occurred earlier this year.
May demurred at first, saying he didn't know and then "It's in the millions."
Following the meeting, I asked a company spokesman how it was possible that the company could spend that amount of money on a rebranding and not know exactly how much. And after a little bit of prodding, he acknowledged that it was number that Eversource officials would rather not make public.
Keep that in mind as you try to decide what Eversource is actually doing in New Hampshire