Latest NH bill no threat to Northern Pass project
CONCORD, N.H.—A New Hampshire Senate committee on Thursday recommended a bill that would add some protection for property owners who could lose their land through eminent domain, but the legislation stopped short of language that could hamper the Northern Pass hydroelectric power project.
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The Senate Judiciary Committee recommended a proposal by Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Concord, to create a study committee to develop an appeal process for landowners opposed to the use of eminent domain by a utility company seeking to take their land.
The bill also would bar the state's use of eminent domain to secure property for projects unless the owner first refuses an offer from a utility company of 200 percent of the appraised value. In addition, it would require developers interested in certain property to notify the landowner by certified mail before coming onto the property.
But the committee rejected proposals to bar the use of eminent domain for any private development and ones targeting utility companies in particular.
At the close of the meeting, a disappointed property owner and Northern Pass opponent, Tom Mullen of Campton, was gaveled down and threatened with expulsion from the room. He told committee members they were "abrogating their responsibilities," then he turned and walked away.
Outside the room, he said the committee should be setting tougher limits on taking private property.
"In my opinion, it's an attempt to not deal with an issue that's apparently too thorny to deal with," Mullen said.
Mullen owns the Owl's Nest Resort in Campton and Thornton that lies within the proposed 180-mile route the transmission lines would take.
A bill has passed in the House that would prohibit public utilities from asking the state for permission to take private land to build private, large-scale transmission lines unless they could show the project was needed for "system reliability" of the electric grid.
Senators said earlier this year that "system reliability" was not defined in the bill and the Senate postponed action on the legislation. Sen. Jim Luther, R-Hollis and a judiciary committee member, described the measure as "the most contentious and complicated" bill to come before the panel all session.