New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch on March 5 signed legislation that prohibits public utilities from petitioning for permission to take private land or property rights for the construction or operation of certain transmission facilities.
“The use of eminent domain should be limited to projects designed to benefit the public as a whole,” Lynch said in a statement. “In 2006, the voters of this state overwhelmingly supported an amendment to our constitution that prohibited the taking of private property for private use. [This legislation] is consistent with that amendment.”
While some viewed the bill, House Bill 648, as being in opposition to the Northern Pass project, state Sen. Jeanie Forrester told TransmissionHub in January that the bill “was about fixing a statute.”
She told TransmissionHub March 9 that she was pleased with the governor’s action, adding, “It was important to send a message that we’re willing to protect private property rights.”
Northern Pass Transmission is a limited liability company organized as a joint venture between Northeast Utilities (NYSE:NU) and NSTAR (NYSE:NST) to develop, construct, own and maintain the $1.1bn DC line in New Hampshire. The line between the U.S. and Canada would import 1,200 MW of Canadian hydropower, specifically from Hydro-Québec.
A Northeast Utilities spokesperson told TransmissionHub March 9, “The Northern Pass project is not predicated on the use of eminent domain, and we don’t expect the law, which places additional restrictions on the use of the state’s eminent domain policy, to impact the project.”
The spokesperson continued: “We have the right to build the project within existing right of way for all but 40 miles of the project. We have had success acquiring land or easements for the remaining area. More work remains, but nothing we’ve encountered suggests that we won’t be able to acquire the necessary rights to develop a new route and move ahead.”