Legal scholar: Northern Pass challenge faces stiff challenge

23 Dec 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Legal scholar says Eversource’s Northern Pass plan faces stiff challenge.

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A lawsuit claiming a utility company doesn’t have the right to bury a power line under a North Country highway faces steep legal challenges against long-established property law, according to a legal scholar. Hartford, Connecticut-based Eversource wants to run a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield, carrying 1,090 megawatts of hydropower from the Canadian company Hydro-Quebec to southern New England markets. The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests owns a plot of conservation land within that 8-mile span called The Washburn Family Forest, which straddles Route 3. They have no purpose or interest in using anything below the surface so they’re going to have a hard time saying that the temporary construction activities burden their use of their land in anyway. Backers say the $1.6 billion project will create jobs and lower energy costs in a region that routinely pays the nation’s highest average cost for electricity.

Energy Information Administration reports that New England consumers will pay 19.29 cents per kilowatt-hour in 2015, more than 50 percent higher than the national average of 12.56 cents. Initially, only 8 miles of the line was proposed to be buried, but opponents succeeded in getting Eversource to propose burying an additional 52 miles through the White Mountains. They’re still not happy and want the entire project buried, something Eversource says would make it too expensive. “As is typical in a case like this, the landowner naturally wants to emphasize how different, strange, unexpected the use is, but, frankly, most of the petition is political rhetoric,” Hurn said. “I don’t say that as a criticism.

There’s a lot of appeal to the way they tell the story, but it’s the same kind of argument that was first made about electrical transmission poles on a right of way. When they first arose, they were new, they were above ground, they were ugly, and yet every state that I’ve ever heard of allows electrical transmission in a highway right of way.” The society will argue that because the Northern Pass project is a “merchant” project that is not required for grid reliability and is proposed by a privately held company, existing law doesn’t apply.

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