Supreme Court: Northern Pass Can Bury Line Under Forest Society Land

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The proposed route for the Northern Pass transmission line would cross over the Forest Society's Washburn Family Forest in Clarksville, N.H. Forest Society photo.

The state Supreme Court says Northern Pass can bury transmission line under Clarksville property along Route 3 owned by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests if the controversial project is approved.

The Forest Society had appealed a lower court ruling arguing that the proposed use of the right-of-way “exceeds the scope of the public right-of-way and cannot be lawfully undertaken without (the Forest Society’s) permission …”

The court disagreed. “We conclude that use of the Route 3 right-of-way for the installation of an underground high voltage direct current electrical transmission line, with associated facilities, falls squarely within the scope of the public highway easement as a matter of law,” the court ruled on Monday.

Spokesman Jack Savage wrote on the Forest Society’s website that the Supreme Court “punted” and simply put off an important decision that would end up delaying Northern Pass in the long run.

“The Supreme Court did not settle the eminent domain issue with regards to Northern Pass, but asks us all to wait until the N.H. Dept. of Transportation acts.”

When that happens, the Forest Society will be ready, Savage said.

“(T)he Forest Society is more confident than ever that we and other intervenors will make it abundantly clear that Northern Pass as currently proposed, with 132 miles of overhead transmission line, will not meet the required standards. The unreasonable adverse impacts are too great, the purported benefits of the project too transparently a mirage,” Savage wrote.

A statement posted on Northern Pass’ website said:

“As we’ve previously noted, the Forest Society has frequently demanded Northern Pass be buried, yet in this case, had filed this lawsuit to prevent its burial.

“The Forest Society has also continued to raise the false notion that the use of eminent domain is possible for Northern Pass, when state law clearly prevents it, and the project does not require its use.”

The proposed transmission line would carry extra high voltage electricity from Hydro-Quebec into the United States at Pittsburg then run 192 miles to Deerfield, of which 60 miles would be buried.

A subcommittee of the state Site Evaluation Committee must decide to approve or deny the project by Sept. 30. Northern Pass and its partner Eversource must also win federal approval.

Read the Supreme Court’s ruling here.

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