By Nancy West
Concord and Bridgewater property owners would see the least relief from Northern Pass tax payments to the 31 host communities if the proposed 192-mile transmission line is built from Pittsburg to Deerfield, according to testimony at Friday’s adjudicative hearing.
Under cross-examination from Concord’s Deputy City Solicitor Danielle Pacik, Northern Pass tax expert Dr. Lisa Shapiro conceded that Concord residents who own a home assessed at $100,000 would see a $20 reduction in their tax bill in the first year of operation. Bridgewater residents with the same assessment would see a $17 reduction.
Both assume that 100 percent of new Northern Pass’ tax payments would be used for property tax reduction. Assuming only 50 percent is used for property tax reduction, Concord taxpayers would see a $10 reduction in their tax bill; Bridgewater property owners would pay $7 less.
“Is fair to say all other things being equal the $20 or $10 will be reduced over time?” Pacik asked.
Shapiro conceded after some discussion that that was likely.
Some municipalities see much higher potential reductions than Concord because of the amount of taxable property in Concord, Pacik said.
Deerfield homeowners with a $100,000 assessment would fare much better with a $370 reduction in their tax bill; Woodstock $400; Franklin $750 and $830 in Stewartstown, according to Shapiro’s supplemental testimony.
Pacik also questioned Shapiro about the selection of commercial property to mitigate interfering with the Karner Blue butterfly habitat.
Pacik asked Shapiro if the property would have earned more tax dollars over time if it was developed for business purposes instead of remaining unbuildable forever.
Shapiro said that was not necessarily true if for instance it was developed for gambling purposes and required more city resources by way of police protection.
Shapiro responded to detailed questions Friday at the Site Evaluation Committee adjudicative hearing about the taxes the $1.6 billion project plans to pay to the host communities if it wins state and federal approval.
Shapiro is the chief economist at Gallagher, Callahan & Gartrell in Concord. She was hired by Northern Pass to provide information on the estimated property tax payments to New Hampshire’s host communities.
According to Northern Pass, infrastructure associated with the project to import electricity from Hydro-Quebec would increase the local tax base across 31 host communities by about $1.5 billion.
Using the estimated Northern Pass net book value as fair market value for tax purposes, the project would pay an estimated $564 million to $692 million in total New Hampshire property taxes over the first 20 years of operation, according a project fact sheet.
In its first full year of operation, Northern Pass would generate about $21 million to $26 million in municipal and local education property taxes; about $4 million in county taxes; and about $10 million state utility education property taxes redistributed to local communities for education, according to the fact sheet.
Attorney Steven Whitley asked Shapiro if she also worked as a lobbyist for Northern Pass. He asked if her firm had been paid $466,000 for lobbying for Northern Pass and she said it had.
“And that amount of money hasn’t swayed your opinion one way or another?” Whitley asked.
Shapiro responded, “No.”
Whitley questioned her about the fear some communities have that any tax benefit would be offset by the cost of fighting Northern Pass if it disagreed with their property assessments.
Northern Pass volunteered to take a pledge that it wouldn’t do so as long as the municipalities used the method the project approved of to assess them.
“Would it surprise you that some people saw that as a threat?” Whitley asked.
Shapiro said that she was surprised by that and it was not the intent.
Since 2009, Eversource has filed 260 separate tax year abatement appeals, Whitley said. Shapiro said she wasn’t aware there was that number.
Some host communities have been involved with tax disputes with Eversource, Whitley said, and Northern Pass didn’t contact them to find common ground on an assessing method.
He went on to say that Deerfield paid $22,000 on legal expenses for such a fight and $30,000 to an appraiser. Defending abatement cases reduces any net benefit from tax payments, he said.
The Site Evaluation Committee wrapped up its questioning of Northern Pass environmental expert Bob Varney on Friday asking if he “believes in climate warming” and whether people help cause it.
Varney answered yes to both questions.
Next week, there will be a brief lull in the adjudicative hearings, but two extra days of bus tours will be held for committee members at Counsel for the Public Peter Roth’s request along the northern portion of the proposed route.
The adjudicative hearings will resume on Monday, July 31 with Jim Chalmers testifying about whether the project will impact property values and through Thursday of that week, then on to historical resources, then a break until Aug. 29.
The Site Evaluation Committee is scheduled to make its decision whether to approve Northern Pass/Eversource Energy’s application by Sept. 30.
InDepthNH.org’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC hearings on Northern Pass.
April 13, Day 1: Eversource NH Chief Quinlan On The Hot Seat At Northern Pass Hearing
April 14, Day 2: Eversource Chief Questioned About ‘Clean’ Energy Claims And Northern Pass Costs
April 17: Day 3: Eversource: Hydro-Quebec Revenues Could Fall Short In Northern Pass’ First Year
April 18: Day 4: Northern Pass’ Potential Health Concerns Debated At Hearing
April 19: Day 5: Concerns Raised About Northern Pass Affecting Health of Sherburne Woods Residents in Deerfield
April 30: Is NH Getting ‘Hoodwinked’ on Health and Safety By Northern Pass?
May 1: Day 6: Testimony: 44 New Access Roads Needed To Build 192-Mile Northern Pass in NH
May 2: Day 7: Northern Pass Expert: 3 Months of Construction Likely In Downtown Plymouth
May 3: Day 8: Project Official: Northern Pass Construction Limited To 7 am to 7 pm, Noise Assessed Daily
May 3: Eversource’s Chief Quinlan Listed as ‘Host’ For Sununu Fundraiser
May 4: Day 9: Grafton County Attorney Grills Northern Pass Experts On Land Buys
May 5: Day 9, story 2: Common Man’s Alex Ray: Northern Pass Disruption in Plymouth Would Be ‘Fatal’ To Business
May 8: Forest Society Calls Northern Pass Inflated Land Buys a ‘Shell Game’
May 25: Hydro-Quebec Explores Opportunities in New England, New York
May 31: InDepthNH.org, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
June 1: Day 11: Applicant: Northern Pass Would Mitigate Impact On Endangered State Butterfly
June 8: Day 12: Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass Financial Expert’s Perspective ‘Unnaturally Optimistic’
June 9: Day 13: Portions of Northern Pass Hearings Held In Closed Session, Again
June 12: Public Statement Hearings On Northern Pass Begin June 15
June 13: Day 14: Analyst: Customer Using 300 kw Would Save $1.50 a Month With Northern Pass
June 14: Day 15: Regulator: Committee Could Consider Conditioning Approval for Northern Pass
June 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
June 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
June 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
June 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
June 23: Day 20: Northern Pass Seeks 15 More Hearing Days For Total of 57
June 26: Day 21: SEC Members Quiz Northern Pass Experts On Wetland Protection
July 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
July 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
July 20: Day 24:
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-738-5635