CONCORD, N.H. — The Northern Pass power project has been effectively blocked from using eminent domain by New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch’s approval of a law restricting its use.
The new measures, signed into law by Lynch on Monday, prohibit public utilities from using eminent domain for projects not directly related to New Hampshire power needs, such as Northern Pass.
“The use of eminent domain should be limited to projects designed to benefit the public as a whole,” Lynch said in statement.
Northern Pass – the 180-mile transmission project to bring Canadian hydropower to southern New England – is hotly debated in the North Country, where residents say they were worried the project would attempt to use eminent domain to carve out the 40 miles it needs in the area.
Northern Pass officials have said they have no intention of using eminent domain, nor is the project dependent on it.
Northern Pass Transmission, LLC, is composed of Northeast Utilities and NSTAR, two New England-based utility companies. The project would build, own and operate the transmission lines while leasing them to Hydro-Quebec to transmit 1,200 megawatts of electricity into the New England Power pool.
Project critics say other states like Connecticut would benefit from the cheap hydropower, but the additional power is not vital to New Hampshire.
The new law also establishes homeowner protections against any attempt to use eminent domain and creates a commission to develop policies for burying power lines.
Under the new protections, an entity looking to use eminent domain must first successfully petition the Public Utilities Commission before broaching the subject with the property owner. Violations would be subject to a $25,000 fine.
Attempts to even enter a property for surveying require 30-day prior notification, and successful seizures of residential property require the owner receive “reasonable relocation and housing replacement costs.”