Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Northern Pass Challenge Headed to NH Supreme Court

By William Opalka

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has appealed the dismissal of its complaint against the Northern Pass transmission project to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The Coos County Superior Court last month dismissed the group’s suit, which sought to prevent the burial of lines in a highway right of way. The society said its property rights allowed it to deny access, even though it had granted rights of way for above-ground construction. (See Court Dismisses Complaint vs. Northern Pass.)

northern pass, new hampshire supreme court

Revised path for Northern Pass shows buried sections in yellow.

“We believe strongly that the Superior Court erred by not getting to the root of the private property rights issue in its decision,” Forest Society attorney Tom Masland said.

He said the Superior Court ruling that dismissed the suit sidestepped legal questions about the property rights of the Forest Society by deferring to transportation officials.

“The N.H. Department of Transportation does not have the authority to determine the property rights of landowners affected by a project like Northern Pass,” Masland said. “By failing to address that issue now — nor allowing the issue to be litigated — landowners like the Forest Society would be left with no remedy. This is a complex case, and important issues remain unresolved, including the complexities and ramifications of declaring DOT the sole authority to resolve all matters involving the use of roads.”

Project developer Eversource Energy said it was confident it will prevail in the appeal.

“The New Hampshire Superior Court spoke clearly and decisively on May 25 when it dismissed the Forest Society’s lawsuit that claimed that the Northern Pass project does not have the right to bury the project under public roads in the North Country,” the company said in a statement. “The court’s summary judgment decision was based on over a century of New Hampshire law. We are confident that the state Supreme Court will uphold the Superior Court’s ruling.”

Eversource and its partner Hydro-Quebec have proposed to bury 60 miles of the 192-mile route. The project is being reviewed by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. (See Northern Pass Decision Delayed Nine Months.)

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