The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests filed suit against Eversource in November 2015 with the intent to block the hydroelectric transmission lines from being buried along various portions of Route 3 in Clarksville, where it owns land and easements that abut the highway. At that time, the Forest Society asked the court for a declaratory judgment to find and rule that Northern Pass’s proposed use of the Clarksville land was unauthorized.
“The Forest Society has a legal and ethical obligation to defend our conserved lands against commercial development such as Northern Pass,” said Jane Difley, President/Forester of the Forest Society. “Northern Pass cannot show that it has the property rights it would need to build the facility it is looking to permit through the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). Nor does Northern Pass, as a merchant transmission project, have the ability to use any form of eminent domain to acquire those rights.”
In response to the Forest Society suit, lawyers representing the Northern Pass recently filed a motion for summary judgment in Coos County Superior Court on January 4, asking a judge to dismiss the claims made by the Forest Society.
The motion made by Northern Pass lawyers asks that the Superior Court rule that the forest society’s claims are without merit and “should be rejected on the basis of legal precedent.”
Northern Pass lawyers argue that New Hampshire law has permitted the placement of underground utilities in state highway rights-of-way for more than 150 years, subject to the approval of the Department of Transportation.
The motion put forward by Northern Pass lawyers states that “SPNHF’s permission is not required for the proposed use because… the Legislature has given the New Hampshire Department of Transportation the sole power to authorize such uses within state-maintained highways.”
The Forest Society is arguing that the precedent cited by Northern Pass lawyers has only applied to projects deemed necessary for electric reliability, which they contend is not the case for the Northern Pass.
The Coos County Superior Court has a big decision to make that will greatly affect New Hampshire’s future. Let’s hope that they make the right decision not only for New Hampshire’s present situation but also for its future.
Check back for upcoming articles discussing changes to the Northern Pass saga.