Town right to veto power line projects?

Jul 11, 2017

BY: CCNH-LFDA Highlights

This issue was raised via HB 145  in the New Hampshire Legislature this past session but was killed in the House.  

HB 145 required towns and cities to approve high-voltage power line projects—such as, for example, the Northern Pass. The bill set out various procedures for approval, including:

  • For cities, a 2/3 vote in favor by the governing body;
  • A majority vote in a citizen referendum, if 10 percent of registered voters in a city sign a petition to request it;
  • A majority vote in a traditional town hall meeting.

Currently, towns are not required to approve siting high voltage power line projects within their borders. Instead, the decision to approve or disapprove a project lies with various government entities, depending on the scope and route of the project. These may include the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee or federal regulators such as the Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Forest Service, or Department of Energy.

Those in favor of such a bill argue that it would empower residents in affected municipalities to have a say over whether power line projects pass through their community. They argue that concerns about a project’s potential effect on property values, use of eminent domain, or impact on tourism and other economic activity might not be sufficiently taken into account by regulators.

Opponents express concerns that such a bill could bring development of new power corridors in the state to a halt, ultimately risking the stability of the electrical grid. They note that towns through which lines pass aren’t the only ones affected by high voltage transmission projects, as other communities in the state are also impacted by the reliability and cost of electricity. They believe that regulators are better positioned to assess how a project will impact or benefit the state as a whole.

Should towns have the power to veto high voltage transmission lines, such as Northern Pass, that would pass through their borders? Share your opinion in the comments. Responses from NH residents will be included in our report on this issue, which will be posted on our website and emailed to elected officials. Please indicate if you are from NH in your response.

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