March 23, 2011

Second Chance on Eminent Domain Bill

The good news about HB648, a bill relative to the use of eminent domain, is that the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee voted Ought to Pass (OTP) on Tuesday after long discussion and an amendment to the original wording as proposed by primary sponsor Rep. Larry Rappoport (R-Colebrook). The committee had previously voted to retain the bill (hold for future study), and by voting the new version of the bill OTP it will have a chance to be acted on this legislative session.

Much of the discussion surrounded the key issues that surround the eminent domain issue. When should the power to take an individual's property be used and by whom? Assuming the answer to that question lies in the greater public benefit of a proposed project, who decides whether that public benefit in fact exists, how is "public" defined, and could purported regional needs trump the constitutional rights of New Hampshire citizens? What role might the federal government play should a state like New Hampshire preclude the use of eminent domain for a project like Northern Pass?

There will be more discussion. The Committee should be commended for taking seriously the concerns of citizens over the use of eminent domain by Northern Pass. The bill as voted on would not stop Northern Pass, however.

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