May 11, 2011

State Senate to Take Up Property Rights Bill May 19

The State Senate will hold a hearing on HB648, a bill that would require utilities to prove a proposed transmission project is necessary before using eminent domain to force landowners to sell their land or grant a corridor easement. The hearing is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at 1:15 in Representatives Hall at the Statehouse in Concord.

Recognizing the deeply rooted New Hampshire respect for individual property rights, the NH House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly (317-51) in favor of HB648 in late March. The bill prevents the use of eminent domain for energy transmission facilities where no documented public need or benefit has been established, and has been referred to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.

Sponsored by Rep. Larry Rappoport (R-Colebrook), HB 648 proposes to amend RSA 371:1, which already prohibits the use of eminent domain by a public utility for the construction of an electric generating plant, to expand that prohibition to a “transmission facility, so long as the transmission facility is not needed for system reliability.”

Rappoport has said that from his standpoint the bill is not about Northern Pass but about protecting property rights and making RSA 371:1 consistent with the New Hampshire Bill of Rights. Article 12 of the constitution was amended in 2006 to read "No part of a person's property shall be taken by eminent domain and transferred, directly or indirectly, to another person if the taking is for the purpose of private development or other private use of the property." That amendment passed the Senate 24-0 in 2006 before being approved by voters 85%-15%.

For those planning on attending the hearing, these guidelines for submitting testimony may be helpful. Written testimony can be submitted via email by sending to Susan Duncan ( sure to request that your testimony be made part of the record relative to HB 648.

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