December 12, 2011

New Hampshire Property Rights at Risk

The Judiciary Committee of the NH State Senate voted 4-0 on December 8 to adopt a recommendation to the full Senate. If adopted by the full Senate in January, it will have the effect of throwing the constitutional property rights of all New Hampshire landowners under the bus.

New Hampshire voters adopted a constitutional amendment in November 2006 that specifically prohibits the use of eminent domain by private developers for private development projects of any kind. NH voters adopted this amendment by a 85% to 15% margin. Today, New Hampshire faces the first big test of this amendment. Northern Pass LLC, a private developer proposing to build a power line through 180 miles of New Hampshire to be used exclusively by Hydro-Quebec to export its electricity to markets in southern New England, claims it has access to and will use the state power of eminent domain if needed to complete the Northern Pass project. These claims ignore the very constitutional rights secured by the vote of NH citizens in 2006.

In the 2011 legislative session, the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted 317-51 to pass House Bill 648, which proposes to amend current law governing the use of eminent domain by utilities and to bring this law into alignment with the 2006 constitutional amendment. The House passed bill was written to make clear in current state law that eminent domain is inaccessible to private transmission projects like Northern Pass. The Senate Judiciary Committee vote of last week gutted the House language, and replaced it with new language that completely avoids the goal of the original bill.

NH landowners who want to protect the hard-won property rights secured by Article 12-a are left with one recourse for immediate relief: We must persuade at least 13 members of the 24-member New Hampshire State Senate to stand up for the property rights granted by Article 12-a. The State Senate needs to join the House of Representatives in making clear that private development projects like Northern Pass DO NOT have any right to condemn private property. Contact your State Senator today (click here to find out who your Senator is and how to make contact). Tell your State Senator that you expect him or her to defend Article 12-a, and not to support the recommendation of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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