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June 19. 2013 8:42PM

Gov. Hassan doubts Northern Pass easement effort

CONCORD — Gov. Maggie Hassan has added her voice to those warning that Northern Pass partners are not likely to succeed in any attempt to traverse the Connecticut Lakes Headwaters conservation area with 1,200-megawatt transmission lines, above ground or underground.

“I have met with just about everybody who has an opinion on Northern Pass, or would be impacted by Northern Pass, including Northern Pass officials, including families who oppose it, who have decided not to sell their land, as well as proponents of it,” she said in a brief conversation with reporters at the end of the Executive Council meeting on Tuesday.

When asked if Northern Pass officials had suggested they might request an easement to bring the power lines underground through the conservation area, she said that now appears possible.

“It seems more and more clear that there will be questions about whether they can go under the headwaters easement,” she said. “We have no formal request to go under the easement as of now, but my own view is that it would be a very difficult thing for them to do, given the terms of that easement.”

If a request is made, it would have to be submitted to the Department of Resources and Economic Development, which holds the easement on behalf of the state. The Attorney General’s office would serve in an advisory capacity.

“No formal request has been made to the Attorney General’s office or this office,” said Hassan spokesperson Marc Goldberg, “but it has been made clear that Northern Pass is likely investigating the potential use of the state’s Connecticut Lake Headwaters easement.”

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests has been predicting for weeks that crossing a narrow section of the 146,000-acre easement would be necessary for Northern Pass to close the gap on properties it has already purchased.

Northern Pass spokesperson Martin Murray said partners in the project, which include PSNH, would not confirm or deny any plans for an easement request at this time. “We are not prepared to discuss specific conversations we’ve had while in the process of finalizing our new route,” he said. “Our focus has been on exploring viable route options, in order to be responsive to the public feedback we’ve received. We look forward to sharing, in the near future, the details of a new proposed route — which will, of course, be respectful of governing easements or restrictions.”

Executives for Northeast Utilities, the PSNH parent company, told industry analysts in May that a new route would be ready for presentation by July.

Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, D-NH, and former Sen. Judd Gregg, who were instrumental in creating the conservation area, recently issued a joint statement opposing any access to the area for Northern Pass, which would bring hydroelectic power from Quebec into the New England grid.

“We don’t want to offer a legal opinion, but Senator Shaheen believes that the easement should be used to protect the Connecticut River headwaters from commercial or industrial development that is unrelated to the traditional land uses of forestry and outdoor recreation,” said Shaheen spokesperson Elizabeth Kenigsberg.dsolomon@unionleader.com


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