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10 bills target projects like Northern Pass

Lawmakers could consider at least 10 bills this year related to Northern Pass, ranging from a moratorium on energy projects to developing a comprehensive state energy plan.

Some of the bills, including a few that will be heard next week, are a result of an energy task force Sen. Jeanie Forrester, a Meredith Republican, led last year.

The group studied the feasibility of burying future transmission lines on the state’s existing roadways, and an early draft of recommendations included the moratorium, a requirement that future lines be buried and a new approval process that asked whether proposed projects were needed to meet the region’s energy demands.

The group also recommended that developers be encouraged to put their transmission lines along state roadways, including interstates 93 and 89.

The commission, however, scaled back its recommendations after objections from Northern Pass supporters and after determining it needed more information.

Northern Pass lobbyist Donald Pfundstein called the original recommendations an “attack on Northern Pass,” and the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce said they would be bad for business development. The commission wants another year to study the issue.

But in the meantime, some of its members, as well as other lawmakers, are pursuing many of those initial recommendations.

On Tuesday, the House Science Technology and Energy Committee will hear four of the bills in Representatives Hall at the State House, beginning at 10 a.m.:

∎ HB166, sponsored by two Grafton County House members, would require that transmission lines for future energy projects be buried if they are not needed for the “public good.” The bill does not define public good.

∎ HB 568, whose sponsors include a member of the energy task force, is similar. It would require the transmission lines of all “elective” projects be buried. Northern Pass is considered an elective project.

∎ HB 569, which shares sponsors with the above bill, requires that future transmission lines be placed within the state’s transportation corridors “to the extent possible.”

∎ HB 586 would put a moratorium on new energy projects for one year.

Three other bills will be heard before the same committee Feb. 19, beginning at 1 p.m.:

∎ HB 580 would put a moratorium on all wind and energy projects until the state develops a “comprehensive energy plan.”

∎ HB 449 calls for an economic impact analysis for future energy projects to determine what they will mean for jobs and incomes in the local communities. The bill would also require the state to consider the input of local communities before approving an energy project.

∎ HB 484, sponsored by Forrester and Rep. Neal Kurk, a Weare Republican, would require an energy project to receive public approval anywhere the project’s structures were visible. Any town that could see a structure would register its approval or disapproval by a town vote.

The remaining three bills have not yet been scheduled for hearings.

∎ SB 99, sponsored by Forrester, would increase the public’s representation in hearings before the state board that issues permits for energy projects. It would also set additional standards for these projects, including an analysis of how views and property values would be affected by a project.

∎ SB 191, sponsored by a number of senators and House members, would create a state energy plan for evaluating future energy projects.

∎ HB 306 is similar to the above bill. It seeks to create a commission to develop an energy strategy for the state.

(Annmarie Timmins can be reached at 369-3323,
atimmins@cmonitor.com or on Twitter @annmarietimmins.)

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