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Poll: Most Granite Staters oppose eminent domain for Northern Pass

Last modified: 1/17/2012 12:00:00 AM
Nearly 70 percent of people questioned about Northern Pass are against the hydropower project using eminent domain to take private land, according to a new poll by the University of New Hampshire Survey Center.

Pollsters questioned 500 residents in late September and early October and found that 68 percent opposed the use of eminent domain while 19 percent favored it. The remaining 13 percent said they didn’t know if they opposed or favored Northern Pass being able to use eminent domain.

The Dupont Group paid for the poll on behalf of the New England Power Generators Association, a rival group that has been critical of the project. Chief among the association’s complaints is the view of Northern Pass officials that they can use eminent domain to build their transmission route if landowners won’t sell their properties.

Lobbyist James Monahan of the Dupont Group shared the poll results today with the Monitor, a day before the state Senate was scheduled to vote on a bill that would more clearly prevent a project like Northern Pass from taking land through eminent domain.

Senate President Peter Bragdon announced mid-day that the vote on that bill has been rescheduled for Jan. 25. The reason wasn’t immediately available.

Existing state law and a constitutional amendment prohibit private projects, like the Northern Pass, from using eminent domain. And while Northern Pass officials have said they don’t intend to use eminent domain, they have suggested they would ask for the power if it was the only way to get land for its 180-mile project from Canada to the New England power grid.

Earlier today, Northern Pass lobbyist Donald Pfundstein told a House committee considering other eminent domain bills that Northern Pass would be entitled to use eminent domain because although it’s a private project not deemed necessary by regulatory agencies, the energy from Canada would be benefit the public.

The UNH poll also asked residents how familiar they were with the $1.2 billion Northern Pass project introduced in 2010. A majority – 60 percent – said they were familiar, but only 12 percent said they were “very familiar” with the project. The others said they were “somewhat” familiar.

On the eminent domain question, those who supported Northern Pass’s use of that power came from people who have lived in New Hampshire five years or fewer.


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