Bow, Eversource prep Merrimack Station arguments for Supreme Court

  • Eversource Energy’s Merrimack Station in Bow. AP file

Monitor staff
Published: 6/18/2017 11:53:33 PM

The high-stakes question over the exact value of the Merrimack Station power plant in Bow could still be months away as both sides make their arguments to the New Hampshire Supreme Court.

The town of Bow and Eversource Energy have filed written arguments over the value of the power plant, which could have a multimillion-dollar effect on the town’s taxes.

The town is appealing a ruling from Superior Court Judge Richard McNamara from October that set the value of all Eversource property related to the plant at about $66.6 million in 2012 and $67.4 million in 2013, a fraction of the $159 million valuation used by the town when it sent the company a tax bill. If the superior court ruling is upheld, the town could be faced with a minimum estimated refund of $8.5 million.

Now, both parties will have to wait and see whether the Supreme Court wishes to hear oral arguments, but that could take months, said Paul Fitzgerald, who is representing Bow in the case.

“Both of the briefs are extensive, but it’s completely up to the court whether they’ll hear arguments,” Fitzgerald said. “Given the fact that it’s a large case, it could be some time before they get through it.”

Fitzgerald is arguing that the Superior Court was wrong when it ruled in favor of Eversource’s valuation of Merrimack Station, which includes the plant, its combustion turbines and the transmission and distribution network within the town, according to Supreme Court documents.

The basis of this error, according to Fitzgerald, comes from the court failing to factor in the worth of a $422 million mercury scrubber in the overall valuation of the plant. Fitzgerald argues the scrubber was installed because Eversource saw the “significant value of the plant,” rather than choosing to close it down. The installation of the mercury scrubber was required by state law.

“While PSNH could have closed Merrimack Station instead of adding the scrubber, the plant remained operational because PSNH would recover its scrubber and operation expenses from ratepayers and continue to generate future cash flow,” Fitzgerald wrote.

Attorneys Margaret Nelson and Derek Lick, who are representing Eversource, argue that the valuation of the plant was correct. They wrote that the decision to install the scrubber was based off data that showed the decision would benefit customers and that equating the investment in the scrubber and the market value for Merrimack’s taxable property is incorrect.

Meanwhile, the plant remains for sale and it’s ultimate fate uncertain. JPMorgan Chase & Co., who is handling the selling of the state’s power plants, including hydropower dams in Bow and Franklin, was supposed to have “preliminary, non-binding” bids by early May at the latest.

JPMorgan will evaluate these initial bids and select some or all of the bidders to participate in a second round of bids, which are binding. Those bids will be due by August, after which the Public Utilities Commission must sign off on any sales.

(Caitlin Andrews can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @ActualCAndrews.)

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