The New Hampshire Supreme Court upheld a state committee’s rejection of a proposal to bring a hydropower transmission line from Canada to markets in southern New England, possibly dealing a fatal blow Friday to a plan that has raised concerns among communities and environmentalists that it would harm the region’s tourism industry and hurt property values.
The court rejected the argument of the utility behind the Northern Pass project that the Site Evaluation Committee never considered all the evidence, as required by law, or the possible ways the company could mitigate opponents’ concerns. The energy company, Eversource, wanted the court to remand the case back to the committee for reconsideration following its decision last year to reject the application.
“We have reviewed the record and conclude that the Subcommittee’s findings are supported by competent evidence and are not erroneous as a matter of law,” the court wrote in its ruling. “Accordingly, we hold that the petitioners have not sustained their burden on appeal to show that the Subcommittee’s order was unreasonable or unlawful.”
Although Eversource could try to submit a new plan to the evaluation committee, the company has lost most of its political support in the state including one of the most vocal backers — Republican Gov. Chris Sununu.
“The Court has made it clear – it is time to move on,” Sununu said in a statement. “There are still many clean energy projects that lower electric rates to explore and develop for New Hampshire and the rest of New England.”
Eversource said it was evaluating its options.
“We are deeply disappointed that the New Hampshire Supreme Court reached this decision, but we are grateful for their consideration and deliberation in this case. Northern Pass was the most advanced project to bring abundant low-cost, clean energy into the region, and this outcome is an unfortunate setback to our efforts to advance an affordable clean energy future for our customers,” the company said in a statement.
Lawyers representing 13 municipalities, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and other opponents had that argued Eversource failed to produce sufficient and credible evidence to make its case on such matters as the impacts on property values, tourism and land use. Several argued other projects in Maine and Vermont already are being considered to bring hydropower from Canada, proving that it isn’t necessary to build 192-miles of transmission lines through New Hampshire.
“Today’s Supreme Court decision is the right one for New Hampshire,” said Tom Irwin, vice president and director of Conservation Law Foundation New Hampshire. “Eversource has been nothing but dismissive of community concerns throughout this process and that alone is enough to reject Northern Pass for good. This project has always been bad for the state and Eversource needs to move on.”