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Blocking the pass: Forest society's buyout plan

August 22. 2012 1:33AM

Granite Staters who oppose the Northern Pass project might eventually have the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests to thank if the gargantuan electric transmission line from Canada through New Hampshire is never built.

The society announced on Monday that it has purchase-and-sales agreements with several North Country landowners who have property in the Northern Pass corridor. The group plans to buy the land, and thus block the transmission line, which would be held on towers as tall as 135 feet.

After a contentious legislative fight that involved a debate over the state's proper role in regulating such matters, the society's move is a welcome shift from politics and toward contractual problem-solving.

Northern Pass foes first sought to block the controversial project through the legislative process. They started with a bill that would have blocked Northern Pass, but with it probably lots of other worthy electricity transmission projects. Though senators were loudly denounced by some Northern Pass foes for not swiftly passing the House bill, the state wound up with a better law that prohibits the use of the state's eminent domain powers for a more narrowly defined category of transmission line projects, likely including Northern Pass.

After all of that, however, Northern Pass might still get built because the company could simply buy the land rather than have the state take it. Instead of returning to the Legislature to seek laws restraining a private business's right to enter into contracts with landowners, the forest society has sought to beat Northern Pass to the land.

That is a much more agreeable route to take. This issue is about more than just scenic views. It's also about property rights. In protecting one, we cannot forget to protect the other.

(The forest society needs to raise $2.5 million to buy the land. Those interested in donating can visit

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