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January 23. 2014 5:48PM

Committee chair's decision sends transmission lines burial bill directly to NH Senate

CONCORD -- A bill passed by the House on Wednesday directing the state's Site Evaluation Committee to "give preference" to burying electric transmission lines as it considers Northern Pass and other projects will go directly to the state Senate rather than a House committee.

House members were told by their leadership before they passed House Bill 569 that they were considering only initial approval and that the bill would be sent to the House Ways and Means Committee for further review of any revenue components of the bill.

They were told that after the Ways and Means reviewed it, the bill would be returned to the House for another vote.

But that approach changed on Thursday morning.

House Clerk Karen Wadsworth told the New Hampshire Union Leader that Ways and Means Committee Chair Rep. Susan Almy, D-Lebanon, informed her that she had decided not to take the bill in her committee, which, Wadsworth said, is allowable under a House rule.

Any House member who voted in favor of the bill on Wednesday could have filed to have the bill reconsidered on the House floor by 12 noon on Thursday.

But Wadsworth said Thursday afternoon that no one had asked for reconsideration, meaning that the bill will now go directly to the state Senate and there will be no second vote on the House floor.

After UnionLeader.com reported the key development early Thursday, Northern Pass issued an updated statement, saying, "This is a critical time. Today, especially, we're seeing our power generators struggling to meet our energy demands and the price of electricity skyrocketing.

"We now look to the Senate to seriously consider the many consequences HB569 may have on New Hampshire's energy policy and business environment."


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