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NH high court to hear arguments on valuation of crude oil pipeline

Union Leader Correspondent

April 02. 2014 10:30PM

GORHAM — The New Hampshire Supreme Court later this month will hear oral arguments on why the town and the New Hampshire Board of Tax and Land Appeals disagree by as much as $3 million on the valuation of the crude-oil pipeline that runs through Gorham.

On April 16, the high court will give 15 minutes each to the respective parties — the Town of Gorham, represented by Robert Upton, II; and the owners of the pipeline, Portland Pipe Line Corp., represented by Jonathan A. Block — to present their cases.

Last July, the BTLA agreed with the PPLC that the assessments for 2008, 2009 and 2010 on its 4.95 miles of pipeline were too high.

The town, according to the BTLA decision, put a taxable value on the pipeline — which carries oil from South Portland, across New Hampshire and Vermont to refining facilities in Montreal — of $6.6 million in 2008; $6.9 million in 2009; and $6 million in 2010.

The expert for the PPLC opined that his client’s pipeline was worth $2.3 million in 2008; $2.54 million in 2009; and $2.5 million in 2010.

PPLC in its appeal of the Gorham assessments also noted that the New Hampshire Department of Revenue for the three tax years in question put the value of the pipeline at $1.6 million, $1.34 million and $1.2 million.

In its decision, the BTLA said the pipeline’s fair-market value was $3.8 million in 2008; $4.1 million in 2009; and $4.4 million in 2010. The Town of Gorham appealed the decision but it was denied, prompting the appeal to the NH Supreme Court.

Apart from its value being contested, the Portland-Maine pipeline is making news because of widespread speculation that PPLC will at some point attempt to reverse the flow of oil within it, potentially brining “tar-sands” oil from Canada to Maine.

Although a PPLC spokesman recently told the New Hampshire Union Leader that the company has no plans to reverse the flow, the risk of a spill along the 236-mile pipeline has prompted efforts to mitigate the effects of such an occurrence including proposed legislation in both the New Hampshire House and Senate that would give the Department of Environmental Services authority over the company’s spill-preparedness plans.

Apart from the ongoing challenge from PPLC, Gorham officials — as well as those from the neighboring City of Berlin — were expected to appear this week before the BTLA for hearings on assessments those communities levied against Great Lakes Hydro America.

Great Lakes Hydro owns three hydroelectric plants in Berlin and two in Gorham and it is contesting the assessment on all five for the 2010 and 2011 tax years. The hearings began Monday and according to the BTLA website are scheduled to last through Friday.

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