Senate dodges measure to prefer buried power lines

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CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire's Senate on Thursday decided not to take up a contested measure that would have made it easier to bury nonessential power lines.

Senate Republican Majority Leader Jeb Bradley of Wolfeboro brought the measure to the table to try to break what he calls a logjam in the $1.4 billion Northern Pass proposal to carry 1,200 megawatts of power via high-voltage transmission lines 187 miles from Canada to southern New Hampshire. The project has split the state with supporters saying the additional energy will mean jobs and lower electric rates while opponents say it will hurt property values and tourism and mar the state’s scenic beauty.

The debate was over how strongly to word the legislation and Bradley and other bill supporters repeatedly stressed the language would have made burial optional, not mandatory. The Senate voted 16-8 to reject the measure as amended. Bradley said after the vote he won’t bring it back this session.

Opponents of the buried lines said they would mean higher electric rates to pay for the more costly lines and send a message that New Hampshire is unfriendly to business.

“Not only will we lose jobs, it will make it harder to do business in New Hampshire,” said Lou D’Allesandro, D-Manchester. “Renewable energy developers will know it will be harder to connect to the grid in New Hampshire so they take will projects to other states.”

But Bradley, who acknowledged the buried lines are more expensive, countered that unless there is compromise to push the process forward, the stalemate will continue to nobody’s benefit. He said any increased costs from the buried lines would be offset by protecting property values.

“If we can’t get the win-win, the jobs you want, they’re not going to happen,” Bradley said. “This thing will be litigated forever. And guess what? That means no new jobs, no new sources of power, no lower rates.”

A spokeswoman for Public Service Company of New Hampshire, which is proposing Northern Pass, cheered Thursday’s vote that kept the bill, HB569, off the table.

“We’re pleased the New Hampshire Senate recognizes that HB 569 would have discouraged efforts in our state and the region to address energy challenges and secure a more reliable energy future for New Hampshire electric consumers,” said Lauren Collins.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire’s Forests, which opposes Northern Pass, predicted there are still fights to come over burial.

“This was one skirmish in a long battle and Northern Pass is limping out of the statehouse wounded, but alive,” said Jack Savage, society spokesman.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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