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Pipeline Eminent Domain At Center Of Statehouse Bill Proposals

A.F. Litt
Flickr Creative Commons

The power of natural gas pipeline developers to take private property using eminent domain will come under the scrutiny of state lawmakers this legislative session.

Federal law dictates that any interstate gas pipeline which has won approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) is granted the power to take land it needs for the project, so long as it pays fair market price.

Jim Belanger, a Republican from Hollis, has sponsored two bills at the request of a constituent in his town. "They weren't my idea," he says.

While the text of the bills has not been published to the state's website, Belanger says one would make it so a landowner could request that the company taking a piece of a parcel be required to take the whole thing. The other would make it so any town could vote on whether a company should be allowed to take any publicly owned land.

Belanger says he’s not sure such a vote could be legally binding. "If nothing else it will send an opinion to the state and federal commissions that deal with these things," he explained.

Belanger’s proposals also include a requirement that developers pay any current use penalty incurred when undeveloped property is subdivided.

Lawmakers will consider both proposals next year.

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. He shifted gears in 2016 and began producing Outside/In, a podcast and radio show about “the natural world and how we use it.” His work has won him several awards, including two regional Edward R. Murrow awards, one national Murrow, and the Overseas Press Club of America's award for best environmental reporting in any medium. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.
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