Plymouth Is Latest To Try Blocking Big Energy Projects With Local Ordinance

Feb 5, 2018

The town of Plymouth, N.H.
Credit Google maps

New Hampshire has put the brakes on the Northern Pass energy project for now, but some towns are still prepared to block it with local laws asserting their view on big utility development.

Plymouth is the latest municipality to approve an ordinance saying certain energy projects, while allowed under state law, are harmful to local health and environment.

When such laws are enforced, developers either have to go elsewhere, or sue to build in town.

Eversource didn’t respond to a request for comment on how they’ll handle the handful of community rights ordinances along Northern Pass’s route if the project wins its forthcoming appeal to the state Site Evaluation Committee.  

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund has been helping write these ordinances in New Hampshire since 2006. Organizer Michelle Sanborn says they've been sparked by Northern Pass, large wind farms and other concerns.

"It's basically withdrawing their consent to be governed in the manner that the state is dictating that they be governed,” she says of Plymouth’s ordinance.

Sanborn's group is also lobbying for a state constitutional amendment to affirm towns' right to pass these ordinances.

That proposal gets a hearing in the state House of Representatives’ Municipal and County Government Committee, Tuesday at 2 p.m.