Wind farm opponents and property rights

The effort to stop certain energy projects has now taken a destructive turn

Over the past several years, there has been considerable debate about the siting of wind farm projects and transmission lines in New Hampshire, and much of this debate has centered on individual property rights.

Initially, the opposition to projects like Northern Pass sought to empower landowners by securing the property rights they hold on their property. Legislative efforts, such as eliminating eminent domain for private transmission lines, drew widespread support from citizens because it strengthened property owner rights.

Unfortunately, the effort to stop these energy projects has now taken a destructive turn. No longer are opponents of these projects attempting to strengthen property owners’ rights, but instead these opponents are now focused on taking away property rights from landowners.

Through Senate Bill 200, sponsored by Sens. Jeb Bradley and Jeanie Forrester, opponents of these energy projects are now focused on taking property rights away from private landowners. Specifically, the bill eliminates the right of landowners to lease or otherwise transfer private property rights for energy projects and transmission lines.

This attack on private property rights is being pushed under the guise of protecting people’s views. What goes unsaid is that the great majority of people in New Hampshire do not own the land that holds the view they look at. Their view is on property that someone else bought and they have no rights to control.

In order to control the view they have, they are now attempting to use government to take away the right of another property owner to use the land as they determine is best.

For those of us that own private timberland in northern New Hampshire, we continually look for business opportunities that make these lands viable and allow them to remain available for forestry activity.

These lands support thousands of jobs and small businesses, supply wood for a variety of uses, and fuel for our region’s biomass plants. In that mix of uses, energy development and leasing transmission corridors is an important business for us – a business that provides critical revenues to support the maintenance of a working forest.

SB 200 socializes this business by mandating that energy transmission take place on government-owned and government-approved lands. Under SB 200, money from leases that now go to support private timberlands would instead go to the government for the mandated use of government-owned land.

By diverting this revenue away from private timberland owners to state government, this legislation threatens the existence of privately owned timberlands and creates more pressure for owners to sell.

As we have experienced in Coos County, in most cases the buyers are government or environmental special-interest groups that seek to restrict the use of these lands.

Economist Milton Friedman once said that “the government’s solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem,” and SB 200 is a great example.

Allen Bouthillier is the owner A.B. Logging & Trucking Inc., Lancaster.

Categories: Opinion