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New Hampshire Attorney General says no to Northern Pass

Saying no to Northern Pass, the New Hampshire Attorney General’s Office on Friday announced its approval of the land conservation deal between Tillotson Corporation trustees and the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.

A transfer of the conservation restrictions to the forest society would mean that the proposed Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission line cannot cross the 5,800 acres that are now slated to be put under conservation, society representatives have said.

At issue was the conservation easement for the 5,800 acres as well as a right of way for a hydroelectric transmission line that would cut across the same land.

The conservation easement has a Tillotson-estimated value of $1.5 million and the right of way a fair market value of $2.2 million, said Senior Assistant Attorney General Anthony Blenkinsop.

Both, however, were sold to the forest society for the $850,000.

Blenkinsop said, “The trustees have determined that a transfer to the society is consistent with the purpose and terms of the trust and that it is in the best interest of the environment and economy of the North Country.”

On Tuesday, Northern Pass attorneys asked the state AG to block the deal between Tillotson trustees and the forest society, arguing the trustees have a fiduciary obligation to accept its $2.2 million offer versus the $850,000 from the forest society.

With the forest society prevailing, it is undetermined if Northern Pass will now sue as it suggested it might do in Tuesday’s letter to Blenkinsop.

According to the forest society and the attorney general’s office, Tillotson trustees had longstanding discussions with the society concerning donation of the conservation restrictions should The Balsams resort sell. Those discussions preceded the $2.2 million offer by Renewable Properties Inc., the property buying subsidiary of Northern Pass.

The sale of the land to the forest society as well as the sale of the resort must be approved by the attorney general’s office because the 7,700-acre Balsams Grand Resort Hotel, which was sold earlier in the month to Daniel Hebert and Daniel Dagesse, is in a trust. Tillotson Corporation had owned the resort since 1954.

The attorney general’s decision supporting the forest society agreement was announced in a letter Friday from Blenkinsop of the attorney general’s Charitable Trust Division, to Tillotson Corporation attorney John Cornish.

Blenkinsop said upon reviewing the purchase and sales agreement between the trustees and forest society, the attorney general’s office has determined the transfer to the forest society is consistent with the terms of the charitable purposes of the trust because land conservation and preservation are clearly purposes of the trust.

The trustees acted within the limits of their discretion and the provisions of the trust when concluding that the transfer to the society is in the best interests of the North Country and their decision is reasonable, Blenkinsop said.

“As such, we will not substitute our judgment for that of the trustees on this issue,” he said.

The proposed sale to the forest society comes after the sale of the resort to Hebert and Dagesse.

The forest society will now hold both the conservation easement on the 5,800 acres as well as the hydroelectric transmission line right of way.

On Friday, forest society spokesman Jack Savage said the society’s goal is to extinguish the Northern Pass right of way.