APPEAL OF TOWN OF SEABROOK (New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services)
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hicks, J.
a.m. on the morning of their release. The direct address of the court's home page is: http://www.courts.state.nh.us/supreme.
The petitioner, Town of Seabrook, appeals an order of the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (DES) granting the respondent, NextEra Energy Seabrook, LLC (NextEra), several tax exemptions under RSA 72:12-a (Supp. 2011). We affirm in part and reverse in part.
The following facts are supported by the record. NextEra is the majority shareholder and managing agent of the Seabrook Nuclear Power Station (Plant), located in Seabrook, near the Atlantic Ocean, the Browns River, and the Hampton Harbor marsh. The Plant is a single unit nuclear electric
generating facility with a four-loop, pressurized water reactor. To produce electricity, the Plant uses nuclear fuel to create steam that is used to power a turbine generator. The water used during this process is drawn from and discharged to the Atlantic Ocean via intake and discharge tunnels.
In 1982, a previous owner of the Plant applied for local property tax exemptions pursuant to RSA 72:12-a. Two separate appeals to this court followed. See Appeal of Town of Hampton Falls, 126 N.H. 805 (1985); Appeal of Public Serv. Co. of N.H., 124 N.H. 79 (1983). The Plant ultimately received various tax exemptions. The relevant tax exemption statute, RSA 72:12-a, provides the following:
Any person, firm or corporation which builds, constructs, installs or places in use in this state any treatment facility, device, appliance, or installation wholly or partly for the purpose of reducing, controlling, or eliminating any source of air or water pollution shall be entitled to have the value of said facility and any real estate necessary therefor, or a percentage thereof determined in accordance with this section, exempted from the taxes levied under this chapter for the period of years in which the facility, device, appliance, or installation is used in accordance with the provisions of this section.
In 2010, pursuant to this statute, NextEra submitted an application to DES to obtain tax exemptions for the Plant, in part because the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration requested that the exemptions be updated. NextEra's Application (Application) was largely duplicative of the prior application. NextEra specifically claimed that the following facilities are entitled to the exemption:
Air Pollution Control Facilities:
2. Containment Spray System
3. Containment Cooling System
4. Combustible Gas Control System
5. Containment Enclosure [and Fission Product Removal System]
6. Primary Auxiliary Building Filtered Exhaust System
7. Fuel Storage Building Exhaust System
8. Waste Processing Building Exhaust System
9. Containment On-Line Purge Exhaust System
11. Radioactive Gaseous Waste System Water Pollution Control Facilities:
12. Storm Water Run-Off and Treatment System
13. Chemical and Oily Waste System
14. Sanitary Waste System
15. Circulating Water Discharge Tunnel
16. Circulating Water Intake Tunnel
17. Radioactive Liquid Waste System
18. Steam Generator Blowdown ...