Forest Society Seeks Details of Fiscal Relationship Between Balsams And Northern Pass

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In 2012 most of the furnishings of the Balsams were sold off. Photo by Chris Jensen

By Christopher Jensen

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests is demanding that the developers of the Balsams turn over all documents relating to any financial dealings with Northern Pass.

The forest society made the request last week in a filing to the state’s Site Evaluation Committee.

It asks the Site Evaluation Committee to “compel” Balsams developer Les Otten, Dixville Capital LLC and Balsams Resort Holdings LLC to turn over the material.

The request comes as part of the Site Evaluation Committee’s consideration of whether to allow the controversial Northern Pass project to proceed.

As part of that process Northern Pass foes and supporters who will be arguing the case before the committee – known as intervenors – are gathering information to support their positions.

In cases where one side balks, the other can ask the Site Evaluation Committee to order the release of the information.

The Balsams, which favors Northern Pass, is an intervenor in that siting process. The forest society wants to know if the Balsams received a benefit conditioned on backing Northern Pass, which it contends could reflect on The Balsams’ credibility.

“We want to understand the nature of the relationship between Eversource, Hydro-Quebec and those people who are promoting their project,” says Jack Savage, a spokesman for the forest society.

Savage says his group is also trying to explore how much of a public benefit Northern Pass will provide and “whether running around the state writing checks constitutes a public benefit that is relevant.”

That’s a reference to Northern Pass’ Forward NH Fund. If the project is approved by the Site Evaluation Committee it would involve spending $10 million a year for 20 years “for projects associated with community betterment, clean energy innovation, economic development, and tourism.”

Northern Pass says other benefits will include thousands of construction jobs, an estimated $30 million a year in “local, county and state taxes” and lower energy costs, although the latter have not yet been detailed.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray did not respond, over several days, to a request for comment.

Otten’s lawyer, Mark Beliveau, is objecting to providing the information to the forest society, saying it is not relevant, the requests are so broad as to be burdensome and releasing that information would put the Balsams at a “competitive disadvantage and would not serve the public interest.”

The Balsams is being asked to turn over documents including:

* Any payments to Northern Pass, its parent company Eversource or “any person affiliated with them.”

* Any financial arrangements “discussed or committed to” between Otten, the Balsams and Northern Pass, Eversource or persons affiliated with them.

* Whether any future funding for the Balsams was contingent on Otten’s stating his support of Northern Pass.

Last year Otten publicly said that Northern Pass was providing $2 million for the project.

Otten recently filed testimony with the Site Evaluation Committee in which he praised Northern Pass and said it would save the resort about $200,000 a year in reduced electricity costs.

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