Order: Forest Society Won’t Get Any Northern Pass Financial Documents, But Can Question Balsams Developer

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

By Christopher Jensen

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests won’t be getting the documents it sought detailing any financial relationship between Northern Pass and the developers of the Balsams.

In an order Thursday, the Site Evaluation Committee rejected the forest society’s request for documents from Dixville Capital, LLC and Balsams Resort Holdings, LLC.

But it said the forest society could ask limited questions of Balsams developer Les Otten later this year when the Site Evaluation Committee formally considers whether to approve Northern Pass.

Testimony given in the later adjudicative proceedings is under oath.

The forest society made the request earlier this month as part of the Site Evaluation Committee’s consideration of the Northern Pass project.

It sought a wide range of information including any financial arrangements “discussed or committed to” between Otten and Northern Pass, Eversource or persons affiliated with them.

In particular, it wanted to know more about a $2 million investment Otten said he was promised by Northern Pass.

Otten is expected to testify in favor of Northern Pass when the S.E.C. finally considers whether to approve the project.

The forest society is expected to testify in opposition. It was looking for information to help make its case and it wanted the S.E.C. to compel Otten to provide it.

One of the things that the forest society wanted to know is whether Otten’s support for Northern Pass was contingent on getting an investment, said Jack Savage, a spokesman for the group.

And that is a question that the forest society can ask Otten at the formal proceedings later this year, S.E.C. chairman Martin Honigberg said in the order.

Honigberg said there was no need for the other financial information that the forest society sought because there is no dispute about the existence of the $2 million commitment. And, that there is no question that Otten has come out in favor of the project.

Honigberg said those two facts alone are enough for the S.E.C. to consider whether “the Balsams and its witnesses are biased in favor of the project because of the advance commitment.”

Savage, the forest society spokesman, said Honigberg’s order was good because it highlights the potential for bias. But he said the forest society had hoped to get far more information.

Mark Beliveau, Otten’s lawyer, had objected to the release of any financial information, saying it was not relevant and making it public could put the developer at a competitive disadvantage.

Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Otten, had no comment. Martin Murray, a spokesman for Northern Pass, did not respond to a request for comment.

 

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