BY GARRY RAYNO
CONCORD — State regulators decided Thursday to postpone their final decision on the $1.6 billion Northern Pass Transmission project for five months and extend adjudicative hearings until the end of the year.
The deadline for an oral decision is Feb. 28, 2018, and the written decision must be released by March 31, 2018.
The Site Evaluation Committee originally had a Dec. 18, 2016, deadline to make a decision, one year after it deemed Eversource’s application for the 192-mile, high-voltage transmission line complete, but last year moved that deadline to Sept. 30, 2017.
After 30 days of adjudicative hearings on the project, the Site Evaluation Committee has not heard from all of Eversource’s witnesses with more than 100 yet to be heard from the Counsel for the Public and project intervenors.
SEC chair Martin Honigberg called the committee’s Sept. 30 deadline unrealistic and a Dec. 31 deadline was proposed, but Peter Roth, Counsel for the Public, suggested a more realistic deadline would be Feb. 28, 2018.
“We still have an enormous number of witnesses and we don’t know the available dates in October and November and then the holidays,” Roth said. “The end of February is a more comfortable time period in light of what we heard today.”
But Eversource’s lead attorney, Barry Needleman of McLane, Middleton Professional Association, noted the committee was already well beyond its statutory deadline of December 2016.
But he agreed — given the work that remains — a deadline extension is needed.
The committee articulated why it is in the public’s interest to extend the deadline, and another critical interest is that of the applicant who deserves to have the proposal considered and decided in a timely manner, Needleman said.
He said the company would like “clarity” as soon as possible as would many of the people participating in the process.
Roth and others noted it would take an estimated 39 days to complete the testimony and cross-examinations of witnesses for the Counsel for the Public and other intervenors, but Honigberg said all of the planned “friendly cross-examination” is unrealistic and not needed.
“Many (witnesses) know little beyond the boundary of their properties,” he said. “There needs to be some reasonable limits placed on friendly cross-examination. To go on for days and days and days is unrealistic and unreasonable.”
The committee has about 30 days available for hearings before the Dec. 31 deadline. The deadline for legal briefs is the end of January.
The committee does not have hearings scheduled for next week but has scheduled four days of hearings a week during the final three weeks of September.
The 1,090 megawatt transmission project to bring Hydo-Quebec electricity to southern New England was first proposed seven years ago.
Eversource had hoped to have all federal and state permits by the end of the year with construction to begin next year and the transmission line finished by the end of 2020.
Garry Rayno can be reached at email@example.com.
InDepthNH.org’s comprehensive coverage of the SEC hearings on Northern Pass.
April 13, Day 1: Eversource NH Chief Quinlan On The Hot Seat At Northern Pass Hearing
April 14, Day 2: Eversource Chief Questioned About ‘Clean’ Energy Claims And Northern Pass Costs
April 17: Day 3: Eversource: Hydro-Quebec Revenues Could Fall Short In Northern Pass’ First Year
April 18: Day 4: Northern Pass’ Potential Health Concerns Debated At Hearing
April 19: Day 5: Concerns Raised About Northern Pass Affecting Health of Sherburne Woods Residents in Deerfield
April 30: Is NH Getting ‘Hoodwinked’ on Health and Safety By Northern Pass?
May 1: Day 6: Testimony: 44 New Access Roads Needed To Build 192-Mile Northern Pass in NH
May 2: Day 7: Northern Pass Expert: 3 Months of Construction Likely In Downtown Plymouth
May 3: Day 8: Project Official: Northern Pass Construction Limited To 7 am to 7 pm, Noise Assessed Daily
May 3: Eversource’s Chief Quinlan Listed as ‘Host’ For Sununu Fundraiser
May 4: Day 9: Grafton County Attorney Grills Northern Pass Experts On Land Buys
May 5: Day 9, story 2: Common Man’s Alex Ray: Northern Pass Disruption in Plymouth Would Be ‘Fatal’ To Business
May 8: Forest Society Calls Northern Pass Inflated Land Buys a ‘Shell Game’
May 25: Hydro-Quebec Explores Opportunities in New England, New York
May 31: InDepthNH.org, NHPR Talk Northern Pass With John Dankosky
May 31: Day 10: ‘Frac-Out’ Water Pollution Possible When Drilling To Bury Northern Pass
June 1: Day 11: Applicant: Northern Pass Would Mitigate Impact On Endangered State Butterfly
June 8: Day 12: Counsel for the Public: Northern Pass Financial Expert’s Perspective ‘Unnaturally Optimistic’
June 9: Day 13: Portions of Northern Pass Hearings Held In Closed Session, Again
June 12: Public Statement Hearings On Northern Pass Begin June 15
June 13: Day 14: Analyst: Customer Using 300 kw Would Save $1.50 a Month With Northern Pass
June 14: Day 15: Regulator: Committee Could Consider Conditioning Approval for Northern Pass
June 15: Day 16: Speaking Out For and Against Northern Pass From Connecticut to Concord
June 16: Day 17: Forest Society Presses Environmental Benefits of Burying Northern Pass, Yale Responds To Critics About Land Leased To Northern Pass
June 21: Northern Pass Wants Controversial Yale-Bayroot Lease Kept Confidential
June 20: Day 18: Intervenors: Northern Pass Experts Failed To Identify All Impacted Wetlands
June 22: Day 19: Northern Pass Opponents Dominate SEC Hearing
June 23: Day 20: Northern Pass Seeks 15 More Hearing Days For Total of 57
June 26: Day 21: SEC Members Quiz Northern Pass Experts On Wetland Protection
July 18: Day 22: Northern Pass Expert: Project Wouldn’t Hurt Tourism
July 19: Day 23: Site Evaluation Committee Members Criticize Northern Pass Expert on Tourism
July 20: Day 24: Pessamit Innu, Lawmakers, Citizens, Businesses All Have Their Say on Northern Pass
July 21: Day 25: Deputy Solicitor: Northern Pass’ Tax Breaks Not So Great for Concord Property Owners
July 27: More Competition & Northern Pass Commits $10M To Help Low-Income Mass. Customers
July 31: Day 26: Public Counsel Grills Northern Pass Expert On Property Value Impact
Aug. 1: Day 27: Northern Pass’ Real Estate Expert Questioned About Data Accuracy
Aug 2: Day 28: Northern Pass Real Estate Expert Concedes Power Lines ‘Thin The Market’
Aug. 3: Day 29: Northern Pass Expert Asked How 1,284 ‘Significant’ Properties Pared Down to 6
Aug. 9: Day 30: No End In Sight For Hearings on Northern Pass’ Controversial Plan
Aug. 29: Day 31: Intervenors Grill Northern Pass’ Historic Preservation Expert
Aug. 30: Day 32:
For more information about InDepthNH.org, which is published online by the New Hampshire Center for Public Interest Journalism, contact Nancy West at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 603-738-5635