(In keeping with our new policy to explain more about the stories we report: I reported this story after receiving emails from the Site Evaluation Committee today that included Northern Pass’s objection to Bethlehem’s motion to re-open the record because of a statement made by a hotel developer and Bethlehem’s immediate response. Anyone interested in the Northern Pass proceedings can ask to be placed on the email list by contacting the SEC administrator and view the full Northern Pass docket here. Since I reported Bethlehem’s motion to re-open the record, I believe it was important to report Northern Pass’ objection and Bethlehem’s response.)
By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
Northern Pass objected Tuesday to a motion filed by the town of Bethlehem seeking to re-open the record before state regulators to accept new evidence that a proposed hotel development could be jeopardized if the 192-mile high-voltage transmission line is built as planned.
On behalf of the town, Cheryl K. Jensen filed the original motion Jan. 4 after recently learning that developer Yizchok Rudich said in an interview that was posted on Facebook that his plan to build Homewood Suites by Hilton in Bethlehem could be threatened if Northern Pass didn’t agree to move Transition Station No. 5.
Homewood Suites by Hilton has been proposed to be built on U.S. Route 302 on the site of the former Baker Brook cabins and motel.
“It is not necessary to reopen the record because it is already sufficient for a full
consideration of issues relating to the proposed location of Transition Station No. 5,” wrote Thomas B. Getz representing Northern Pass/Eversource Energy. “The motion to reopen is superfluous. The Town had ample opportunity to express its position regarding the proposed location of Transition Station No. 5, and it did so.”
The Site Evaluation Committee can reopen the record if the presiding officer determines “that additional testimony, evidence or argument is necessary for a full consideration of the issues presented in the proceeding…”
The record was closed late last month after 70 adjudicative hearings in Concord. The Site Evaluation Committee will begin public deliberations Jan. 30 on Eversource Energy/Northern Pass’ application to build a 192-mile transmission line from Pittsburg to Deerfield. It would bring 1,090 megawatts of Hydro-Quebec electricity to the New England grid.
“(Jensen) now wants to put into the record screen shots that she found on Facebook of a so called Q & A interview between a recently formed volunteer group referred to as
‘Believe in Bethlehem’ and Mr. Rudich, a potential hotel developer,” Getz wrote.
Jensen immediately filed a response to Getz’ motion insisting the record should be reopened because the developer’s statement was “the clearest statement yet – and directly from him – that, if the transition station in Bethlehem isn’t moved, it puts the hotel project in jeopardy.”
Northern Pass’ objection ignores the fact that she contacted Rudich and confirmed that the statements he made in the Q&A on Facebook were his and were accurately stated, Jensen said. “I would not have taken up the SEC’s time with this if I had not confirmed the information from a social media site,” Jensen wrote.
Getz quoted testimony from a couple of adjudicative hearings in which Northern Pass experts testified that the Bethlehem transition station would not be moved and said that hasn’t changed.
Northern Pass has had discussions with the landowner that has the hotel and those discussions will continue to go forward, he said.
“But, at this time, the transition station is being located where the permit application is, and exactly on that property, meaning, we’re not planning on moving that transition station at this time,” Getz wrote.
The town submitted the minutes of the Town Planning Board’s November 15, 2017 meeting. “At that time, the (hotel’s) engineer, Mr. (David) Eckman, said that the hotel could still be built with Transition Station No. 5 in its proposed location but that it would not be as aesthetically pleasing,” Getz wrote.
“The whole point of the motion to reopen the record, and its companion comment,
appears to be to undo Mr. Eckman’s more positive statement to the Planning Board by
introducing a statement that the hotel project is in jeopardy,” Getz wrote.
“More important, the statements in the record attributed to the engineer for the hotel developer suggest that it is not clear whether the hotel will move forward, for any number of reasons,” Getz wrote. “Adding the statement from Facebook that the hotel project is in jeopardy is not necessary for a full consideration of the issue of whether the Project unduly interferes with the orderly development of the region.”
Bethlehem’s original motion said it is important to submit the new information because $385,000 annually in tax revenue and money spent by visitors could be at risk if the hotel isn’t built.
“This information seems to be necessary to fulfill the subcommittee’s request and necessary for a full and fair hearing on the matter, which has implications for Bethlehem’s economic future and the orderly development of the region,” Jensen wrote.