Sign up for InDepthNH.org’s free Friday news roundup and Sunday weekender here.
By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
The Site Evaluation Committee will hold a public meeting on March 12 in Concord to deliberate Northern Pass’ motion to vacate the committee’s Feb. 1 denial of the proposed 192-mile high-voltage powerline from Pittsburg to Deerfield.
On Feb. 28, Northern Pass Transmission/Eversource Energy filed a motion calling the SEC denial “unfair” and asked that it resume deliberations.
The Site Evaluation Committee, which hasn’t released its final written ruling denying the project, sent out a news release on Wednesday saying the SEC subcommittee that hears the case will not take testimony or hear oral arguments on Monday except if requested by the SEC.
“RSA 541:5 provides that upon filing a motion for rehearing, the Subcommittee ‘shall within ten days either grant or deny the same, or suspend the order or decision complained of pending further consideration,’” wrote SEC chairman Martin Honigberg.
The committee will deliberate on the pending motion and any other business lawfully before it, the release said. The meeting will be Monday, March 12, at 11 a.m. at 49 Donovan St., Concord. It is open to the public.
Northern Pass’ motion to vacate argued the committee violated the law and its own rules by shutting down deliberations Feb. 1 after two and a half days.
The SEC had determined that Northern Pass had the financial capability to build the project, but determined it would unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region. The seven-member committee unanimously denied the project.
The SEC made no determination on the other two criteria stated in the law for siting energy projects: whether it would have unreasonable adverse effects on aesthetics and whether issuing a certificate to build would be in the public interest.
Northern Pass had argued the SEC failed to apply all of the criteria set out in the rules and to make each finding set out in the statute, failed to assess conditions that could be imposed to alleviate any concerns and did not apply the required standard for deciding whether the project would interfere with orderly development of the region.
“In sum, the SEC simply failed to complete the process that the law
requires. As a result, the Applicants have been subjected to an unfair process and an unjust result,” the motion states.
At a press conference the day it filed the motion, Northern Pass promised new funding and 75 “solutions” for the SEC to consider.
Also on Wednesday, the Business Intervenors’ Group – consisting of the Coos County Business and Employers Group and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers – filed a motion concurring with Northern Pass’s position.
In a news release Tuesday, Northern Pass announced that it is now fully permitted on the Canadian side of the border, following the approval by the National Energy Board, Canada’s independent federal regulatory agency.
“NPT is the only project of its kind in New England with Canadian permits in-hand. In December, after two years of review, the Province of Québec granted Hydro-Québec (HQ) a permit to construct the hydroelectric transmission line that will connect with the NPT project at the U.S. border,” the Eversource release said.
Northern Pass had just been named the sole bidder out of 46 to negotiate a coveted contract with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Project when the Site Evaluation Committee denied its application.
That led the Massachusetts clean energy bid selection committee to decide to continue negotiations with Northern Pass, but to also negotiate with Central Maine Power on its New England Clean Energy Connect.
Both projects would bring about 1,200 megawatts of Hydro-Quebec to Massachusetts to help meet the state’s clean energy goals.
The Mass. selection committee notified Northern Pass Transmission it will continue negotiations, but with the option of ending negotiations before the March 27 deadline to reach an agreement.
The agreement assumes Northern Pass would be able to meet its original deadline of 2020 to begin operations. The Massachusetts law calls for the program to begin by that date.