By Nancy West, InDepthNH.org
Intervenors opposed to Northern Pass asked the Site Evaluation Committee on Thursday to deny the project’s motion to vacate its denial and resume deliberations saying it was premature since there has been no written, appealable decision.
The SEC should also deny Northern Pass’ Feb. 28 motion because it “demonstrates a troubling disregard for the Site Evaluation Committee’s rules and practices – and indeed broadly held administrative standards – both in its premature timing and in its reliance on new information not found in the docket record that closed on December 22,” wrote Melissa Birchard of the Conservation Law Foundation.
Northern Pass is trying to introduce new information about mitigation measures, discussions with Counsel for the Public, newly adopted positions of the applicants, and new proposed project modifications, none of which is properly admissible for consideration at this late stage of the proceeding, Birchard wrote.
“The Applicants seek to introduce this information in a hail-Mary attempt to cure its failure to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that the project will not unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region, among other undue impacts,” Birchard wrote, also on behalf of the Ammonoosuc Conservation Trust and the Appalachian Mountain Club.
On Wednesday, the Site Evaluation Committee said it will hold a public meeting on Monday, March 12 in Concord to deliberate Northern Pass’ motion to vacate the committee’s denial of the proposed 192-mile high-voltage powerline from Pittsburg to Deerfield.
Northern Pass’ motion to vacate SEC’s denial argued the committee violated the law and its own rules by shutting down deliberations after two and a half days.
The SEC had determined orally that Northern Pass was financially able to build the project, but determined it would unduly interfere with the orderly development of the region. The decision to deny the project on Feb. 1 was unanimous 7 to 0.
The SEC made no determination on the other two criteria required by law in 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 legal criteria, 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 Northern Pass motion states.
Northern Pass support
Northern Pass had some support in SEC filings on Thursday as The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104 joined with the Coos County Business and Employers Group in support of reconsideration of the project’s denial.
“The joint filing outlines instances where the SEC failed to follow existing law and administrative rules, where the SEC failed to follow precedent set in prior SEC proceedings, and instances where individual members of the SEC demonstrated a lack of understanding of SEC legal requirements and standards they were required to follow.
“In good faith, the IBEW invested considerable time and resources into a state permitting process that was seriously flawed, failed to provide due process, and did not comply with state law,” said Brian Murphy, Business Manager of IBEW Local 104. “It is critical that the SEC review its actions, and do its job.”
Other intervenors that opposed Northern Pass’ motion on Thursday included the Deerfield abutters group, Grafton County Commissioners and a number of municipal groups, including Group 1 North, which includes the towns of Pittsburg, Clarksville, Stewartstown and District 3 Coos County Commissioner Rick Samson.
Deputy Concord City Solicitor Danielle Pacik said Northern Pass chose to seek rehearing before the SEC issued its final written decision.
It is unfair to the SEC as well as the intervenors to be forced to address multiple motions for rehearing on the same decision, Pacik wrote.
“To put it simply, having made their bed, the Applicants must lie in it, for better or worse,” Pacik wrote.
She recommended that the SEC wait until the issuance of its final written decision before deciding this motion. “And the Applicants should also be prohibited from filing another motion for rehearing,” Pacik wrote.
After the SEC denied Northern Pass’ application, the committee that had selected it as the sole bidder to negotiate a lucrative contract with the Massachusetts Clean Energy Project notified Northern Pass that it will continue negotiations, but with the option of ending negotiations before the March 27 deadline to reach an agreement.
The Massachusetts clean energy bid selection committee is also now negotiating with Central Maine Power.