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SEC to meet at Mountain View Grand for two Northern Pass hearings

May 11, 2016
WHITEFIELD — On May 19, the Mountain View Grand will hold two public hearings on Northern Pass. At 11 a.m., the first session focuses on the timeline for the Site Evaluation Committee's review of the controversial 192-mile hydropower transmission project, among other topics. At 6 p.m., public input will be taken on information Northern Pass submitted after the SEC revised its administrative rules.

For the evening public hearing, the SEC determined that the public should have a chance to provide input on revised Northern Pass application materials that were submitted on Feb. 26. Comments at the evening hearing will be limited to issues raised in that new information.

Administrative rules the SEC revised late last year ask for an array of details that were not part of the Northern Pass application submitted last summer. Northern Pass has requested a waiver from some of these rules, which seek further information ranging from impacts on wetlands and scenery to details on project contractors.

One of the rule waivers Northern Pass has requested requires more detailed mapping of wetlands than Northern Pass has previously provided.

Regarding the timeline question, state law establishes a 12-month period for the SEC to make a determination on an energy project's application. However, the subcommittee of the SEC reviewing Northern Pass has some discretion to lengthen the review period.

Northern Pass opposes ideas suggested by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests and the Counsel for the Public that would use a 24-month or 18-month timeframe for a decision on the project's application.

If the SEC decided to stay with the one-year period to render its verdict on the Northern Pass construction permit, a decision on the project would be made this December.

On April 1, the Counsel for the Public outlined a timeframe where the SEC's would issue a final decision on the permit in June 2017. In the Counsel's document, which is nearly 20 pages long, it is suggested that a decision in December "would unfairly deprive the public and the Subcommittee a full and fair opportunity to determine whether the project will, on balance . . . serve the public interest."

Less than a week later, Northern Pass argued against the Counsel's idea. The project asked the SEC to not take "the unprecedented step of setting aside the statutory timetable for processing this application before this matter has barely commenced."

For all public comments and letters pertaining to the SEC's review of Northern Pass, including the upcoming public hearings, go to: www.nhsec.nh.gov/projects/2015-06/2015-06.htm.

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