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Another View -- Mike Skelton and Tracy Hatch: SEC should get back to work on Northern Pass

March 11. 2018 8:50PM

The Greater Manchester and Nashua chambers of commerce together represent more than 1,500 businesses, employing tens of thousands of workers across New Hampshire, and we strongly support the Northern Pass Project.

From the outset, the Site Evaluation Committee’s handling of this matter has been a concern for us. This began with the SEC’s denial of our motion to intervene in the case, claiming that our interests would be “addressed and represented by the process and Counsel for the Public and other intervenors.” In reality, the business community’s voice was not brought forward by the Counsel for the Public, and as a consequence, our voice was absent from the proceedings.

After a nearly two-year process, thousands of pages of exhibits and testimony, dozens of expert witnesses, state agency approvals, federal approvals including a presidential permit, public hearings and information sessions, the SEC disposed of the case in just over two days of deliberations. In doing so, they failed to consider all the statutory criteria required and to consider or require any conditions that could have addressed concerns. In sum, the SEC did not fulfill its most basic responsibility — to fully evaluate the project.

The cost and availability of energy is one of the top advocacy priorities for both our organizations. ISO New England’s most recent Fuel Security Analysis affirmed that our region faces a growing crisis around the cost and reliability of the regional energy grid. While the demand for energy increases, more of our older generating plants are coming off line, representing a loss of thousands of megawatts of electricity. Our region’s increasing reliance on gas powered generation leaves us vulnerable to price spikes because of an inadequate supply of gas into our region.

Unstable and rising energy costs are cited by our members as being a barrier to business growth, job creation, and economic development in New Hampshire. Northern Pass will alleviate some of these barriers and is the first step to a more secure energy future. In addition to lowering energy costs, the project will deliver significant economic benefits to New Hampshire in the form of new jobs, tax revenue and economic development funds.

We are deeply concerned that the SEC’s decision to reject Northern Pass will have a negative impact on New Hampshire’s economy, efforts to address our region’s energy challenges, and the ability of our members to grow their businesses. This is why we fully support the efforts by Northern Pass to have the SEC vacate its decision and resume deliberations.

The stakes for New Hampshire could not be higher given our region’s indisputable need for clean and affordable power, the opportunity for jobs and economic development, and the nearly $3 billion in benefits that would accrue to New Hampshire as a result of this project. Northern Pass deserved a complete and comprehensive assessment from the SEC.

It’s time for the SEC to get back to work.

Mike Skelton is president of the Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce. Tracy Hatch is president and CEO of the Greater Nashua Chamber of Commerce.

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