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Gov. Sununu: SEC 'shortcut' the Northern Pass application process

By MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader

February 09. 2018 11:22PM
Members of the Site Evaluation Committee review materials Feb. 1, 2018, before each said the project didn't meet its burden on one of four criteria to get a needed certificate to proceed. (MICHAEL COUSINEAU/UNION LEADER)



Gov. Chris Sununu said a state committee “shortcut the process” in rejecting Northern Pass’s application and doubts the transmission line project will get built.

“It doesn’t look like it’s going to happen,” Sununu told radio station WTSN on Friday.

Meanwhile, Massachusetts officials met Friday to discuss whether they should cut ties to the $1.6 billion project that they chose last month over more than 40 other bidders to supply renewable energy to Bay State utilities.

The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources met Friday with people involved in the selection to discuss the implications of the New Hampshire vote and reiterated it wanted swift action to determine the next steps.

Those involved expect to have more details by Feb. 16.

Massachusetts had set a March 27 deadline to negotiate and execute long-term contracts for Northern Pass to transmit hydro power from Quebec to New England — giving the project guaranteed customers for its power at a negotiated price over 20 years.

But last week’s decision by the New Hampshire Site Selection Committee to deny the project’s application forced Massachusetts officials to review its choice and timeline.

Sununu said the seven-member SEC voted before considering all four required criteria and should have been open to negotiating conditions so the project could have reached approval.

“The ball was on the 5-yard line and then the referee stepped in and said, ‘Game over. We’re not even going to listen to anything else,’” the governor said.

Eversource officials “were railroaded,” Sununu said.

The committee’s attorney, Michael Iacopino, had no comment on the governor’s statements. He has called the decision legal.

The committee spent more than a half hour behind closed doors with Iacopino on Feb. 1 before emerging for the public vote and discussion.

At stake are thousands of construction jobs and tens of millions of dollars in new yearly property taxes collectively to more than 30 communities, from Pittsburg to Deerfield, along the route.

Opponents fear the project will harm tourism, businesses and property values.

Northern Pass officials plan to file a motion for the committee to reconsider its decision and haven’t ruled out an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which could take more than a year.

“We appreciate the thoughtful and deliberative discussions that Massachusetts officials are having regarding the state’s selection of Northern Pass,” Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said.

Officials also will file its reconsideration motion in New Hampshire.

“Given its requirement to fully consider an application, as well as conditions that would satisfy its concerns, we are hopeful the committee will resume deliberations and the project can successfully move forward,” Murray said.

mcousineau@unionleader.com


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