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Northern Pass project could get new life

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 08. 2018 9:12PM

CONCORD — Northern Pass could get new life next week.

A state committee that rejected the hydroelectric transmission project last month will meet next week to discuss whether to throw out its decision and resume deliberations.

The Site Evaluation Committee will meet at 11 a.m. Monday to consider the request from Northern Pass officials, who contend the committee held incomplete deliberations.

At Monday’s meeting, “testimony and oral argument will not be heard unless requested,” according to a public meeting notice.

The SEC on Feb. 1 unanimously voted to reject the $1.6 billion project that would run through more than 30 communities, citing concerns over potential harm to tourism, property values and businesses along the 192-mile route.

Project attorney Barry Needleman wrote in his motion last week that the committee failed to follow the law, didn’t discuss all four criteria needed for project approval and didn’t consider imposing conditions as part of a potential approval.

Opposing further deliberations include two attorneys representing the owners of McKenna’s Purchase condominiums in Concord.

Northern Pass officials “have offered an ill-conceived plan, unsupported by evidence and unrealistic in execution.” attorneys Stephen Judge and Robert Murphy Jr. wrote in a filing with the committee Thursday.

“The SEC is not required to fill in the missing pieces for the applicants,” they wrote.

Last week, Northern Pass officials announced they were willing to devote $75 million from a previously announced $200 million fund to soothe the committee’s concerns over tourism, property values and businesses.

The SEC denial put into question whether Northern Pass could finalize a 20-year deal with Massachusetts officials by late March to supply clean hydropower and give the project a guaranteed buyer for its power.

A Northern Pass spokesman on Thursday had no comment on the upcoming committee meeting.

The committee had scheduled 12 days of deliberations for January and February, but members rejected Northern Pass’s application on the third day.

The committee’s attorney has said the SEC vote was legal.

The International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 104 in Barrington said the SEC failed to follow existing law and administrative rules.

“It is critical that the SEC review its actions and do its job,” Local 104 Business Manager Brian Murphy said in a statement.

Several parties in the case filed paperwork with the committee this week, either supporting or opposing the committee taking further action.

A group of municipalities, including the towns of Pittsburg, Clarksville and Stewartstown, said Northern Pass filed a “premature motion for rehearing” because the committee hadn’t yet issued a final written decision.

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