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Lawyer: Site Evaluation Committee won't decide whether to reconsider Northern Pass rejection until May

New Hampshire Union Leader

March 12. 2018 1:03PM
DAVID LANE/UNION LEADER Northern Pass opponents (mostly in orange) fill the gallery as the Site Evaluation Committee meets in Concord on Monday. 

CONCORD — A state committee isn’t likely to decide whether to resuscitate the proposed Northern Pass hydroelectric transmission project until sometime in May, the committee’s attorney said Monday.

The Site Evaluation Committee on Monday deferred making a decision on requests to reopen deliberations on the proposed project after rejecting it in February.

The committee voted Monday to suspend its Feb. 1 oral decision to reject the proposed project until the committee issues its written decision sometime this month.

Committee attorney Michael Iacopino said after the 30-minute hearing that filing deadlines likely would push the timeline into May for the committee to reconvene to decide on any motions, including any requests to throw out the committee’s verdict and resume deliberations.

Monday’s committee vote means Northern Pass can’t move forward with its proposed 192-mile project.

Northern Pass officials had asked the committee to toss out its oral decision and resume negotiations.

“This essentially means they’re kicking the can down the road,” project foe Jack Savage said afterward.

Regarding the committee’s decision to suspend its oral decision, Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray said: “We hope it is an indication that the SEC will evaluate the required statutory criteria, as well as thoroughly consider all of the conditions that could provide the basis for granting approval. At a time when the region needs new and diverse sources of clean energy, it is vitally important that projects like Northern Pass are considered fully and efficiently and without unnecessary delay. “

The SEC during deliberations cited concerns over potential harm to tourism, property values and businesses along the route.

Northern Pass officials have said the committee failed to follow the law or its past practice and did not consider conditions it could have required to make the project work.

The SEC denial — and now the committee’s vote to delay any decision on reopening deliberations — puts into question whether Northern Pass can finalize a 20-year deal with Massachusetts officials by late March to supply hydropower and give the project a guaranteed buyer for its electricity.

Murray said he didn’t know how Monday’s decision would affect the project’s prospects in Massachusetts.

The hydroelectric transmission project would run through more than 30 communities and would include about 60 miles buried underground.

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