Union, business group seek recusal of two Site Evaluation Committee members on Northern Pass proposalBy MICHAEL COUSINEAU
New Hampshire Union Leader
April 25. 2018 11:27AM
CONCORD - Two members of a state committee considering the proposed Northern Pass hydroelectric project should remove themselves from further deliberations, according to two groups supporting the project.
A union and a group of Coos County businesses filed the request, saying Site Evaluation Committee members Kate Bailey and Patricia Weathersby can't be impartial when they consider any upcoming requests to resume deliberations on the proposed project.
After the committee unanimously rejected the project Feb. 1, members reconvened at a March 12 meeting where Weathersby called that decision “well-reasoned” and “lawful.”
“Weathersby's comments represent a predetermined purpose to reach a determined end,” said the request from the business group and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which would see hundreds of members get project jobs during construction.
Michael Iacopino, the committee's attorney, declined comment.
The SEC has scheduled a meeting for May 24 and June 4, if necessary, to hear requests regarding the project.
Northern Pass officials have said they will file a motion for the committee to resume its deliberations.
Project officials have said the committee should have deliberated on all four criteria required for the project to receive a needed state certificate and should have considered conditions that could have helped eliminate or reduce concerns of committee members.
The proposed 192-mile Northern Pass route would go through more than 30 communities and include 60 miles running underground.
The recusal request cites comments that Bailey, who also serves on the state Public Utilities Commission, made during deliberations leading up to the committee's rejection.
“Her comments demonstrate a focus on the number of issues that a party could take on appeal and the ‘risks' to the subcommittee if they continued their deliberations, rather than focusing on the appropriate procedure for evaluating the application,” the request said. “From an objectively reasonable person's perspective, her comments demonstrate a factual basis upon which to doubt her impartiality.”
The request said Weathersby, an attorney, made her comments “without giving the applicants or any other party an opportunity to persuade her otherwise through substantiative facts and argument.
“Moreover, her comments indicate that even if deliberations were reopened, she would not consider whether any mitigating conditions imposed by the subcommittee could address concerns raised during the course of this proceeding, contrary to the SEC rules,” the request said.
The committee's written report said the project, if built, would have a “negative impact” on land use and would deliver fewer financial benefits than promised.