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Attorney: Northern Pass opponents want too much time to cross-examine witnesses

New Hampshire Union Leader

August 17. 2017 8:57PM

CONCORD — A Northern Pass attorney says project opponents want to devote too much time to cross-examining friendly witnesses.

Attorney Barry Needleman said he is requesting that project opponents show that “their contemplated examination will neither repeat points already made by the witness in pre-filed testimony or introduce new testimony that the examining party or witness should have offered in writing and that such examination is required for a full and true disclosure of the facts.”

The Site Evaluation Committee has 15 hearing dates scheduled between Aug. 29 and Sept. 29, but a report released Tuesday showed the committee would need more than 45 days to complete questioning witnesses offered by various parties, including a few remaining Northern Pass witnesses.

The proposed $1.6 billion project, which would run through more than 30 communities, needs several state and federal approvals before it can start operating by late 2020.

Project officials hope to garner all necessary approvals by the end of this year. The route runs from Pittsburg to Deerfield and includes 60 miles of buried lines.

Project critic Jack Savage, vice president of communications/outreach for the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, opposes cutting the time of opponents.

“Northern Pass’s motion is a bit of a desperate attempt to speed up the process by denying rights of intervenors,” Savage said in an email. “Once again, instead of really listening to those with legitimate concerns about their proposal, Northern Pass is attempting to muzzle them. This is exactly the kind of behavior that has put the Northern Pass project in such a dire predicament after seven long years.”

Needleman, in papers filed with the committee, said about 26 days would be taken up by friendly cross-examination by some of the 20-plus parties involved in the hearing, most of whom oppose the project.

“The purpose of cross-examination is to discredit a witness before the fact-finder in any of several ways,” Needleman wrote, quoting Black’s Law Dictionary.

Michael Iacopino, the committee’s counsel who presided over a recent prehearing, tackled the issue in a report released Tuesday.

“The estimated time needed for cross-examination by similarly aligned intervenors suggests that some intervenors are anticipating cross-examination that would be improper friendly cross-examination,” Iacopino said.

“The presiding officer may exclude irrelevant, immaterial, or unduly repetitious cross-examination or cross-examination that is not required for a full and true disclosure of the facts.”

Northern Pass has pushed back its in-service deadline to late 2020, citing a longer-than-anticipated SEC hearing process as one reason.

“Given that the (Site Evaluation Committee) schedule had previously been extended nine months beyond the statutory time frame, we feel a prehearing conference is critical to ensuring the prompt and orderly completion of this proceeding,” said Northern Pass spokesman Kaitlyn Woods.

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