To The Daily Sun,
On the subject of Northern Pass hearings, here's the question for the SEC.
On March 1 in Meredith, the subcommittee of the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee charged with evaluating the proposed Northern Pass project held the first of the five public hearings required by RSA 162-H: 10, I-c. The remaining four hearings will occur by March 16.
In contrast to the 10 public meetings held in September 2015 and January 2016, which were sponsored by the applicant, this current set of hearings is chaired by SEC head Martin Honigberg, includes all subcommittee members, and features a new agenda item: "III. Questions from the Subcommittee to the Applicants."
In the earlier applicant-sponsored SEC meetings, the public submitted hundreds of written questions. Northern Pass representatives often responded with deeply unsatisfying, evasive answers, and no opportunity for direct follow up was possible. It was expected that when the SEC itself posed questions directly to the applicant in Meredith, the answers would finally be more forthcoming.
We'll never know. When it came time for the subcommittee to ask questions, not a single member exercised the opportunity that the SEC itself had built into the agenda. The hearing moved on quickly to yet more written questions from the public, again with too many vague responses and no meaningful chance for follow up.
When a written public question queried the SEC about why it had asked no questions, Chair Honigberg offered several reasons, including his desire to allow the public more time to interrogate the applicant. To an audience already frustrated by 10 meetings in which written public questions received superficial answers, this struck a hollow note.
If the SEC wishes to establish credibility in its intention to operate a fair, well-informed, and rigorous review of the Northern Pass project, it needs to ask at least a few key questions in each of the remaining hearings — and insist upon fully responsive answers.
Rep. Susan Ford, Grafton 3
Susan Schibanoff, Easton
Rep. Suzanne Smith, Grafton 8
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