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CONCORD, NH — The seven Site Evaluation Committee members said Thursday they do not believe Northern Pass developers have met their burden of proof that the project would not negatively impact the orderly development of the region, one of four criteria that must be met for approval.
On the third day of public deliberations, members said Eversource experts were not credible in finding the project would not negatively impact property values, tourism, businesses and land use.
Committee members during the Feb. 1 meeting also noted the experts failed to reach out to affected communities in developing their reports and failed to understand the state and its character.
However, the committee members did agree the project would create jobs, lower electric rates and increase tax revenues for the 31 host communities.
The SEC has yet to take a formal vote on any of the four criteria the project needs to meet to receive a construction certificate, but did conclude earlier that Eversource has the financial, technical and managerial capability and experience to construct the 192-mile, $1.6 million project stretching from Pittsfield to Deerfield.
The board’s consensus encouraged the project’s opponents who said the committee is focusing on the same deficiencies others have stressed during adjudicative hearings last year.
“The things they talked about are exactly the same things we brought up,” said Jack Savage, of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. “Based on the deficiencies and proof they require, it appears those things are not easily remedied in a short time frame.”
Northern Pass was recently selected as the sole of 46 proposals to provide 1,200 megawatts of renewable electricity for Massachusetts Clean Energy Project and has two months to negotiate contracts with that state’s utilities before going before regulators.
In announcing the selection, Massachusetts energy officials said one of the key reasons was the project’s ability to begin operations in 2020, at least two years earlier than other proposals.
But SEC members were concerned about the ability to manage any project the size of Northern Pass, saying it would be difficult to ensure requirements and conditions are met during construction.
On Thursday the SEC reviewed environmental requirements the project has to meet. Thursday was the third of 12 deliberative sessions ending Feb. 23 when an oral decision is expected.
The SEC has to issue a written decision by the end of March.
Garry Rayno can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org