Forest Society Remarks to SEC at Public Hearing in Whitefield May 19, 2016

Will Abbott | May 20, 2016

My name is Will Abbott, and I am here this evening representing the Society for the Protection of N.H. Forests.  I have three specific comments.

The first comment addresses the Feb. 26, 2016, submissions by the applicant related to property rights.  The new SEC rules require that the applicant provide “Evidence that the applicant has a current right or option or other legal basis to acquire the right, to construct, operate and maintain the facility on, over or under the site.”

The pre-filed testimony of Mr. Kenneth Bowes (part of the Feb. 26 submission) states that NP has all the property rights necessary to build NP as proposed.  Mr. Bowes makes no mention of the fact that the Society for the Protection of NH Forests has gone to Coos County Superior Court to challenge the right NP asserts to use our private property (the Washburn Family Forest) in Clarksville without our permission.

The pre-filed testimony of Mr. Bowes makes the factually incorrect and arguably misleading claim on page 18, lines 27 and 28 that 24 miles of new right of way in northern Coos County on private land owned by Bayroot, LLC is subject to an Assignment Option Agreement based “on the lease between Renewable Properties, Inc.  and Bayroot dated October 1, 2012 and recorded at Book 1364, Page 0456 of the Coos County Registry of Deeds.”  RPI is an Eversource affiliate.  In fact, the referenced lease is not recorded at the Coos Registry, only a notice of the lease is recorded.  The Subcommittee should require the applicant to produce the entire lease referenced to meet the evidence standard set in the rules.

The pre-filed testimony of Mr. Bowes describes the intent of the project to use existing PSNH rights of way in Dummer, Stark and Northumberland.   No mention is made of an existing ROW currently co-located in the PSNH-owned ROW in Dummer and Stark owned by the Portland Natural Gas Pipeline Company (PNG), which confines how Northern Pass can use the existing 150-foot-wide ROW.  The Subcommittee should require the applicant to provide evidence that the PNG has been advised of the Northern Pass proposal and that PNG agrees that the NP project as proposed will not interfere with PNG property rights and that the new structures NP proposes to build in the 150 foot ROW can be built in a way that complies with all safety standards regarding such co-located facilities.

My second comment concerns the London Economic study, which was posted on the SEC website in a redacted form on March 28, 2016.  Arguably, this study raises one of the most fundamental issues in this entire proceeding --- and gets to the heart of the new statutory finding this sub-committee must make that the granting of the certificate serves the public interest.  This study is the only submission made by the applicant that addresses the financial benefits of the project to consumers of electricity in New England and New Hampshire.   It is critical that the public have the opportunity to fully review and comment on this study.  We strongly encourage the Sub-committee to make clear in its posting of its next public hearing that the London Economic study is a ripe subject for public comment.  

My third comment relates to the applicant’s so-called Forward New Hampshire Fund.  Since the February 28 filing by the applicant of its supplementary information, and during the five public hearings the SEC held in March, the applicant has suggested that the Forward NH Fund (a $200 million economic development fund bootstrapped to this application) is somehow a part of the way in which the project serves the public interest.  The Subcommittee should reject the notion that it include benefits of the Forward NH Fund in its consideration of whether the project serves the public interest.  The statute clearly suggests, and the rules reinforce the statutory language, that the task before the subcommittee is to determine whether the intrinsic energy benefits of the project warrant its approval.