Northern Pass SEC Process Drags On

Utility Execs' Failure to Answer Information Requests Hinders SEC Process

Will Abbott | October 11, 2016

The discovery process for the Northern Pass application before the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee has dragged on beyond its scheduled completion date, creating potential problems for intervenors who have until November 15, 2016 to submit prefiled testimony.

The discovery process, which allows intervenors to question Northern Pass representatives and consultants about the application and the assumptions behind it, was meant to be complete by Sept 30, providing 45 days for intervenors to use information gleaned to prepare pre-filed testimony. 

However, as of Oct. 11 the discovery process was not yet complete. This is due in part to Northern Pass's own reluctance to provide information as requested by intervenors and the Counsel for the Public earlier this summer.

While some of the many unanswered questions about the NP application have been answered during the Technical Sessions, repeated efforts by NP to limit discovery of important information has been the primary reason for the delay in the entire process. 

The legal discovery process is intended to provide all parties to the SEC’s application review with an opportunity to gather information needed for the purpose of each party presenting its evidence to the seven-member SEC Subcommittee that will make the decision as to whether the project should be permitted.  Each intervener, as well as the Counsel for the Public, presents its evidence in the form of  pre-filed written testimony to the SEC Subcommittee, much like the applicant presented its original application in October 2015. 

It appears that the discovery process may not conclude until the end of October. In addition, it is pretty clear that the discovery process itself may still fail to provide complete answers to some outstanding requests for information. The SEC has provided some relief to some interveners in terms of extending the deadline for pre-filed testimony for three specific subject areas (until December 30).  But, for most interveners, and for most issues, the deadline for filing pre-filed testimony remains November 15.

For many intervenors, the SEC regulatory review process appears to heavily favor the applicant. The only counterweight that can begin to level the playing field is for interveners and the Counsel for the Public to have the information and the time to make their individual arguments.