Northern Pass Seeks to Muzzle Testimony

Moves to Strike Input from Abutters to Proposed Transmission Line

Jack Savage | December 15, 2016

Northern Pass is seeking to quash testimony from property owners who have the most to lose should the proposed transmission line project be permitted by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee (SEC). The Forest Society, the City of Concord, and the Counsel for the Public have all filed objections to the Northern Pass attempt to muzzle landowner input.

As part of the SEC process, the Forest Society and the City of Concord submitted pre-filed testimony in November 2016. Included in that testimony are statements from landowners along the proposed route of Northern Pass. On Dec. 2, 2016, Northern Pass filed a Motion to Strike the testimony of key landowners, citing their own interpretations of SEC rules.

For example, the City of Concord included "the testimony of Sabbow as one of its witnesses. Sabbow is the owner of a large property in the industrial zone in the City of Concord, and it manufactures precast concrete products. Sabbow has conducted its business in Concord at the site for twenty-five years. The proposed Northern Pass project runs directly through Sabbow’s property.... The pre-filed testimony of Sabbow discusses its concerns relative to temporary and permanent impacts of the proposed Northern Pass Project on its property."

Northern Pass's Motion to Strike says that, of the Sabbow testimony, " The Applicants assert that, in accordance with the SEC rules governing pre-filed testimony, only parties and their experts or consultants may submit pre-filed testimony." 

In its objections to the Motion to Strike, the City of Concord notes that "It is permissible for the City of Concord to submit pre-filed testimony from a local industrial property owner to discuss the temporary and permanent impacts of the project. The Applicants have failed to reference any specific rules or cases to support their argument that the testimony of Sabbow should be stricken." Concord concludes its objection by noting that "it is unreasonable for the Applicants to state that “it is unclear” how the testimony of Sabbow is relevant to the City of Concord’s concerns. The SEC process is intended to provide an opportunity for the City of Concord to address concerns about the project, and to identify whether it is consistent with the land use laws of the municipality. The City of Concord is permitted to address the specific concerns that it has, and it is entirely appropriate to raise specific concerns through the filing of pre-filed testimony from witnesses who are not employees and/or agents of the City of Concord."

The Counsel for the Public also filed an objection to the Northern Pass motion to strike the pre-filed testimony, noting that the "Applicants' assertion to the contrary is simply not supported by a reasonable interpretation of the rules, and accordingly the listed pre-filed testimony should not be struck on that basis." 

Northern Pass also seeks to strike testimony put forward by the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests from landowners on whose land the Forest Society holds a conservation easement. The Forest Society's objection to the Northern Pass Motion to Strike notes that "The Applicants are mistaken that the testimony offered by the Forest Society is testimony filed “by” non-parties.... These are testimonies filed by the Forest Society to illustrate the adverse effects of the proposed project and to support its position that the SEC should deny the application."

"Through this Motion to Strike, I think we're seeing the true colors of Northern Pass," observed Jane Difley, president/forester of the Forest Society. "Contrary to what they sometimes say, they are not listening, they don't want to listen, and now they want to interfere with the SEC listening."