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2 should be removed from Northern Pass panel, groups say

New Hampshire Union Leader

April 25. 2018 8:50PM

CONCORD — Two members of a state committee considering Northern Pass should remove themselves from any further deliberations, according to two groups supporting the project.

A union and a group of Coos County businesses filed the request, saying Site Evaluation Committee members Kate Bailey and Patricia Weathersby can’t be impartial when they consider any upcoming requests to resume deliberations on the proposed hydroelectric transmission project.

After the committee unanimously rejected the project Feb. 1, members reconvened at a March 12 meeting where Weathersby called that decision “well-reasoned” and “lawful.”

“Weathersby’s comments represent a predetermined purpose to reach a determined end,” said the request from the business group and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, which would see hundreds of members get project jobs during construction.

Michael Iacopino, the committee’s attorney, declined comment.

The SEC has scheduled a meeting for May 24 and June 4, if necessary, to hear any requests regarding the project.

Northern Pass officials have said they will file a motion by Monday’s deadline asking the committee to resume its deliberations.

Project officials contend that the committee should have deliberated on all four criteria required for the project to receive a needed state certificate and should have considered conditions that could have helped eliminate or reduce concerns of committee members.

Northern Pass spokesman Martin Murray on Wednesday said project officials “do not intend to take a position” on the recusal request.

The proposed 192-mile Northern Pass route through more than 30 communities includes 60 miles running underground.

The recusal request cites comments that Bailey, who also serves on the state Public Utilities Commission, made during deliberations leading up to the committee’s rejection.

“Her comments demonstrate a focus on the number of issues that a party could take on appeal and the ‘risks’ to the subcommittee if they continued their deliberations, rather than focusing on the appropriate procedure for evaluating the application,” the request said.

“From an objectively reasonable person’s perspective, her comments demonstrate a factual basis upon which to doubt her impartiality,” the seven-page request said.

The request said Weathersby, an attorney, made her comments “without giving the applicants or any other party an opportunity to persuade her otherwise through substantiative facts and argument.

“Moreover, her comments indicate that even if deliberations were reopened, she would not consider whether any mitigating conditions imposed by the subcommittee could address concerns raised during the course of this proceeding, contrary to the SEC rules,” the request said.

The committee’s written report said the project, if built, would have a “negative impact” on land use and would deliver fewer financial benefits than promised.

Project foe Jack Savage, with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, said: “They don’t like the decision, so they are now attacking the decision-makers.”

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