While Tuesday will likely be the big event in Berlin, the Laidlaw review started in earnest on Thursday in Concord. At the pre-hearing conference the SEC outside counsel went over the schedule and petitioners’ plans for testimony. The Reporter will have my full story (finished it earlier today, 750 words). It will likely get lost, however, as the Berlin hearings are the night before my paper comes out, but there was some important discussions there that should come out.
SEC outside counselor Michael Iacopino brought up an interesting problem for people worried about wood: fuel supply has not traditionally been part of the SEC’s mandate. When a coal powered facility opens in New Hampshire the SEC doesn’t ask where they are getting their coal, he said, and if an oil or natural gas plant were to open they wouldn’t ask then either. So it is imperative, he said, that petitioners point out why the issue they are raising falls under the SEC’s purview. Look at the law, he said, and make sure it is there.
The statute that creates and tasks the SEC does talk about “the overall economic growth of the state, the environment of the state, and the use of natural resources” when describing why the legislature created the SEC, but it is unclear how that applies to wood.
Transmission raises similar issues, since ISO New England doesn’t fall under the SEC, and therefore the committee cannot force them to do anything. There may be forces beyond the committee’s control in in these proceedings, and two of the key issues people are concerned about may be among them.
Transmission and wood supply were the most repeated concerns raised by potential intervenors. Now the attorneys are going to have to go to work, to formulate convincing arguments as to why the SEC should concern itself with these issues. Since the law doesn’t clearly include either of these in their jurisdiction it may take some legal gymnastics to make the arguments stick. I’m interested to see where that goes.
But for people concerned about the appearance of the project, the attorney representing the public, Senior Assistant Attorney General Allen Brooks, said one of his concerns was whether the project will fit within the community. He wanted to make sure it wouldn’t be an eyesore, he said. Whether it is or not depends largely on how you feel about the project overall, I imagine, so that will be a tough issue to sort out cleanly. But the public counsel has certainly heard the concerns of some Berlin residents. Now we’ve got seven more months to see where this all goes.