The SEC’s ‘lazy’ Northern Pass ruling

To the editor:

New Hampshire is CLOSED for Business

Over the last few months there has been a lot of attention focused on New Hampshire’s bid for an Amazon facility, and an effort to portray New Hampshire as a great state to locate a business. The unfortunate reality is that the Amazon bid was little more than a public relations stunt, and the real leadership needed to create a positive business environment is nowhere to be found.

The recent decision to reject the Northern Pass project highlights these challenges and our state government’s “who cares?” attitude that many businesses face when attempting to operate in New Hampshire. Permitting that runs far longer and is much more expensive then it should be. Bureaucrats who simply do not care about businesses and working people. And a failure of political leadership at all levels and all parties to do anything about it.

While federal regulatory agencies expedited federal permits with a focus on creating jobs, the NH Site Evaluation Committee delayed and extended the needed state permit. Not only did this delay cost the developer millions of dollars, but it costs other interested parties considerable time and resources too.

After more than two years of input from the public, state and national experts, extensive data and studies, the SEC could only be moved to give the project a shallow review that many believe failed to even meet the requirements of the law.

A review of the transcripts from the SEC’s review reveals a committee of bureaucrats with little idea of what their job was or what their legal requirements were. Rambling discussions and little to no consideration of the years of sworn testimony and expert data that was required. Members discussing their opinions and ideas to facilitate the project, only to be stomped by the chairman of the committee.

State law clearly lays out that an applicant must meet four requirements in order to receive an SEC permit and that the SEC must review and decide on each of the four requirements. Further, the SEC must consider potential changes or conditions added to the permit to address concerns raised by the committee. The simple reality is that never happened.

Consider the comments by Public Utilities Commission Commissioner Kathryn Bailey before she moved to deny the Northern Pass permit: “I’m worried that, if we continue with our deliberations, we will really need to figure out what conditions we would impose on a lot of things. And that’s not — that’s not going to be simple and it’s not going to be fast.”

It would have been great if the chairman of the SEC or their lawyer actually reminded Ms. Bailey that it is her legal requirement to actually spend the time to consider conditions.

In the North Country we call this being lazy.

Now the fate of thousands of jobs in northern New Hampshire, future North Country renewable energy development, the Balsams and many promising economic opportunities hang in the balance.

It’s time for Governor Sununu and other state leaders to finally step up. Do more than simply offer empty words and wring their hands over their state governments continued assault on the state’s business community, but actually lead and make a change.

This letter was signed by Allen Bouthlilier of A&B Excavating, Lancaster, Harley Mason of Mason Enterprises, Milan, and nine other North Country businesspeople.

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