Public Hearing: Site Evaluation Committee Needs Major Changes

Dec 18, 2013

A little more than a dozen people spoke at the "listening" session held at Plymouth State University. Photo by Chris Jensen for NHPR

Tuesday night in Plymouth the state’s Office of Energy and Planning held its last public hearing on possible changes to the state’s Site Evaluation Committee - which is responsible for approving utility projects ranging from wind farms to Northern Pass - and the theme was that the SEC needs a significant and wide-ranging overhaul before it can be trusted.

About three dozen people attended and their concerns echoed those voiced at previous meetings around the state.

A central issue was that all fifteen members of the SEC are officials from state agencies.

Other states have siting commissions with voting members from the general public, said Will Abbott, an official with The Forest Society.

“We think this is really critical for the public trust and confidence to be maintained – or restored and maintained – in the SEC," he said.

Others urged the SEC be better funded and have well defined guidelines linked to a state energy policy.

And, they said, local jurisdictions must have more power about siting.

Currently the SEC’s decision trumps local objections.

The SEC must also start considering whether a utility project is needed, said Joanna Tuveson of Holderness.

“Currently when considering an energy proposal the SEC does not differentiate between for-profit projects and those needed for system reliability. They should," she said.

With the last public hearing finished the Office of Energy and Planning is now writing its reports to the legislature. It is due at the end of the month.