One of the most striking parts of the legal brief Northern Pass and Eversource just filed with the New Hampshire Supreme Court in its appeal of the Site Evaluation Committee’s unanimous rejection of Northern Pass is its portrayal of the SEC members. Reading the brief, you are led to believe that the SEC members are a bunch of lazy bums.
From the beginning to the end the brief is sprinkled with confounding and offensive insults about the SEC members’ work ethic. Here are just a few:
Eversource accuses the SEC of “halting deliberations midstream” or, as they put it 18 pages later, “in its haste to be done, it elected to cut short deliberations” (p 28).
Apparently those SEC members just didn’t want to work hard: “`burden of proof’ became a convenient substitute for the hard work of fully assessing the evidence” and the SEC “avoid[ed] the hard work of defining terms, considering all evidence and ruling on undue interference,” according to Eversource.
“[E]xpediency took center stage”! “Had the [SEC] not been focused on expediency” and “[h]ad the [SEC] done its job” apparently the SEC would have approved Northern Pass.
But instead, according to Eversource, the SEC “punted” and didn’t do its job “in its desire for a simple and quick end.”
This head-scratching depiction of SEC members is absurd, and distorts the reality for those of us who attended the SEC’s deliberate, thorough and carefully considered hearings on Northern Pass. The facts tell a far different story, less favorable to Eversource. The truth is:
The SEC heard 70 days of testimony, spent several days going out to view in person critical important points along the proposed route, and held at least six public hearings around the state and then three days of “public statement hearings” where members of the public could come and express their opinions about the Northern Pass proposal.
That by the time the SEC voted 7-0 to deny Northern Pass a site certificate, it had received testimony from 154 witnesses and reviewed 2,176 exhibits, thousands of pages of transcripts of “technical sessions,” and thousands of written comments from members of the public.
So we know Eversource’s claims in its Supreme Court brief about the SEC’s work ethic don’t exactly match up to the actual facts about what happened before that committee.
We also know that Eversource previously sang a very different tune about the SEC, before the SEC unanimously rejected its Northern Pass application on Feb. 1, 2018.
Three months before on Nov. 2, 2017 Lee Olivier, Executive Vice President of Eversource Energy, expressed high praise of the SEC in a quarterly earnings call with Wall Street analysts, calling the SEC “very judicious. It's very comprehensive. But when it's complete, it has always withstood legal challenge.”
Two months before the SEC rejected Northern Pass the authors of the Eversource brief praised how hard the SEC worked in a separate Supreme Court brief defending an SEC decision that approved an energy project in a different case. In that filing, Eversource said that the SEC “carefully weighed and analyzed the evidence,” and “The Subcommittee’s factual findings followed the weighing of thousands of pages of testimony and exhibits, an assessment of the credibility of witnesses…The Opponents disagree with these findings, but have offered nothing to overcome their prima facie validity, or the deference properly given when, as in this case, an agency interprets its own Rules and decides the highly technical issues raised in this appeal.”
And just three days before filing its Northern Pass brief attacking the SEC Eversource said this when the SEC approved their Seacoast Reliability Project: “We commend the SEC for its deliberate and thorough consideration of this critical project.…”
You see the pattern.
When the SEC approves an Eversource project the SEC is very judicious, very comprehensive, and deliberate and thorough. But when the SEC rejects Eversource’s Northern Pass project then the SEC is expedient, it avoids hard work and it punts and so forth.
Let’s hope that the Supreme Court recognizes this appeal for what it is – sour grapes from a utility that is used to getting its way.