HB 609, a bill to abolish the Site Evaluation Committee and transfer its role to the NH Public Utilities Committee. Public and state agency members on the current SEC would be removed.
March 7, 2023 Hearing
NH House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee
Proposed HB 609:
Three Seats at the Table, All for the PUC
Excerpt starts at 1:04:41 (lightly edited for grammatical clarity)
Rep. Rebecca McWilliams, House STE Committee:
"Follow-up question … so just to understand this…we're talking about three PUC Commissioners as the Site Evaluation Committee. That's it. And only two actually need to attend in order to move forward on any decision. That's the proposal. So I'm asking if we can change that makeup and add a couple more to get a little bit of variety here because the PUC is all appointees, and it doesn't necessarily reflect the interests of everyone in this room so I'm looking at the proposal for having the Attorney General appoint somebody to be a member or be involved. Perhaps that person could have a voting authority so that there's at least something beyond the PUC. I hear what you're saying about attendance and perhaps different departments don't have the same interest and it's not a priority or they don't feel that they get enough money to compensate people to attend. All of those are legitimate concerns but fundamentally we want to have a Site Evaluation Committee that is neutral, that is independent, and so the concern is making sure that we have the bodies there that are voting who represent those interests to be neutral and independent, and I'm not convinced that three PUC Commissioners are truly neutral and independent because they’re appointees. So what I'm looking at is would you be open to an amendment or changes to get more members on that board [that would be going] from seven to three?"
Mark Sanborn, Assistant Commissioner of NH DES:
"Um, respectfully, no. That's the whole problem. More voices are only beneficial if more voices improve the process. In this case the key to a good permitting . . . process is ensuring all voices have the opportunity to speak to the issue, to the project in question, not that a board or . . . whoever is approving it are made up of all those voices. To me it's not important the number of folks who make up the adjudicative body, it's do the folks on that board have the expertise in terms of energy and permitting to make good decisions?"