Day before a doomed vote, Sununu’s pick to sit on SEC withdraws

  • FILE-- In this April 13, 2017 file photograph, Nick Paul, left, of Concord, and Tim Madsen, of Manchester, protest with three others from the group Protect the Granite State outside a hearing by the state's Site Evaluation Committee for the Northern Pass project in Concord, N.H. Massachusetts officials are demanding to know whether a hydro project that was rejected by New Hampshire regulators is still a viable option to delivering clean energy to the state by 2020. The 1.6 billion Northern Pass project was set to bring hydropower from Canada by creating a transmission line through New Hampshire for customers in southern New England. (AP Photo/Michael Casey) Michael Casey

For the Monitor
Published: 12/18/2018 5:28:47 PM

Gov. Chris Sununu’s nominee to the state’s powerful Site Evaluation Committee – a former Republican state representative and supporter of the controversial Northern Pass energy transmission line project – withdrew from consideration Tuesday.

The move came the day before Michael Vose faced likely defeat in a scheduled confirmation vote by New Hampshire’s Executive Council.

“After further consideration of the time and travel commitments involved, I withdraw my name from consideration for nomination as a Full Public Member of the Site Evaluation Committee,” Vose of Epping said in a statement first reported by the Monitor.

“I thank Governor Sununu for the honor of being considered for the opportunity to serve the citizens of our state. I remain committed to working to keep energy reliable and affordable for everyone,” Vose added.

Vose’s nomination was opposed by three of the council’s five members – Democrats Andru Volinsky and Congressman-elect and outgoing councilor Chris Pappas, as well as outgoing Republican councilor Joe Kenney.

“The decision to withdraw the nomination of Michael Vose is a result of the scrutiny of this candidate,” said Volinsky, a vocal critic of the governor. “It’s not a matter of the governor failing to understand who he was trying to sneak through.”

“This candidate was, is, and always will be inappropriate for the Site Evaluation Committee and the governor just got caught,” Volinsky charged.

The governor, in a statement, praised Vose.

“Michael is a true public servant and a tireless advocate for New Hampshire’s ratepayers,” Sununu said. “I appreciate his consideration of this nomination.”

The Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) was created by the state legislature “for the review, approval, monitoring and enforcement of compliance in the planning, siting, construction and operation of energy facilities,” according to language on its website.

The committee voted unanimously in February against the $1.6 billion, 192-mile transmission line project. Eversource requested a rehearing of its project, but the panel dealt another blow to the state’s largest utility when it denied that request.

The SEC argued that Eversource had been too quick to dismiss the negative impacts of the project, had done too little to work with municipalities in the northern part of the state to come up with a solution to local concerns, and that it hadn’t provided enough evidence to show how it would alleviate the negative impacts.

In August, Eversource filed an appeal with the New Hampshire Supreme Court, asking them to overturn the SEC’s decision. The court will hear the case in early 2019.

Sununu has long been a major supporter of the Northern Pass project – which would carry Canadian hydro-electric power through the White Mountains – and was critical of the committee’s rejection of the project.

Volinsky claimed that the governor appeared to be “trying to pack the Site Evaluation Committee with members friendly to Eversource.”

Volinsky said during his phone interview with Vose, the nominee “rejected the science of the human causation of climate change. He claimed that fracking was environmentally safe.”

Vose, an Air Force veteran and software technical writer, served on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee. He was first elected to the legislature in 2014 and re-elected in 2016, but last month lost his bid for a third term.

Opposition to the nomination by pro-environmental groups and state lawmakers had grown in recent weeks, with opinion pieces in a number of New Hampshire newspapers, including the Monitor.

Kenney, who represents the northern part of the state, said he opposed the nomination because of Vose’s support of Northern Pass and the lawmaker’s opposition to a bill to support the state’s biomass industry. A veto of that bill by the governor was overridden by the legislature.

Kenney, who said he received more than 200 emails from those opposed to the nomination, also spotlighted that Vose didn’t live in the North Country.

“I think it’s imperative that we have someone who lives and works in the North Country to serve on the Site Evaluation Committee who will represent the region on the Northern Pass issues,” he said.

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