Dolly McPhaul: Sununu must choose between the people and Eversource

For the Monitor
Published: 12/15/2018 12:14:56 AM

It is time for Gov. Chris Sununu to place his allegiance with the people of New Hampshire, where it belongs.

Sununu was elected, and is paid, by the people of New Hampshire for representing them. However, he has received Eversource money as well and has demonstrated repeatedly his support for Eversource over the people. In its 2016 fourth-quarter investor’s call on Feb. 22, 2017, Eversource said Gov. Sununu is a strong supporter of Northern Pass and the project seems on a positive track to receive its permit within seven months. The governor claimed, when confronted, there was nothing he could do to help Northern Pass. False.

The Site Evaluation Committee rejection of Northern Pass on Feb. 1 of this year should have been the end of the story, but it wasn’t – for either Eversource or Sununu.

There is a saying that goes, “If you can’t win using the current rules, change the rules.” And so they did.

Senate Bill 366 was proposed by Sen. Jeb Bradley and Rep. Richard Barry, signed into law on June 8 by Sununu. It was to increase the number of public members on the SEC from two to five, and to require a training program. On the surface, it demonstrates concern for the public. However, knowing the bill supporters, red flags appeared.

It is the governor’s job to appoint SEC members. According to this bill, he will have the opportunity to nominate three more members. Compounded by the fact the SEC chairman now “randomly” decides who will judge which case, the makeup of the SEC could dramatically change from a committee that refused the Northern Pass application to one that could accept it. Should the state Supreme Court send the case back to the SEC or Northern Pass reapply, if turned down by the court, over two years of hearings and deliberations could be rendered useless.

Sununu, with his outspoken support of Northern Pass, has appointed eight of the now 12 SEC members, with seven confirmed to date (some are department heads). This is a major turnover of members. He said he couldn’t help the Northern Pass? The latest of his appointees, Michael Vose, is particularly objectionable. It is also unacceptable not one SEC member lives north of Concord, to the best of my knowledge. There is no representation for the area most negatively impacted by Northern Pass.

Sununu said changes made by SB 366 will make the state’s energy siting “fair, predictable and communicative.” Sununu is inferring it wasn’t? Fair for whom? The SEC made the proper judgment; Northern Pass did not fulfill the necessary criteria. Predictable? The SEC didn’t make the governor’s expected and desired decision, so change the rules? Communicative? The process was to be public, but exceptions were requested – by Eversource.

House Bill 1358 was proposed (Jan. 3) in an attempt to change the rules by granting an SEC permit automatically if a decision had not been made by the SEC within 365 days. Fortunately, the bill was tabled.

Sununu attempted, behind the scenes, to have a “tabled” bill’s language added to another upcoming bill. The representative from whom he sought help in this egregious scheme against the people and Legislature was Rep. Michael Vose, Sununu’s recent appointee to the SEC. Vose’s appointment, as an SEC “public member,” is particularly egregious. Not only is Sununu ignoring his constituents but actively working against them, appointing as “their” representative a person known to be a Northern Pass supporter. Vose has repeatedly dealt with legislative bills in a manner advantageous to Eversource and recently wrote an op-ed supporting Northen Pass and an SEC meant to facilitate energy projects, not regulate them.

In November 2014, Gov. Maggie Hassan’s appointees to the SEC, Bob Odell and Amanda Merrill, were withdrawn for being “insiders.” In 2015, new SEC rules were written to, among other criteria, give the people more of a voice and eliminate “insiders” controlling the process. Vose, a definite “insider,” should be withdrawn as a nominee.

Sununu also appointed three of the five N.H. Supreme Court justices. It was a surprise the court agreed to hear the Northen Pass case after two unanimous SEC rejections. Many were also shocked when the court ruled in favor of Eversource in its case against the PUC.

Abuse of power is not acceptable for our government. A governor should not accept money from a business, and support that business using political power, to the detriment of his constituents. That is immoral, improper and should be illegal. It must stop.

(Dolly McPhaul lives in Sugar Hill.)

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