CONCORD – Lawmakers voted to change the makeup of the committee that approves new or expanded energy facilities and to expand public involvement in the process.
The House voted 227-69 Wednesday to approve Senate Bill 245, which lawmakers say will make the site evaluation process more efficient and will require more public information sessions on proposed projects.
The bill will now go to the House Finance Committee for review of the potential impact on the renewable energy fund, which would loan the agency money but cannot be used to cover on-going operations.
The Site Evaluation Committee has come under greater scrutiny as more wind farm projects have been proposed. Lawmakers are concerned the agency may not have the expertise to evaluate the proposals.
Lawmakers said the evaluation process worked fine when there were two projects to evaluate a year, but now there are four or five projects pending at the same time.
And they said applications are more complicated and Public Utility Commission staff often spend hundreds of hours overseeing the applications.
Under the bill, the regulatory committee would hire an administrator to oversee the application process instead of relying on PUC staff.
The committee currently includes many state agency heads, but under the bill that number would be reduced to seven and two public members would be added.
The bill also sets new deadlines for committee action and for an applicant to respond to agency inquiries or requests for additional information.
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