Ahead of an Executive Council meeting today, Gov. Maggie Hassan switched up her nominations to a powerful committee in charge of permitting Northern Pass and any future wind or pipeline projects in the state.
Hassan announced yesterday she was withdrawing the nominations of outgoing Republican state Sen. Bob Odell and Democratic state Rep. Amanda Merrill to the Site Evaluation Committee and replacing them with Patricia Weathersby of Rye and Roger Hawk of Concord.
Odell’s nomination to one of the public seats on the panel became controversial from the outset because he had supported a wind farm in his former town of Lempster. New Hampshire Wind Watch said it was appalled by Odell’s nomination.
Hassan originally nominated Odell and Merrill to the committee in September but never brought them up for a council vote.
The nominees also faced pushback from state Sen. Jeanie Forrester, a Meredith Republican who co-sponsored the SEC restructuring legislation, and wanted to see better representatives for the public than former politicians.
Hassan praised Odell and Merrill in a statement yesterday.
“I believe Bob Odell and Amanda Merrill would have both served the people of New Hampshire fairly and well on the Site Evaluation Committee, but we must make sure that this body can move forward with its important work,” Hassan said.
The SEC will likely review an application for Northern Pass within the next year and may see a proposal from energy company Kinder-Morgan to expand a natural gas pipeline into the state.
“Patricia Weathersby and Roger Hawk bring an understanding of the complex planning, community and economic development issues that are crucial to thoughtful energy siting,” Hassan said in a statement.
Hawk is the former community development director for the city of Concord. He now owns his own consulting business that is focused on community planning and economic development. Weathersby is an attorney who owns a firm focused on zoning, planning and real estate issues.
Hassan will present the nominations to the Executive Council today, but the five-member body won’t vote on the nominees until a later meeting.
If approved by the council, Hawk and Weathersby will become two of the first public members to sit on the recently reorganized SEC which sites and permits commercial-scale energy projects in New Hampshire. The Legislature voted this year to winnow down the committee from 15 members to nine, and to add public representation to the panel, primarily made up of state agency officials.
Hawk said he looks forward to the experience; he said one of the biggest obstacles the committee will face is managing visual impacts.
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” Hawk said. “One of the biggest challenges is coming to grips with that issue and how to manage it.”
Weathersby couldn’t be reached for comment.
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