Concord, NH – Concluding this week’s SEC hearings, Thursday saw the continuation of witness testimony from Municipal Group 3-South’s expert witness panel, comprised of Ammy Heiser, David Jodoin, and Stephanie Verdile. They were followed by the Abutting Property Owners of Whitefield-Bethlehem, and the day ends with Peter Powell, expert witness for the Abutting Property Owners of Whitefield-Bethlehem. The day’s hearings focus heavily on potential impact to property value due to the Northern Pass project.
During the morning session of the hearings, Attorney Alan Raff representing the I.B.E.W. raised a question to the Municipal Group 3 – South witness panel. Attorney Raff had noticed a meeting between the Municipal Group 3 – South witnesses, their counsel, Attorney Whitley, and Genie Menard of the Deerfield Abutters Group. Attorney Raff asked what they were discussing during their meeting. Attorney Whitley attempted to object based on relevance. The objection was overturned when Attorney Raff reasoned that given the pending motion regarding friendly cross-examination submitted by the Forest Society, and other issues that have occurred relating to friendly cross-examination, that it was relevant for to ask whether they were coordinating on cross-examination. Attorney Raff narrowed his question to witness Mr. Joidin, asking specifically “Did you discuss any of the topics or questions that Ms. Menard was planning to ask you during her cross-examination?” Mr. Jodoin answers that yes, they had discussed topics and questions that would be brought up during the cross-examination.
This exchange indicates that Anti-Project intervenors are coordinating together on the development of questions to be asked during cross-examination which amounts to parties engaging in friendly-cross examination. Restricting friendly cross-examination limits repetitious or immaterial testimony, and is within the power of the presiding officer of the SEC. The issue Attorney Raff raises indicates an admission of strategizing to conduct friendly cross-examination which could be used to hypothetically slow the proceedings, and allow for convenient lines of questioning to bolster anti-pass arguments.
Attorney Aslin, representing the Counsel for the Public’s questioned the Abutting Property Owners of Whitefield-Bethlehem witness panel about potential property value impacts due to the Northern Pass Project. A witness stated that while trying to sell their home, their realtor had to disclose the project to potential buyers of his home. Attorney Aslin then asked if the witness was aware of the Northern Pass’ plans to compensate affected property owners for any potential loss in property value, the witness was not aware of the plan.
The applicant’s Attorney Walkely then asked a series of questions to the witness panel regarding the Northern Pass Project’s repeated attempts to reach out to affected homeowners. Attorney Walkley asked whether the Northern Pass had invited affected homeowners for a site visit if it was something they were interested in. The witness conveyed that they believed that even though a letter was sent, the project had not really made a real effort to communicate. Attorney Walkely then again asked if the Witness panel would be willing to meet with the Project to address any problems or concerns they had. They agreed to meet.