- Associated Press - Wednesday, May 14, 2014

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) - New Hampshire lawmakers on Wednesday approved a measure designed to make siting power plants and lines more efficient and allow more public input in the process.

The House voted without debate to redesign the Site Evaluation Committee, which approves energy projects. The bill will need Senate approval.

Legislators said the regulatory committee worked well when the state had fewer energy projects each year but it has become less efficient as more projects are proposed. Also of concern is where the committee has the expertise to review and approve wind projects. In addition, the state is wrestling with the $1.4 billion Northern Pass proposal to run power lines from Canada to southern New Hampshire.

Under the bill, the Site Evaluation Committee would hire an administrator to oversee the application process instead of relying on Public Utilities Commission staff.

“The SEC’s work load has increased tremendously in recent years and shows no sign of abating, resulting in an unreasonable burden on the state agency members,” Rep. Bernard Benn said in his report to legislators. “The restructured SEC will be more efficient by having fewer state agency members and will include public members appointed by the governor and confirmed by the executive council.”

Funding for the revised committee would initially be through a one-time grant of up to $500,000 from the renewable energy fund. Future funding would be written into the state budget.

Under the bill, the existing Site Evaluation Committee would wrap up pending applications before transitioning into the redesigned panel.

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