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18th Jul

2016

Special session June 2016

Last Thursday the legislature met in a special session to act on the governor’s veto of S.230, “an act relating to improving the siting of energy projects”. As someone who worked extensively on the bill in committee and sat in on the conference committee between Senate and House, I have a good understanding of both the bill and the legislative intent behind it.

The bill as voted in May did two main things – it provided more input for towns in energy siting including solar and wind, and it directed the Public Service Board to establish new, presumably lower, sound thresholds for wind projects.

Problems arose in the last hours of the last day of the session when carefully crafted and vetted language was jettisoned in search of conference committee compromise. Two of the modified provisions proved problematic, and in an unfortunate drafting error $300,000 of funding for the planning portion of the bill was left out. The governor’s veto was over these concerns, and had nothing to with opposition to the substance of the planning section of the bill. Details of these provisions have been in the news; while happy to talk further with people, I will not go into the details here.

We had three choices: 1) override the veto (requiring a 2/3 vote and would not happen), 2) sustain the veto (we all go home and didn’t need to bother coming in the first place), or 3) introduce a new bill, essentially the same but correcting the mistakes noted above. The Legislature chose the third option, but the route was not without drama, delays, roll call votes, shuttle diplomacy, and complaints about procedure.

I believe that we made the right choice to correct the bill to reflect the clear intent of the original provisions for wind and to fund the planning provisions right away rather than kick the can down the road until the legislature could take it up again next year.

As always, please contact me if you have questions or concerns.

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