- What Is the Energy Facilities Siting Board and What Does It Do?
- Who Are the Members of the Siting Board?
- How Does the Siting Board Process Work?
- How Can I Get Involved?
- How Do I Become an Intervenor or Limited Participant?
- Does Intervening Take a lot of Time?
- Do I Need to Have a Lawyer to Intervene?
- Is Intervention in a Siting Board Proceeding Expensive?
- What Other Agencies May be Reviewing this Project?
- How Can I Get More Information?
What Is the Energy Facilities Siting Board and What Does It Do?
The Energy Facilities Siting Board ("Siting Board") is a nine-member board that licenses proposals to construct certain energy facilities in MA, including large power plants, electric transmission lines, natural gas pipelines, and natural gas storage tanks. The Siting Board is charged with ensuring that the proposed facility would provide "a reliable energy supply for the commonwealth with a minimum impact on the environment at the lowest possible cost." In keeping with this mandate, the Siting Board reviews environmental impacts (including but not limited to air quality, water resources, water quality, visual, noise, safety, electromagnetic fields, and land use issues) for proposed projects under its jurisdiction and the cost of mitigating those impacts. The Siting Board also reviews siting alternatives for proposed projects as well as alternative means of meeting a proven need for additional energy resources.
Who Are the Members of the Siting Board?
The Board members include six public officials (or their designees) and three public members, appointed by the Governor. The six public officials are the Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs, who serves as Chairperson; the Secretary of Housing and Economic Development; the Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Protection; the Commissioner of the Division of Energy Resources; and two Commissioners from the Department of Public Utilities.
How Does the Siting Board Process Work?
The Siting Board review process is a legal proceeding, in which the burden is on the developer or utility company to demonstrate that the proposed project meets the requirements set forth in the Siting Board's statute. During the proceeding, parties may present witnesses and evidence, ask written questions, examine each other's witnesses, and make arguments as to whether the evidence indicates that a proposed project should be approved, and if so, under what conditions. The Siting Board acts as a fact finder, and approves or rejects a proposed project based on the evidence developed during the proceeding. The process includes the following stages:
- Public Comment Hearing: The public comment hearing is a forum where the general public can learn about and comment on the proposed project. It is held in the evening in the vicinity of the proposed project, so that as many people as possible can participate.
- Discovery: The developer or utility company responds to written questions (called "discovery") from the Siting Board staff and individuals or groups that have been permitted to intervene as a party ("intervenors"). Intervenors may present expert testimony, if they wish to do so. They may also be requested to respond to discovery by the developer or utility company and the staff, and may be required to respond to discovery by other intervenors.
- Evidentiary Hearings: Witnesses are questioned under oath by Siting Board staff, the developer or utility company, and intervenors in a process that resembles a hearing in a court of law.
- Briefs: The developer, intervenors and, in some cases, limited participants provide written arguments as to why the evidence indicates that the proposed project should or should not be approved.
- Issues Memorandum: Siting Board staff prepares an Issues Memorandum identifying contested issues among the parties or potential conditions for the construction or operation of the facility. The parties receive the Issues Memorandum prior to the scheduled Siting Board meeting for review and comment. The Siting Board members deliberate and listen to the parties' arguments as well as comments from public officials at the Siting Board meeting. The Siting Board then provides guidance to Siting Board staff as to how to address the issues to be discussed in the Tentative Decision.
- Decision: The Siting Board staff issues a Tentative Decision approving or rejecting the project. The parties receive the Tentative Decision prior to the scheduled Siting Board meeting for review and comment. After the comment period, the Siting Board meets in public to vote on whether to accept the Tentative Decision. The Final Decision reflects any changes made at the Siting Board meeting.
How Can I Get Involved?
The simplest way to make your views known about a proposed project is to speak at the public comment hearing. You may also submit comments to the Presiding Officer. If you wish to be more involved, you may petition to be admitted to the proceeding either as an "intervenor" or a "limited participant." Intervenors may submit evidence, question the developer both in writing and at hearings, file briefs, speak at the Siting Board meeting, and have the standing to appeal the Siting Board's Final Decision. Limited participants usually are limited to filing a brief and speaking at the Siting Board meeting.
How Do I Become an Intervenor or Limited Participant?
Unless otherwise directed, you must file a petition to intervene as a party or participate as a limited participant with the Presiding Officer no later than 14 calendar days after the public comment hearing is held for the project. Copies of the regulations governing intervention and participation in Siting Board proceedings are available from the Presiding Officer at the public comment hearing or see 980 CMR § 1.05 . The Presiding Officer will review the petitions and admit those persons who meet the Siting Board's standards for intervention or participation.
Does Intervening Take a lot of Time?
It can, depending on how extensively you want to become involved in the proceeding. To intervene effectively, you should be willing to read the documents in the case that relate to the issues that are of interest to you, and to write a brief. You may also wish to submit written discovery questions or question witnesses orally at the evidentiary hearings. These activities can take as much or as little time as you let them.
Presenting a "direct case," or sponsoring evidence, takes additional time. You, or an expert witness, must develop testimony, respond to all questions submitted during discovery, and be available for questioning at one or more days of evidentiary hearings held in Boston.
Whether you put on a direct case, submit discovery questions, or just write a brief, you will be expected to adhere to the deadlines set by the Presiding Officer.
Do I Need to Have a Lawyer to Intervene?
The Siting Board requires an intervenor, unless acting pro se (appearing on one's own behalf in a legal proceeding), to be represented by an attorney. (See 980 CMR 1.05(i)). A waiver of this requirement may be granted by the Presiding Officer under certain circumstances. (An example is when individuals intervene as a group under Section 10A of M.G.L. Chapter 30A.) Limited participants are not required to have an attorney.
All persons involved in a Siting Board proceeding must abide by the same legal ground rules, whether or not they have an attorney. The Presiding Officer can explain these ground rules; however, he or she cannot give legal advice to anyone involved in a Siting Board proceeding.
Is Intervention in a Siting Board Proceeding Expensive?
Presenting a direct case in a Siting Board proceeding can be expensive, since most types of evidence must be presented by an expert witness. Less expensive ways to raise important issues include asking discovery questions, questioning witnesses, and submitting a brief.
What Other Agencies May be Reviewing this Project?
Depending on their nature and location, proposed energy facilities may be reviewed by other state and local agencies, including the MEPA Unit of the Massachusetts Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs, various divisions of the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Environmental Management, the Office of Coastal Zone Management, the Massachusetts Historical Commission, and local planning boards, building inspectors, conservation commissions, and water departments.
How Can I Get More Information?
You may speak to the Presiding Officer at the end of the public comment hearing, email the Energy Facilities Siting Board or call (617) 305-3525.
This information is provided by the Energy Facilities Siting Board