Participation in Energy Facility Siting Board Cases
Energy Facilities Siting Board ("Siting Board") staff is available to answer any general questions you may have regarding participation in Siting Board proceedings. The Siting Board encourages the public to express concerns and opinions in order to make balanced well-reasoned decisions. Interested parties have several opportunities to become involved in proceedings before the Siting Board:
Public Comment Hearing
An energy facility review begins when a developer or company files a petition to construct a facility with the Siting Board. The developer or company is then instructed to distribute a Public Notice via the following methods:
- Publish a notice of its proposal to construct the project in at least two newspapers having a reasonable level of circulation within the community or region prior to the Public Comment Hearing;
- Mail notice to owners of all property within a certain distance of the boundaries of the proposed site; and
- Post the notice in the city or town halls of communities in which the proposed project would be located.
The developer or utility company places a copy of the Petition in the local library where the project is proposed to be constructed. After the notice has been published, the Siting Board holds one or more public comment hearings, generally in the city or town where the facility is proposed. The public comment hearing, held in the evening, provides those who attend with an opportunity to learn about the proposed project and its potential environmental impacts. It also allows Staff to learn about the public's concerns. At the public comment hearing, the applicant presents an overview of the proposed facility. Public officials and the public then have an opportunity to ask questions and make comments about the proposal. The public comment hearing is recorded by a court reporter.
Seeking the Right to Take Part in a Proceeding
Persons or groups who wish to be involved in an Siting Board proceeding beyond providing public comments at the hearing may seek either to intervene as a party, or to participate as a limited participant. Intervention as a party is a more formal route of participation (compared to participating in the process as a limited participant) which presents one with an opportunity for extended involvement in the evidentiary proceeding and the right to appeal a final decision. The following is a comparison between the roles of intervenor and limited participant in Siting Board proceedings:
An Intervenor may:
- Issue information requests and receive responses;
- Present written testimony and witnesses;
- Cross-examine witnesses;
- File a brief;
- Review the tentative decision;
- Address the Siting Board at its meetings, and
- Appeal a Final Decision.
A Limited Participant may:
- Receive copies of information requests and testimony in a proceeding;
- Receive copies of responses to information requests;
- File a brief;
- Review the Tentative Decision, and
- Address the Siting Board at its meetings.
All participants are strongly encouraged to give thoughtful consideration to the method of participation they pursue. You are urged to consult an attorney to best evaluate your legal rights in a proceeding. Persons seeking to intervene as a party or participate as a limited participant should consult the regulations governing intervention and participation in Siting Board proceedings- 980 CMR 1.05 ; see also G.L. C. 30A, § 10.
The Siting Board requires most intervenors to be represented by an attorney, unless granted a waiver by the Presiding Officer. Individuals appearing pro se and limited participants are not required to be represented by an attorney. However, the Siting Board recommends that all persons involved in a proceeding obtain legal representation. All participants, whether or not represented by an attorney, must abide by legal conventions and adhere to the laws and regulations governing the Siting Board. The Siting Board staff is not permitted to provide legal advice of any kind to intervenors or limited participants.
A person seeking intervenor party or limited participant status must file a petition with the Presiding Officer assigned to the case. In order to intervene as a party, a petitioner must demonstrate that he or she is, or may be, "substantially and specifically affected" by the proceeding. The issues raised in the petition to intervene must be specific to the potential intervenor and must fall within the scope of the Siting Board's purview. For example, to support a petition to intervene as a party, a town might claim that a transmission line project will improve the reliable delivery of electricity to its citizens; a conservation commission might cite the need to protect a river bank area which could be affected by a project's water use or discharges or an individual whose property abuts or is near to a project site might state that he or she is concerned about noise or about the view from their backyard. Persons or groups seeking to participate as a limited participant need not demonstrate "substantial and specific" interest. The Presiding Officer reviews all petitions to intervene as a party or participate as a limited participant and makes a ruling on each petition.
The Energy Facilities Siting Handbook provides an overview of the Siting Board review process. It includes an introduction to the Siting Board, a detailed description of the Siting Board's review process, and a further explanation of the various ways to participate in that process.
There are instances when a single project can consist of several cases with both Department and Siting Board jurisdictions. In most of these instances, the Chairman of the Department issues a Consolidation Order pursuant to G. L. c. 25, § 4, which directs the Siting Board to render a Decision in all related cases after conducting a single adjudicatory proceeding and developing a single evidentiary record. When cases are consolidated, Siting Board rules apply to the proceeding. 980 CMR 1.00 et seq.
This information is provided by the Energy Facilities Siting Board