Republican Governor Chris Sununu recently nominated Scott Mason, a former contractor on the controversial Northern Pass project, to the Fish and Game Department, an agency that helps provide environmental oversight on utility projects in the state. This is the latest in a long line of Governor Sununu’s attempts to appoint anti-environment officials to various committees and state agencies in New Hampshire that oversee controversial construction projects like the Northern Pass, a power line bankrolled by one of his largest donors.
According to local environmental leaders quoted in New Hampshire Public Radio, the 192-mile Northern Pass power line would “deface New Hampshire’s forestland, hurting tourism and lowering property values.” Yet, likely because the power line was funded by Governor Sununu’s main donor, Eversource, he continued nominating individuals to state-level environmental regulatory authorities overseeing the construction project.
Sununu has used his gubernatorial appointment powers to benefit utility companies for years. In 2018, Governor Sununu unsuccessfully nominated two prominent supporters of the Northern Pass power line to the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee. One of them, Geoff Mitchell, was rejected because of his ties to Eversource, owner of the project and a major Sununu donor, and the other, former Representative Micheal Vose, withdrew his name after it was clear he would not be appointed by the council.
Governor Sununu’s political attempts to change the makeup of the critical Site Evaluation Committee continued when he appointed Martin Honigberg in 2019, a prominent opponent of the Northern Pass power line, to the New Hampshire Superior Court. Despite denying any political rationale, the move would remove Martin, who had been opposed to the Northern Pass from the committee, and open up a spot for Sununu to appoint someone more sympathetic to future utility projects. Although the Northern Pass power line was ultimately struck down by the courts in 2019, many of these appointees tied to organizations such as Eversource, remain in their positions, potentially opening the door for future anti-environment construction projects in the state.
From 2016 to 2019, Eversource, and its affiliates, donated at least $51,500 to Governor Sununu’s inaugural committee, likely implicating Governor Sununu’s many attempts to stack government agencies with individuals in favor of the lucrative power line construction project.
Governor Sununu is currently running for reelection as Governor of New Hampshire.