1. (a) The hearing shall be conducted in an expeditious manner by a presiding examiner appointed by the department. An associate hearing examiner shall be appointed by the department of environmental conservation prior to the date set for commencement of the public hearing. The associate examiner shall attend all hearings as scheduled by the presiding examiner and shall assist the presiding examiner in inquiring into and calling for testimony concerning relevant and material matters. The conclusions and recommendations of the associate examiner shall be incorporated in the recommended decision of the presiding examiner, unless the associate examiner prefers to submit a separate report of dissenting or concurring conclusions and recommendations. In the event that the commissioner of environmental conservation issues permits pursuant to federally delegated or approved authority under the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Clean Air Act and the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, or section 15-1503 and article nineteen of the environmental conservation law , the record in the proceeding and the associate examiner's conclusions and recommendations shall, insofar as is consistent with federally delegated or approved environmental permitting authority, provide the basis for the decision of the commissioner of environmental conservation whether or not to issue such permits.
(b) The testimony presented at a hearing may be presented in writing. Oral testimony may be presented at any public statement hearing conducted by the board for the taking of unsworn statements. The board may require any state agency to provide expert testimony on specific subjects where its personnel have the requisite expertise and such testimony is considered necessary to the development of an adequate record. All testimony and information presented by the applicant, any state agency or other party shall be subject to discovery and cross-examination. A record shall be made of the hearing and of all testimony taken and the cross-examinations thereon. The rules of evidence applicable to proceedings before a court shall not apply. The presiding examiner may provide for the consolidation of the representation of parties, other than governmental bodies or agencies, having similar interests. In the case of such a consolidation, the right to counsel of its own choosing shall be preserved to each party to the proceeding provided that the consolidated group may be required to be heard through such reasonable number of counsel as the presiding examiner shall determine. Appropriate regulations shall be issued by the board to provide for prehearing discovery procedures by parties to a proceeding, consolidation of the representation of parties, the exclusion of irrelevant, repetitive, redundant or immaterial evidence, and the review of rulings by presiding examiners.
2. A copy of the record including, but not limited to, testimony, briefs and hearing testimony shall be made available by the board within thirty days of the close of the evidentiary record for examination by the public, and shall be made available on the department's website.
3. The chair of the board may enter into an agreement with an agency or department of the United States having concurrent jurisdiction over all or part of the location, construction, or operation of a major electric generating facility subject to this article with respect to providing for joint procedures and a joint hearing of common issues on a combined record, provided that such agreement shall not diminish the rights accorded to any party under this article.
4. The presiding examiner shall allow testimony to be received on reasonable and available alternate locations for the proposed facility, alternate energy supply sources and demand-reducing measures, provided notice of the intent to submit such testimony shall be given within such period as the board shall prescribe by regulation, which period shall be not less than thirty nor more than sixty days after the commencement of the hearing. Nevertheless, in its discretion, the board may thereafter cause to be considered other reasonable and available locations for the proposed facility, alternate energy supply sources and, where appropriate, demand-reducing measures.
5. Notwithstanding the provisions of subdivision four of this section, the board may make a prompt determination on the sufficiency of the applicant's consideration and evaluation of reasonable alternatives to its proposed type of major electric generating facility and its proposed location for that facility, as required pursuant to paragraph (i) of subdivision one of section one hundred sixty-four of this article, before resolution of other issues pertinent to a final determination on the application; provided, however, that all interested parties have reasonable opportunity to question and present evidence in support of or against the merits of the applicant's consideration and evaluation of such alternatives, as required pursuant to paragraph (i) of subdivision one of section one hundred sixty-four of this article, so that the board is able to decide, in the first instance, whether the applicant's proposal is preferable to alternatives.
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