March 07. 2012 11:37PM

House votes against joining RGGI liquid fuels program

State House Bureau

CONCORD — The House Wednesday voted 243-96 not to join a regional initiative that opponents call “a liquid RGGI program.”

A Northeast regional organization is working on a program to develop low-carbon fuel standards for liquid fuels such as gasoline and heating oil that would also subsidize alternative fuel development.

House Science, Technology and Energy Committee Chairman James Garrity, R-Atkinson, said, “All this does is let everybody know we are not going to get sucked into a liquid RGGI program.”

Lawmakers have voted to withdraw the state from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but have been unable to override Gov. John Lynch's veto. The program requires electric generators to pay for excess emissions generated by power plants.

Garrity said developing new low-carbon standards will raise the price of gasoline and heating oil for the state's residents.

But Rep. Naida Kaen, D-Lee, said the bill will mean New Hampshire will not be able to influence the program's outcome, which will be regional and will affect the state's residents.

She noted any action to join such a compact would require legislative approval.

“This bill will handicap New Hampshire and affect New Hampshire economically,” Kaen said.

House Speaker William O'Brien backed the bill, which now goes to the Senate.

“In 2009, Governor Lynch signed an agreement to begin the process of raising the price of gas and heating fuel by implementing this absurd scheme known as low-carbon fuel standards,” O'Brien said after the vote. “This bill puts the brakes on this assault on our wallets at a time when we should be working to reduce the cost of gas, not raising it.”

The activist group Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire praised the House vote. The group has been a vocal opponent of RGGI.

“NH ratepayers have already seen their electricity rates increased from the failed cap-and-trade scheme known as RGGI. I applaud Speaker Bill O'Brien for trying to prevent another hidden tax from being passed along to the residents of the Granite State by passing HB 1487,”said Corey Lewandowski, state director of Americans for Prosperity-New Hampshire.

House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt of Salem said, “It's time to stop adding to the burden on the backs of our working families and to start helping our citizens. The last thing we need is a ‘liquid RGGI' for New Hampshire.”

O'Brien said there is another way to approach the problem. “Our nation should be looking for ways to increase production of gas and heating oil, not trying to find ways to restrict it,” he said.

A bill this year to repeal RGGI has had a public hearing, where opponents far outnumbered supporters, but has yet to come before the House.