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March 20. 2013 10:10PM

RGGI money eyed by NH House for low-income families

CONCORD - The House wants money generated by the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) to go to low-income families through energy efficiency programs.

House Bill 630 would have originally repealed the program, but was changed to dedicate money to low-income families for energy efficiency work on their homes.

The bill was approved by the House Wednesday.

Under the cap and trade program, fossil fuel emissions are limited and electric generators have to pay if they exceed the limits by purchasing "allowances."

The proceeds from allowance auctions go to reduce electric rates for consumers and to energy conservation programs run by the state's electric utilities.

The bill dedicates 20 percent of the energy conservation money to help low-income home owners.

House Science, Technology and Energy Committee Chairman David Borden, D-New Castle, said there are 89,000 homes owned by low-income families in the state. They often consume more energy and pay a higher per unit cost, he said.

An investment of $1,000 in energy efficiency work generally produces about $250 in savings every year, he said.

However, some members wanted to see the program repealed, including House Republican Alliance co-chair Rep Pam Tucker, R-Greenland.

With New Hampshire's high energy costs, lawmakers ought to be voting to repeal the program, she said.

Americans for Prosperity New Hampshire agrees, saying the program needs to be halted.

"RGGI is a destructive scheme that takes money from the ratepayers of New Hampshire to give contributions to the politically well-connected," said Greg Moore, AFP-NH state director. "When we have among the highest energy costs in the nation, we need to be looking for ways to cut the impact on our consumers and make our state more competitive, so that we can grow our economy and bring more new jobs here."

But for House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, D-Concord, energy efficiency is the most effective way to create energy independence. Currently those most in need of energy efficiency - low income families - have it the least and the bill would help to remedy that situation.

Over the past two years, the House voted to repeal RGGI, while the Senate wanted to modify the program. Two years ago, the bill died when the Senate failed to override former Gov. John Lynch's veto.

Last year lawmakers reached a compromise that changed how the money from the allowance auctions was distributed, with most of the money going to rate reductions and energy efficiency programs run by the utilities companies.

The bill now goes to the Senate for action.

grayno@unionleader.com

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