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January 27. 2014 7:04PM

Jane A. Difley: NH needs a timeout on wind farm development

Some decisions don’t have far-reaching consequences and aren’t likely to cause much regret. Choosing between the chicken or the fish at dinner won’t cause much remorse either way if you trust the cook.

But other decisions have far greater importance to many more people, and getting it wrong can haunt us for decades. For example, how New Hampshire as a state addresses the current “windrush” of wind energy proposals will impact our landscapes and determine our renewable energy mix. We need to get it right.

That’s why it makes sense to wait until the ongoing overhaul of state energy policies is finished before approving new energy projects. This week the New Hampshire House will take up House Bill 580 that imposes a temporary moratorium on construction of wind power and electric transmission projects until the state completes a comprehensive energy plan. It deserves the House’s support.

The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests believes that wind energy has a role to play in our state’s energy future. But we also acknowledge — as do many others — that the state’s current process for siting energy facilities is insufficient. The state lacks an overall energy plan that puts proposed projects into a larger context, lacks comprehensive guidelines for siting energy facilities, and lacks a process that gives local communities a real say in decisions.

It makes little sense for the state to approve major energy projects using policies and procedures that all parties, including energy developers, agree are inadequate and out-of-date. These policy and regulatory tools are now in the process of being overhauled, and these improvements will be in place in a matter of months.

The House Energy Committee’s majority statement on HB 580 notes that “two bills supported by the committee and now law (SB 99 and SB 191) have established processes, now underway, to review both the standards for project approval by the New Hampshire site evaluation committee and to create the first new state energy plan since 2002.” This state energy plan mandated by SB 191 must be in place by Sept. 1, a little more than seven months from now. New siting criteria for energy projects required under SB 99 must be in place by the end of the year.

Given the stakes for New Hampshire’s future, it seems reasonable to ask project developers to wait a few months so a better process can be put in place to judge projects that once built will impact New Hampshire citizens for generations. The House should pass HB 580 and give us all a chance to make the best decisions for our state.

Jane A. Difley is the president/forester of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests.


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