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June 04. 2014 8:23PM

Lawmakers OK fuel pre-buy protection, Fish and Game enforcement, wind farm criteria measures

CONCORD — The Senate and House approved a bill that will limit when heating oil companies can advertise pre-paid contracts, and makes failure to deliver heating fuel a violation under the state Consumer Protection Act.

House Bill 1282 gained momentum this winter when Fred Fuller Oil and Propane Co. Inc. failed to meet scheduled deliveries of heating oil.

The bill limits to between May 1 and Oct. 31 when dealers can advertise and solicit customers for pre-buy contracts.

Under the bill, failure to deliver heating oil under a prepaid contract would be a class B misdemeanor; that could be increased to a class A misdemeanor for repeated or gross violations.

Heating fuel dealers will be able to use inventories to meet requirements that dealers have 75 percent of the pre-buy fuel covered through futures’ contracts, surety bond or letter of credit.

Also under the bill, 22 towns in the Merrimack and Connecticut flood control compacts would receive $542,672. The House voted 209-98 to approve the bill, while the Senate passed it on a voice vote.

Like all other conference committee reports approved by lawmakers Wednesday, the bill goes to the governor.

Fish and Game officers

Fish and Game conservation officers will soon be enforcing motor vehicle laws in the North Country and other rural areas where police protection is limited.

According to supporters, Senate Bill 389 would allow conservation officers to pursue off-road vehicles when going from trails to highways, and to stop impaired, reckless or speeding drivers. Most municipalities and the State Police support the bill.

Some lawmakers were concerned the Fish and Game Department, which is cash-strapped as it is largely funded by a declining number of hunting and fishing licenses, would ask to use highway funds to help pay for conservation officers if they are allowed to enforce motor vehicle laws.

But lawmakers would have to make that decision.

Conservation officers will be able to enforce motor vehicle laws 60 days after it becomes law.

The House passed the bill 260-91, while the Senate passed it on a voice vote.

Wind farm criteria

Lawmakers asked state utility regulators to determine if Public Service of New Hampshire should have to sell its fossil-fuel generating plants and to establish new criteria for approving wind turbine projects.

House Bill 1602 directs the Public Utilities Commission to determine if PSNH should divest, modify or retire its generating facilities, submitting a progress report to the Legislative Oversight Committee on Electric Utility Restructuring by March 31, 2015.

The electric utility would be allowed to recover its stranded costs due to the divestiture or retirement under the bill.

The bill also establishes new guidelines for siting wind energy systems, including setback requirements, noise, shadow flicker, ice throw, sound, impacts on plants and wildlife, fire protection and decommissioning costs.

Applicants would also be required to use the best practices of the industry going forward and requires the Site Evaluation Committee to make its decision based on the “best available evidence.”

The House passed the bill on a 227-88 vote, while the Senate approved it on a voice vote.

Parental rights

The House and Senate want to make it easier for a mother, whose child was conceived during a rape, to end the perpetrator’s parental rights. They quickly approved Senate Bill 253, which would allow the women to ask the court to remove the father from the child’s life and have no contact with the family.

Hike Safe card

The state will not bill hikers for the cost of their rescue if they purchase a “hike safe” card under a bill the Senate and House approved.

Supporters say the bill begins to address the issue of how to pay for hiker rescues, an issue that has plagued the state Fish and Game Department for years. Under House Bill 256, hikers would be able to purchase “Hike Safe” cards, which are expected to cost $25 per person or $35 for a family.

People holding fishing and hunting licenses or who register snowmobiles or other off-road vehicles would be exempt from rescue charges under the bill.

Charity gaming

Charity gaming operators will face new regulations and requirements under House Bill 1630.

The bill was proposed after the Gaming Regulatory Oversight Authority last year reviewed gaming in the state and concluded the regulatory scheme is not sufficient to determine how much is bet at the state’s 10 charitable gaming facilities.

The authority said the state lacks controls to determine if the games are run fairly or if charities and the state receive all the money due.

The bill would provide greater oversight over the industry, have the state regulate video gaming machines now regulated by local communities or “gray machines” and establish a commission to do an in-depth study of the industry and the state’s regulatory role.

Charitable gaming produced more than $13 million for state charities during the 2013 fiscal year.

grayno@unionleader.com


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