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Another View -- Chris Sununu: Lower electric rates will help the New Hampshire Advantage

September 10. 2018 8:39PM

WHEN I RAN for governor I made a promise to stand up and fight against New Hampshire’s high electricity costs. I believe that the future of the New Hampshire Advantage depends on a low-cost energy system that is sustainable and provides reliability. Today, New Hampshire has some of the highest electric rates in the country, and for decades politicians have ignored the cost burden our citizens are forced to bear. Those days are over.

When the Legislature sent two bills to my desk (SB 365 and SB 446) that would have substantially raised your electric bills, I vetoed them. I said no to the out-of-state businesses and special interests that were demanding your money because it was the right thing to do. And given the biased and untrue rhetoric that followed my protective actions, I believe it is only fair to set the record straight.

Senate Bill 365, also known as the Biomass Tax, would cost us ratepayers approximately $100 million over three years to bail out foreign and out-of-state owned biomass companies. It should be noted that vetoing this bill did not take anything away from the biomass industry. It simply didn’t give them additional ratepayer money on top of the nearly $2 billion in subsidies they have already been given over the past 40 years. The state’s Consumer Advocate — whose job is to look out for our residential ratepayers — also signaled his opposition to the Biomass Tax bill. It’s time to say enough is enough.

Before taking action I sat with the timber industry, both owners and workers from biomass plants, to try to find a better way to keep these businesses running without such massive rate increases. We sat in my office and pored over the financial details of the operations. And in those conversations the owners admitted that they couldn’t guarantee that they would be able to stay open even if I signed the bailout bill. To demand higher rates from our citizens with no assurance of sustainability is not a solution. The timber industry’s own letter to me admitted that the impact to their members was at most a manageable 3.5 percent dip in revenue.

And we can’t overlook the potentially devastating impacts to our economy if I had signed the bill. We have over 100,000 manufacturing jobs in this state. Those business owners constantly cite high electricity rates as a potential reason for moving their businesses. If even one manufacturer decides to leave due to high electricity costs, it could mean thousands of jobs lost. As governor, my job is to represent the 1.3 million people of this state. We have some of the highest energy rates in the nation, and we need leadership that has the courage to lower them.

Senate Bill 446 would have expanded net metering. I vetoed this bill because it too would have raised your electric bills and given massive handouts to commercial-scale solar companies. Instead, I believe we need to invest in solar projects that directly benefit low income families and seniors who don’t have the ability to pay these high rates. My plan is to focus on individuals, not commercial institutions.

These two bills share something in common: They put the desires of big energy companies over the needs of everyone who pays an electric bill. Low income families, seniors on fixed incomes, and small businesses trying to stay afloat all would be taxed and penalized in the name of big energy handouts. As your governor, I know the burden that high electricity rates place on you and your family. For that reason alone, the right thing was to stand with you, and I vetoed these rate increases.

We will continue to draw in new manufacturers with new energy technologies that will decentralize our aged energy system and reduce costs for families. The two largest biomass generators in the state, Burgess and Schiller Station, will remain online with more than 80 megawatts of power. New biomass fuel oils are growing every day to ensure that the timber industry continues to be an important part of the economy. The government should not be picking winners and losers. We need to focus on investing for the future.

Today, as you go to the polls, you’ll see your neighbors and elected representatives. Remind them that you’re tired of having high electric bills, and urge them to sustain the vetoes. We do it differently in New Hampshire because we do it right. Let’s protect the New Hampshire Advantage.

Chris Sununu, R-Newfields, is governor of New Hampshire.

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