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NH lawmakers hear arguments to repeal power initiatives

New Hampshire Union Leader

February 07. 2017 2:04PM

CONCORD — Supporters and opponents promoted their favorite studies and talking points either to defend or to move to repeal the state’s two landmark renewable energy programs.

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) and Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) were both on the firing line as a House committee took testimony on twin bills to repeal each one during public hearings Tuesday in Representatives Hall.

New Hampshire is one of nine states that adopted RGGI, intended to control or to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by making polluters buy credits as a penalty for exceeding emission limits.

RGGI backers produced an Abt Associates report from last month (seen below) that estimated the state avoided $100 million in higher health care costs by reducing pollution.

“Repealing RGGI would be a mistake for New Hampshire in terms of our economy, our environment and our public health,” said Michelle McCarthy with Environment New Hampshire.

Evan Oxenham, co-chairman of the Plainfield Energy Committee, said since RGGI’s inception in 2008, prices have gone down in these states 3.4 percent while electricity costs nationally have gone up 7.2 percent.

But Gregory Moore, state director of Americans for Prosperity, said New Hampshire’s third-highest residential and fourth-highest commercial and industrial bills for power are leading to companies looking elsewhere to move or expand.

Over the past year, electricity costs here went up 6 percent, Moore said.

“This is not rocket science, and companies like Sig Sauer are doing the math and realizing it’s cheaper to move jobs out of New Hampshire to cheaper-power states,” Moore said.

In December, Sig Sauer announced it was expanding in Arkansas, and New Hampshire high electric rates was a motivating factor.

The first one cent per kilowatt hour collected from ratepayers goes to energy efficiency projects.

Moore urged lawmakers rather than repeal RGGI to just require that all the money collected be rebated to customers. This would save homeowners $1.3 million annually while commercial and industrial customers would get a $2 million benefit.

Catherine Corkery, chapter director of NH Sierra Club, said the program should be made better, not eliminated.

“The politically motivated repeal bills are putting the program at risk every year, making it unstable and difficult for users to rely (on) — repeated repeal threats exhaust resources and delay helping people,” Corkery said.

New Hampshire’s RPS sets annual targets for electricity providers. They meet targets by earning renewable energy certificates (RECs) for selling renewable power to retail customers. They may also buy RECs from other providers to comply.

Critics maintain that green energy is expensive and that New Hampshire encourages utilities to sell their certificates in other states because those out-of-state sales are more valuable.

Program supporters maintain the RPS is a pivotal incentive for the wood-fired power industry in the North Country that could be put at risk of survival if repealed.

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