CONCORD — Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed legislation that would change what’s done with New Hampshire proceeds from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, warning it would lead to a “dramatic bill increase” for residential customers’ electricity.
The two-term, Newfields executive said the nine-state RGGI compact has worked well and should not be altered to try to artificially encourage companies to make energy efficiency investments.
“I am disappointed that the Legislature is jeopardizing the longstanding RGGI compromise by trying to eliminate ratepayer rebates yet again,” Sununu said in his veto message.
“This bill unjustly favors businesses over people by eliminating costs for commercial and industrial customers through a dramatic bill increase to residential ratepayers. In essence, it attempts to buy off businesses at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens.”
NH joined RGGI in 2008. RGGI makes private power firms that emit carbon dioxide emissions purchase allowances, used for energy efficiency programs.
In 2012 the Legislature amended RGGI, requiring that, above a certain threshold, all revenues would go back to residential ratepayers.
In its 2018 report to the Public Utilities Commission, the residential rebates totaled $5.4 million out of the $13 million total RGGI proceeds that year.
State Rep. John Mann, D-Alstead, authored the bill Sununu vetoed.
“It is clear that Governor Sununu fails to understand the ability of energy efficiency programs to reduce both energy usage and Granite Staters’ electric bills. The governor’s continued vetoes of common-sense energy legislation is stifling economic growth in our state and keeping our citizens’ electric rates among the highest in the country,” Mann said.
He said the impact of the residential ratepayer bill increase would be minimal.
“House Bill 582 would have increased funding for energy efficiency programs, therefore reducing energy costs for residents while allowing industrial electric customers to fund their own energy efficiency projects on their own time and on their own dime,” Mann said. “Any incidental increase in a residential electric bill can be easily solved by replacing a few old light bulbs with LED equivalents which use 85% less power.”
Rep. Michael Harrington, R-Strafford, is serving his fourth term on the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee.
“What little New Hampshire does is having no impact on climate change,” said Harrington, a former member of the state Public Utilities Commission.
“If we are going to have an RGGI program let’s take most of the money and rebate it back to customers. Industry leaders can say they want more of this money but what about the retired woman teacher living on a fixed income in Manchester? She can use the rebate.”
Sununu urged lawmakers to uphold his veto and keep the program as it now exists.
“I support the existing RGGI funding allocation which provides direct bill support to all ratepayers through rebates, and funds energy efficiency programs in the state,” he said. “This complementary mix is a system that works for New Hampshire ratepayers, especially those on fixed incomes, who already pay some of the highest electric rates in the nation.”
Other energy bills Sununu vetoed had more Republican support than this one.
Sununu has now vetoed 53 bills, a modern-day record; in a typical year, the governor vetoes about half a dozen measures.
The New Hampshire House is scheduled to take up its vetoed bills Sept. 18-19. The Senate will take up its vetoed bills Sept. 19.