Bill to remove New Hampshire from plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions sees little support

Industrials Associated Press

There was little public appetite at a hearing Thursday for a bill that would pull New Hampshire out of a multistate effort to reduce carbon emissions.

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New Hampshire is one of nine states participating in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a system where each state sells carbon emission allowances to producers.

The bill's supporters said leaving the program could help reduce ever-rising electric costs because producers would no longer be required to purchase carbon allowances, but opponents of the bill said it would do the opposite.

"There is no negative economic impact from RGGI in the region," said Mike Fitzgerald of the state's Department of Environmental Services.

New Hampshire gets about $18 million a year from the carbon allowance sales, providing about $15 million in ratepayer rebates and $2.6 million toward energy efficiency initiatives such as weatherizing homes. Leaving the program would immediately increase rates by just under 1 percent, Fitzgerald said.

The New Hampshire Legislature voted to repeal the state's membership in 2011, the last time Republicans controlled both chambers, but then-Gov. John Lynch vetoed the bill. House Majority Leader Jack Flanagan said the House Republican leadership supports the bill, but the bill would likely face more resistance in the Senate.

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"Repeal of this bill means higher electric rates; I'm having a hard time with that," Republican Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley said.

But Greg Moore, state director of the conservative group Americans for Prosperity, argued the state shouldn't be picking "winners and losers" among energy efficiency programs. If the state stopped participating in the program, he said, more money would stay in consumer's pockets.

"What we think is a better solution is that all the money stay with the consumer in the first place," Moore said.

Several speakers also argued that leaving the regional compact would make it harder for New Hampshire to meet upcoming federal standards on carbon emissions.

The other states in the compact are Vermont, Maine, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Delaware and Maryland. New Jersey is the only state that pulled out of the initiative since joining, and Democratic lawmakers there would like to see the state rejoin this year. New Hampshire law says the state can leave the program if two or more New England states also leave. Maine has a similar provision in place.