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Legislative

Making Sense of Climate Policy: State House 101

Background

It’s time for us to get serious about passing legislation that stops climate change. There is too much on the line to lose focus. That why 350NH and Rights and Democracy partnered to create this training series. This series will give people the knowledge and skills we need to effect change in the state house this coming legislative season.

Session 4: State House 101

At this workshop, we will go over the basics of how the state house operates and how a bill becomes a law in New Hampshire.

When: Tuesday Nov 20th from 6:30-8:30

Where: New England College,  62 N Main St, Concord, NH 03301, USA

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Legislative

Optimism in the Face of Defeat

On Wednesday, March 8th, I rode in a car full of old friends and new friends alike to Concord, New Hampshire to protest House Bill 368. The bill concerns the heating of some state-owned buildings in Concord and is proposing that Concord Steam, the current facility providing the municipal heating through biomass, be replaced with a natural gas alternative.  The bill has been met with a lot of backlash from environmental groups and disapproval from some citizens in and around the Concord area, as this alternative would leave the door open for a fracked gas pipeline to be built, and would also encourage more fracking.

When we arrived, and as our driver paid for our meter, an elderly woman waiting to pay for her meter noticed our signs, smiled, and said “Oh good. You have a cause.” We all smiled and a member of our group responded, “Of course! Don’t you?” The woman smiled again, shriveled up in her jacket to avoid the cold, then started talking about the tragedies of the Dakota Access Pipeline, the Travel Ban, and general adversities of our modern day. We chatted for another chilly minute and as we left, she wished us luck and congratulated our efforts to make our voices heard.

As we entered the state house I was surprised to see the others who came to protest the bill: they were almost all elderly Concord residents; those who knew and loved the town the most. A couple of the men were wearing neon-yellow hoodies with colorful signs draped around their necks, toting slogans opposing the prospect of a pipeline. There was a chipper and energetic woman with a sign that read “#GETTHEFRACKOUTTANH!”, and another woman who was eager to see us young people from separate locations come and support the cause. Among a plethora of other long-time residents who had come to seek justice for their beloved city, there was a chorus of opposition outside the hearing room.

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The room quickly filled to the point where there were people standing in the back, and the hearing commenced not long after we filed in and placed our signs against the walls. The first person to speak was one in favor of the bill, and he started off by explaining his surprise at how the city was reacting to the bill. He then expressed how this matter had “nothing to do with fracking or pipelines”, a statement which was met with audible disapproval from most of the people in the room. He went on to defend the bill and deemed it necessary as there were “no other alternatives”.

Following this, a woman spoke after in opposition to the bill. She explained the numerous alternatives to heating the municipal buildings and condemned the statement made about the bill having nothing to do with fracking or pipelines. Her response was met with an applause from what sounded like every bystander in the room. The chairmen, flustered by the applause, took a moment to shout at the room, saying how out of respect, there must not be any clapping or cheering. Soon after this, a security guard approached our group and asked us to remove our signs from the room; putting them on the floor wasn’t good enough. We listened to the rest of the woman’s testimony then made our way out. As we left the state building, a member of our group said, “well, that was fun”. A woman walking in front of us overheard and replied with a hearty smile, “always!”

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Despite our efforts, House Bill 368 is expected to be approved and amended by the Senate. 25 state-owned buildings in the Concord area will likely no longer be heated by biomass, and natural gas will be sought to fill its place. The possibility of a pipeline being built grows larger, and the potential of continuous fracking is right there with it. But our voices were heard. Personally, it felt good to be there and to express my opinion on something that had very little to do with me as an individual. To tap into the greater good of the planet and to actively fight for a quality of life for those separate from myself made me feel and realize just what it means to be human. Grassroots activism is what changes everything; it is what drives change itself and it has the power to alter even the most deeply ingrained routines, habits, systems, and order. Today, there has never been a greater need for such activism. Now more than ever, the world needs those who are willing to speak up and engage with what they believe in. Only through this can real, palpable change occur. I was glad to be a part of such an engagement, and it is still very much up to all of us, no matter what age or where we are from, to pursue what we know is right.

-Sumner Bright

Categories
Legislative

Did you know NH has a cap on solar energy?

By Ken Grossman of Barrington, NH

Thinking about reducing your carbon footprint (and saving money) by getting your power from the sun?

Good idea, but keep in mind that saving money part depends on something called “net metering. “

All that means is that when you get much more electricity than you need in June July and August and you “run the meter backwards,” your local electric distributer (Eversource, formerly PSNH, UNITIL, NHEC, or Liberty)) keeps track of the surplus and gives you credit at

their retail rate when you’re getting much less than you need in the dark months of December, January and February.

If you think they’re doing this out of kindness, probably not. They do this because state law requires them too. But due to diligent lobbying on their part of our state legislature, there’s a limit to their largesse.

The number is 50 megawatts.   That’s 50 million watts.  It’s apportioned to the utilities based on the number of customers each serves.

That seems like a big number when your little old solar array is running maybe 5 kilowatts (5000 watts).  (And if you’re using CFLs or LEDs for light each one is burning only 10 or 15 watts.)

Still, we (the supporters of renewable energy) are making such great progress that UNITIL, Liberty and NHEC have hit their

quota. (NHEC is a coop, owned by its customers and has decided to exceed its limit.)  Eversource, the largest utility, won’t be far behind, and isn’t likely to voluntarily exceed its quota.

Can we urge them to do so?  Sure. But the best way would be to urge our legislators together with the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to raise the limit. 


Take Action Now!

HouseScienceTechnologyandEnergy@leg.state.nh.us needs to be positively encouraged to lift the cap. Please send them an email with your support.Additionally, you can send an editable ready-made email through Next Gen Climate: http://actnow.io/qoirco8.

Categories
Legislative

House Science, Technology and Energy Committee Heard HB 1376

The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee heard HB 1376 on February 18.

The bill, as introduced, would require the the Department of Environmental Services to examine the potential harm to the public and the environment resulting from the transportation of tar sand oil through the Portland-Montreal Pipeline.

Representative Marcia Hammon introduced the bill on behalf of herself and its other sponsors, outlining the plan for such transportation and some of the anticipated risks. Testimony intended to allay fear of these anticipated risks was given by the Canadian consul.

A DES representative explained that the Department has limited expertise and no regulatory authority with respect to pipelines; if the bill were passed, it would have to sacrifice staff time and budget intended for other responsibilities.

Others testifying in favor of the bill were Cathy Corkery for the Sierra Club; Katie Thomson, a UNH student just completing a research study of the potential impact of the transmission of tar sands oil across northern New Hampshire on local culture, business and tourism; Carol Foss, Audubon Society of New Hampshire; Trudy Mott-Smith and Doug Whitbeck of 350NH.In consideration of further written testimony and an amendment by Rep Marjorie Shepardson spelling out in more detail what would constitute the examination of potential harm to the public and the environment, the Committee appointed a subcommittee to revise the bill.

The revised bill will replace DES with a special legislative committee to carry out the examination, and will possibly expand the charge to include transportation of tar sands oil by truck and rail.

Categories
Legislative

Testimony on HB 1376


The Connecticut River near its headwaters in Pittsburg, New Hampshire.Today HB 1376, bill in the New Hampshire House heard testimony. If passed, House Bill 1376 would require the Department of Environmental Services to examine the potential harm to the public and the environment resulting from such pipeline transportation of tar sands bitumen.

The following testimony was submitted by one of 350NH’s members.

February 17, 2014

Rep. David Borden

Chairman, Science, Technology, and Energy Committee

NH House of Representatives, Concord, NH

Dear Chairman Borden

My name is Corry Hughes, I live in Jefferson NH. My husband and I stand in support of HB 1376 which would require the examination of the potential harm to the public and the environment of New Hampshire from the transportation of bituminous tar sands through Coos County by the Portland-Montreal pipeline.

Our town of Jefferson is one of five communities in southern Coos County that lies directly in the path of the Portland- Montreal Pipeline. Reversing the flow of this aging pipeline to carry toxic tar sands bitumen would put these communities at grave risk in the event of a leak or spill. The pipeline transverses forests and farmlands, parks and yards, and 80 bodies of water, from small brooks to major rivers like the Connecticut and the Androscoggin as it goes through northern NH.

Pipelines transporting tar sands diluted bitumen are statistically more than 3 times more likely to spill than those carrying typical crude; this would certainly be likely in the case of the Portland-Montreal Pipeline, an old pipeline that was not designed to carry this heavier, denser substance under high pressure in a reverse direction than intended. A spill in a stream or river would be almost impossible to clean up, and would pollute the water for miles downstream. A broken pipe on farmland or in a neighborhood would displace families and render that land unusable indefinitely. Diluted bitumen and its additives such as benzene (a carcinogenic neurotoxin) put the health of our wildlife, livestock, and above all, our families at risk.

In my town of Jefferson, the pipeline goes within feet of our elementary school, creating a nightmare scenario should a leak occur in that area which could make dozens of young children very sick. And think of the economically disastrous consequences if the leak occurs in rivers or near businesses, especially those that depend on tourism, such as Santa’s Village in Jefferson, a well-known family attraction that has delighted generations (and which is Jefferson’s biggest employer). The pipeline passes very near Santa’s Village; a spill there could shut it down, probably permanently.

We simply cannot afford the risk of dirty tar sands oil passing through New Hampshire, to be carried to overseas markets. All the risks (and no reward) would fall on us and put in peril our precious families, our homes, our landscape, and our economic future. We strongly urge passage of HB 1376 as a first step in protecting us and our environment.

Image Credit

Categories
Legislative

Warrant Articles and Resolutions


Corry Hughes April 2013

350NH is leading the campaign to register NH citizens’ opposition to the transportation of tar sands oil through the State by sponsoring resolutions to be voted on at town meetings.

The first step in this campaign is educating voters about the proposed use of the Portland – Montreal pipeline from Canada to Casco Bay in Maine. Presently the pipeline carries conventional oil from Casco Bay to Canada. There is a proposal to reverse the flow through

the pipeline to carry oil extracted from tars sands in Canada to Casco Bay for export. The pipeline is about the same age as the one which leaked last year in Mayflower, Arkansas.

Given all the publicity about the Keystone XL pipeline in the Midwest, many NH residents are surprised to learn about the possibility of the same toxic, corrosive tar sands proposed for Keystone being piped through Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. 350NH members are highlighting a substantial difference between Keystone XL and the existing Montreal-Portland pipeline: the age of the pipeline. Keystone XL would be newly built, whereas the Montreal-Portland is 50 years old and not designed to carry tar sands oil.

Citizens petitions are being circulated in, Loudon, Jefferson, Gorham, Bath, Lancaster, Whitefield and Randolph, the second step needed to put a resolution against piping tar sands oil on town meeting warrants. A citizen’s petition has been completed in Exeter and the article made it through the deliberative session without amendment. It will be voted on by paper ballot on March 11. 350NH will be sponsoring educational opportunities, including slide shows, flyers, letters to the editor, and public demonstrations from now through the town meetings in March.

The results of town meeting votes affirming resolutions against the piping of tar sands oil across the State will be sent to relevant political, regulatory and corporate players.

If you live in any of the towns where this resolution will be brought to the voters, you can help! Email us at 350newhampshire@gmail.com. Non-residents of those towns can help by being present at public demonstrations and donating to 350NH to help us with printing and other costs.

Below is the text of the Jefferson Town Resolution

Petition to Keep New Hampshire Tar Sands Free

We, the undersigned voters of the Town of Jefferson, New Hampshire, request that you insert in the warrant for the 2014 Town Meeting, the following article:

To see if the Town will vote to instruct the Selectboard to enact the following resolution to protect citizen health, safety, and quality of life; water resources and environmental quality; and local, regional, and state economies with respect to the transport of crude oil through New Hampshire.

WHEREAS, 18” and 24” pipelines were constructed across northern New Hampshire in 1950 and 1985, respectively, to transport imported light crude oil from Portland, Maine, to Montreal, Quebec; and

WHEREAS, present market conditions have substantially reduced demand for transporting imported light crude oil inland from the Atlantic coast; and

WHEREAS, abundant production of heavy crude and tar sands oil in western North America has created a market for transportation of these oils to Atlantic ports; and

WHEREAS, these market conditions suggest that reversing the direction of flow on the above-mentioned pipelines could become economically profitable for corporations in the foreseeable future; and

WHEREAS, spills of diluted tar sands oil create more costly and difficult clean-up challenges than conventional oil spills, including public health risks from toxic fumes and long-term water and riverbed contamination from sunken oil; and

WHEREAS, a significant spill of any petroleum product along the pipeline Right-of-Way in New Hampshire would have a devastating effect on the economy and environment of Jefferson, including property values, business, tourism, recreation, hunting and fishing; and

WHEREAS, pipeline age and the hydraulic stresses resulting from reversal of flow can contribute to the likelihood of a spill; and

WHEREAS, existing technologies and practices for inspecting pipeline integrity have failed to prevent catastrophic pipeline failures;

NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED:

1. That the Town expresses its opposition to the transport of tar sands oil through New Hampshire and the Town of Jefferson and its deep concern about the economic, environmental, and public health risks of such transport; and

2. That the Town strongly encourages the New Hampshire General Court and the U.S. Congress to take all reasonable steps to ensure that any proposed flow reversal of the Portland-Montreal pipeline receives thorough review at both state and federal levels of economic, environmental, and public health and safety impacts, including the impact of spills; and

3. That the Town transmit a copy of this resolution to all relevant state, federal, and other pertinent entities.