Business, politics and climate change

Why Sen. Ayotte should climb off the Clean Power Plan fence


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Aside from our mutual appreciation for good beer, Kelly Ayotte and I have something else in common: the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in New Hampshire appeals to both of us.

RGGI appeals to Senator Ayotte because it is a market-based approach to reducing greenhouse gas emissions in nine northeastern states, and because RGGI was approved and established in New Hampshire by a bipartisan state legislature.

I like RGGI for those same reasons, and also because the program offers incentives to encourage businesses like mine to opt for conservation and cutting-edge energy efficient technologies when making plans for expansion or new construction. These incentives help make those choices economically viable in the short term, so all of us can benefit in the long term.

Having recently returned from meeting with several U.S. senators and their staffs in support of the EPA’s Clean Power Plan, I want to reflect on my recent visit. I met with Senator Shaheen and several of her colleagues on the Senate Climate Change Task Force. One senator said in the introductions that we were at the “scene of the crime” - that is, we were sitting in the hearing room in which the Senate majority will likely vote to reject the Clean Power Plan before the end of the year.

In my remarks, I explained I support the Clean Power Plan for reasons that are admittedly based on small business self-interest.

First, the agricultural products we use at Smuttynose are very susceptible to climate change impacts in terms of price and availability.

Second, the electric infrastructure – the “grid” upon which we depend – is exposed to more frequent storms. Each major weather incident that disrupts the power coming into our building has a costly impact on our bottom line.

Third, the Clean Power Plan provides a degree of certainty for the next 20 years – critical for businesses looking at continuity.

One of the questions Senator Ayotte has about the Clean Power Plan is whether New Hampshire, because we have been participating in RGGI, benefits from the EPA rule; the answer is a definitive yes. It is a “yes” from the NH Department of Environmental Services, and a “yes” from small businesses and economists. The bottom line: we’ve paid our dues and now we can benefit.

Kelly Ayotte and I have the same position on RGGI, but currently we don’t have the same perspective on the EPA Clean Power Plan. I support it, while Senator Ayotte remains undecided. And that’s where politics become frustrating.

Smuttynose, like many other small businesses, has a “green team” of employees ready to tackle energy challenges. We are beginning to discuss how to prosper in spite of shifting weather patterns and uncertain energy costs.

But despite good examples of towns and businesses taking up the mantle of sustainability, strong federal policy on carbon pollution is necessary. Polls show a consistent level of approval in New Hampshire for reducing carbon pollution from upwind power plants. Yet Senator Ayotte still feels she needs to remain neutral on the Clean Power Plan. This is a good time for her to climb down off the fence and take a leadership position on this important issue. 

Peter Egelston is president of Smuttynose Brewing Company, Hampton.

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