Cook On Concord: Education and environment matters

Visiting various higher education clients recently, I had time to reflect on what truly great colleges New Hampshire has.

As noted in the last column, St. Anselm College in Manchester and Goffstown, that gem of a liberal arts school run by the Benedictine Order, received monumental publicity during the presidential primary, when Charles Gibson hosted the debates on campus.

St. Anselm’s Institute of Politics, perfectly located for the primary, hosted many candidates, forums and discussions and helped focus national attention on what was going on here. However, what goes on at St. Anselm every day in the education of minds in the liberal arts and other studies is what is truly special.

Elsewhere, the quality of New Hampshire education is evident as well. It cannot get much better than Dartmouth College in the winter for beauty, bright smiles and sparkle in the eyes of energetic young students scurrying about from warm building to warm building.

While Daniel Webster might not recognize the wireless community that allows students access to the Internet from any spot, the ideas discussed and concepts contemplated still relate back to the basic themes he studied there. Dartmouth’s recent announcement that it is replacing loans with grants is a major step in addressing the problem of costs in higher education.

Down the road from Dartmouth in New London, Colby-Sawyer College sits as a great opportunity for its thousand or so students, who study everything from liberal arts to business to nursing. For the last several years, I have had the opportunity to teach business law at Colby-Sawyer, and getting to know its students is a real pleasure. They are just plain nice. Under the guidance of new President Thomas Galligan, the college is on a real roll and reminds many people of other small, quality liberal arts schools in New England.

On another stop, I met a young woman in a bank in Grantham who was bright, cheerful and optimistic. When I asked what she did, she said she was halfway through her freshman year at Southern New Hampshire University. I asked her how she liked it. She said she could not be happier. At a trustees’ meeting later that week, another similar bright, energetic student sang the praises of SNHU. The progress that has been made at SNHU since it has evolved from its days as New Hampshire College provide a tremendous opportunity to students from all over New Hampshire, New England and the world.

Finally, I visited my alma mater, the University of New Hampshire, and its energetic new president, Mark Huddleston, who has come to New Hampshire from Ohio Wesleyan University. Dr. Huddleston expresses a great vision for the university, is personable, and promises to have a distinguished career at the helm.

Having the opportunity to work with these institutions gives a special appreciation for New Hampshire. If you get a chance to stop and walk around any of these campuses, or the many other fine college campuses in New Hampshire, take it.

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One of the issues with which the Legislature is wrestling this year is the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, RGGI. A bill in the Legislature calls for New Hampshire to join a 10-state regional Northeast compact to reduce carbon emissions, and therefore retard global warming.

This is very complex stuff. There are many concerns in the business community about the greenhouse gas initiative. Specifically, issues that need to be addressed include the design of the process that would implement the compact. Basically, the proposal is to have a “cap and trade” system, which means there would be a cap on the amount of carbon an energy facility can emit. It also would set up a system of buying the right to produce such energy at an auction, and then trading those credits to allow the production of energy.

Who or what entities are allowed to buy the credits, and therefore what kind of market will exist for them, is important, since should a speculative market be allowed and the price of the credits rise as their scarcity increases, the price of energy could skyrocket without profiting anyone other than speculators. Therefore, businesses believe restricting the participants in the bidding process needs consideration.

Second, it’s also important to assure an adequate supply of energy while all of the regulation and processes are going on so that New England businesses can compete on an even playing field with businesses in other parts of the country that may not have such initiatives.

Next, it must be assured that the funds created by the sale of the credits will be used to provide an energy supply and protect the environment — the goals and intent of the bill – and not be used for other purposes, like education funding, deficits, paving roads or other worthy goals. One of the prime benefits of the program as advertised is that it will provide funds for other energy-saving efforts like insulation and construction method improvement. That needs to be assured as well.

Hopefully, all of the concerns of the business community will be taken into consideration in passing a bill that will result in progress against greenhouse gases, global warming and environmental damage. nhbr

Brad Cook is a partner in the Manchester law firm of Sheehan Phinney Bass + Green and heads its government relations and estate planning groups.