House panel votes to quit RGGI

New Hampshire’s participation in the regional Recovery Greenhouse Gas Initiative will be history at the end of the year if the repeal passed overwhelmingly by the House Science Technology and Energy Committee and endorsed by House Speaker William O’Brien, becomes law.Under the bill, New Hampshire would participate in three more auctions under the 10-state regional cap-and-trade program, proceeds of which would fund energy-efficiency programs allowing the state to complete the first three-year compliance period.”The utilities affected have put a lot of investments in this program, and that needs to be finished,” said Rep. James Garrity, R-Atkinson, chairman of the committee. The state would have a year to distribute the last proceeds to the utilities’ “core” conservation programs. Garrity said he fought against some forces in his party who wanted to put the proceeds in the general fund.RGGI opponents seized on last year’s one-time raid of RGGI funds to help balance the state budget as evidence that the program is more of a tax.”If you are not going to use this for conservation, it looks like merely just a tax hidden in fee regulation and should be repealed,” said James Summers, R-Nashua”It’s almost a fraud, with the state taking money out,” added Rep. Sean Cox, R-AndoverRGGI supporters pushed for the House to hold the bill, arguing that the House needs more time to consider the measure’s implications. They argued that New Hampshire will wind up paying increased electric costs because of RGGI participation by much larger states in the region without getting the funds for energy efficiencies. (Though other states, such as New Jersey, has also raided the fund to balance their budgets.)”This committee has taken five days to undo a decade’s worth of work,” said Rep. Nickolas Levasseur, D-Manchester. “We are voting on it blind without a fiscal note. We are going to pay for it, no matter what, so we might as well get the benefits.”Added Rep. Jacqueline Cali-Pitts, D-Portsmouth: “We have not educated other House members about RGGI. We have not educated ourselves. But to wipe it away in one vote to me is unthinkable.”If passed by the House, the repeal must still go to the House Finance Committee before moving to the Senate, where Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro — who as a representative chaired the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee — said he would support repeal.If it clears those hurdles, it must get past Gov. John Lynch, a supporter of RGGI in the past. — BOB SANDERS/NEW HAMPSHIRE BUSINESS REVIEW

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