Memo to BIA: wake up, please

New Hampshire’s Business and Industry Association, which calls itself our “State Chamber of Commerce,” seems to need a wake-up call about climate change and the harm it will bring to New Hampshire’s business if we don’t try to do something about it.

Recently, BIA’s board could bring itself to adopt only a “guarded” position about New Hampshire’s participation in RGGI, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

RGGI is designed to reduce global warming pollution from fossil fuel-fired power plants in the Northeast. It is a multi-state effort, long in the making, and is based on sound science and market economics. RGGI would include all the New England states and several of the mid-Atlantic states as well.

Yet, in the face of climate change’s real threat to New Hampshire’s economy, BIA continues to stick with its “policy” that we should wait for action by the federal government, rather than move forward promptly as our neighbor states are doing. BIA’s position seems to ignore that for the past seven years, the feds have done less than nothing to deal with climate change generally, and greenhouse gas pollution in particular.

But continuing this do-nothing policy is simply not in the best interests of New Hampshire’s business community. For want of federal action, New Hampshire and the nine other RGGI states recognized the importance of taking action now to avoid the worst climate change impacts, and since 2003 have been working together to promote the pioneering RGGI program. And they are not alone.

Other states are looking at similar measures to protect their people, economies and environment.

BIA’s expression of concern about potential job losses is simply off the mark. BIA knows that researchers at the University of New Hampshire have found just the opposite — that joining RGGI will have a small, yet positive effect on employment. Many businesses also understand that there will be significant economic opportunities presented by fast-growing markets for clean energy and energy-efficiency solutions. That’s why UNH concluded that joining RGGI is in the best economic interest of the state.

Indeed, if New Hampshire does not join RGGI, New Hampshire’s ratepayers will likely face higher electricity costs, but won’t receive any of the economic benefits of RGGI. In fact, UNH found that if the money raised by the state through the sale of carbon allowances is invested in energy efficiency — as provided in the pending legislation — all residential customers will see their electric bills decrease by 2018. The same is true for both small and large New Hampshire businesses.

So here is a wake-up memo to BIA’s leadership: This isn’t business as usual. RGGI is a modest program that will reduce global warming pollution, take us further along the road toward energy security, spur local economic development and provide a national model. BIA should support, not obstruct, RGGI.

Jamey French, president and chief executive of Northland Forest Products in Kingston, is a member of the Business and Industry Association. Concord attorney Martin Gross is a former chair of the BIA’s legislative committee.

Categories: Opinion