RGGI repeal: Twice is not the charm
Once again, a few shortsighted souls in the New Hampshire House have mounted an effort to repeal the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The difference this year is that, fortunately, they appear to be alone.RGGI is a 10-state program in the Northeast designed to lower emissions from fossil-fueled power plants by requiring them to pay for their pollution. Proceeds from the auction of pollution allowances have been invested in energy-efficiency improvements for businesses, municipalities and homeowners across the state, saving both energy and money. The program has been in place since 2009.At last month’s hearing for House Bill 1490, this year’s RGGI repeal bill, the House Science Technology and Energy Committee booked Representatives Hall because they expected huge crowds to line up for and against the program. But that narrative didn’t play out.Only the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Jerry Bergevin, R-Manchester, spoke in favor of repeal. He spoke for less than 30 seconds, deferring any specific comments, questions or explanation of the details of his legislation for the committee chairman to cover.Chairman James Garrity, R-Atkinson, blamed the poor turnout on the issue of climate change. “I think there seems to be nationally and regionally an apocalypse fatigue about this issue. People are tired of this whole discussion.”Apparently, Chairman Garrity wasn’t listening to those who did show up to testify. Most spoke against his attempt to repeal a program that by all accounts is working as intended to benefit the state.Representative Bergevin was followed by about 18 speakers from the state’s business, government and nonprofit communities, all of whom oppose repeal of the RGGI program. Businesses spoke to the benefits of the program to their bottom lines; municipal representatives cited the benefits of energy efficiency investments for local taxpayers; others referenced several recent economic studies that clearly show the positive economic return RGGI has provided for the state (both by reducing the money we send out of state for fuel and by creating new jobs), and nine conservation organizations offered a joint letter about RGGI’s benefits to the environment.One would expect that a bill with no support in a public hearing would be quickly dispatched to allow legislators to focus on other, more pressing issues. Instead, Chairman Garrity asked the House Rules Committee for an extension of time — in essence bending the rules — in order to hold some work sessions on the repeal bill.It is sadly evident that ideology rather than traditional New Hampshire common sense is the driving force behind RGGI repeal efforts. There are no business groups in the state demanding the repeal of the program. There are no ratepayer organizations arguing that RGGI creates undue burdens for them. No credible assessments assert that RGGI has harmed the state’s economy; indeed, reliable economic studies demonstrate RGGI’s benefit to jobs and economic growth in New Hampshire. No scientists are dismissing the conservation benefits of the program. And all major stakeholders are working together to make RGGI even more successful.The fact remains that in the hearing in front of the spacious and empty Representatives Hall last month, the only person who seems to be focused on repeal of the RGGI program is the committee chairman.Susie Hackler is interim executive director of Conservation NH.