This past weekend we saw marches for science in cities across the country, as well as in Conway. It is, of course, no coincidence that the marches are timed to take place on Earth Day. Despite 97% of climate scientists saying that the Earth is warming at an alarming rate and that human activity is the largest cause, the modern GOP has refused to accept facts or act in any way to preserve the planet for future generations. President Trump even said, “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” If 97% of economists said ‘Trickle Down Economics’ created 5% GDP growth Republicans would be calling for a constitutional amendment capping taxes on the wealthy and corporations at 10%.
NH relies heavily on our natural environment for our tourism industry, the 2nd largest sector of the state’s economy. Here in Mt Washington Valley tourism is the top sector and our natural beauty is the key contributor. Defending our environment must be a top priority of our leaders for environmental, economic as well as altruistic reasons. Despite this, local Republicans opposed the establishment of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative(RGGI) in 2009. Typically, Republicans love anything ‘Market-Based” so you would think that a market based program to protect our environment and economy would be a win-win. You would be wrong. Apparently allowing power plants and manufacturers to pump emissions into our environment is more important than protecting the environment for our children and the economy.
RGGI has proved to be a success despite GOP opposition. The Analysis Group has done independent studies that show in the 1st 3 years of RGGI it provided $1.6 billion in net economic benefit and 16,000 job-years, and in the second 3 years $1.3 billion in net economic benefit and 14,700 job-years. RGGI is also credited by the Clean Air Task Force with saving hundreds of lives, preventing thousands of asthma attacks and reducing medical impacts and expenses by billions of dollars..
Rather than dismantle RGGI like many in the NHGOP would like to do we should be working to strengthen it and spread its success nationwide. Global climate change isn’t something we can stop or change alone in NH. The waters of the Saco flow into Maine, the Connecticut River watershed includes Quebec and air knows no borders.
Another way to limit emissions from power plants is to raise the cap on net metering. Net metering is a billing mechanism that credits property owners for the electricity generated by solar panels on their property. The New Hampshire law authorizing utilities to offer Net Metering (RSA 362-A:9) provides a maximum limit on the total amount, or “capacity,” of customer-sited generation resources that can take advantage of this incentive program. There is a point where too much customer sited generation begins to hurt the utilities who provide energy to the residents who cannot generate their own power. NH we are nowhere near that point, but the cap provided by RSA 362-A:9 is keeping us well below that point. Raising or eliminating the cap will reduce emissions, promote energy independence, reduce the need for projects like Northern Pass and the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline. A bill raising the cap was signed by Gov. Hassan in 2016. We will need a commitment to continue to raise this cap going forward though, something I do not expect from our current Representative.
A third way to reduce emissions, reduce mining and drilling as well the need to transport volatile fossil fuels, is upgrading the power grid. A “smart grid” is a power grid that enables two way communication between power generators and power users to optimize efficient use of that power, as opposed to the ‘dumb grid’ that pushes power out to end users where some is lost. A “smart grid” will be able to handle more decentralized power generation, such as owner sited solar panels and on and off shore wind farms. But building that ‘smart grid’ will take a massive investment. The NH Electric Coop has begun making that investment using federal grants made available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the Obama Stimulus. Like the net-metering cap though, we will need to continuously make that investment on the NH Electric Coop circuits and others. The good news is that investment will create stable, good paying jobs here in NH.
When I am elected in 2018 as one of your Representatives, dealing with the net-metering cap, upgrading the grid and strengthening and expanding RGGI will be top priorities of mine in the NH Legislature. But with a governor who supports massive transmission projects like Northern Pass and whose brother is a climate change denier and fossil fuel industry lobbyist we will need to send many Representatives and Senators to Concord who are concerned about the long-term sustainability of NH and the planet. Thankfully in 2018, we will also have the opportunity to make Governor Sununu another Republican 1-term governor .