Committee Vote on Repealing RGGI
After a day-long hearing last week, a House committee is scheduled to make a recommendation today on a proposal to repeal New Hampshire’s participation in the 10-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.
The House Science, Energy and Technology Committee heard testimony from dozens of supporters and opponents of House Bill 519, which is sponsored by Rep. Richard Barry (R-Merrimack). Public interest was large enough for the committee to move the hearing to Representatives Hall. The hearing was also streamed live over the Internet.
Barry and co-sponsor Rep. Andrew Manuse (R-Derry) told the committee that RGGI was not working environmentally and was an economic drag on the state. “RGGI is a stealth tax that never shows up. It’s hidden on your electric bill,” Barry said at the hearing about the extra cost paid by ratepayers.
But former Rep. David Borden (D-New Castle) said HB 519, not RGGI, “was bad for New Hampshire and bad for New Hampshire businesses.” He said it would stall the progress the state has made in alternative energy and energy efficiency development to decrease the state’s dependence on outside sources of electricity and heating oil. RGGI-funded grant projects for residents, nonprofits, businesses and governmental entities (state and local) have totaled more than $28 million since 2009, said Gov. John Lynch in written testimony to the committee.
RGGI is a cap-and-trade program for electricity power generation companies such as Public Service of New Hampshire — the state’s largest power generator — that can either reduce their carbon dioxide emissions or purchase pollution allowances at quarterly auctions. Public Service is the only utility in the state that generates and distributes electricity.
New Hampshire joined RGGI completely in 2009 and it is believed to cost ratepayers somewhere between 36 to 40 cents per month. Economist Ross Gittell from the University of New Hampshire testified that there was no evidence that RGGI has hampered economic development in the state. He also said that ratepayers would still pay a surcharge because the state belongs to the regional power grid, which charges RGGI fees regardless of participation.
HB 519 supporter Grant Bosse, the lead investigator with the Josiah Bartlett Center for Public Policy, testified that no one will know if RGGI has cut CO2 emissions until next year when the first compliance reports will be issued and that allowance price and sales volume have become weaker than expected. He also found fault with the competitive grant making process from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund.
In the fiscal analysis of the bill, the Public Utilities Commission estimated that if the state withdrew from RGGI, it would lose between $9.8 million and $18 million in funding from the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund in the next budget year. The final funding figures would depend on the auction price for allowances and the rate of economic recovery.
The original RGGI bill, House Bill 1434, was co-sponsored in 2008 by current senate President Peter Bragdon (R-Milford) and Sen. Bob Odell (R-Lempster). So far, HB 519 has no Democratic co-sponsors.
>> Tuesday, Feb. 15, executive session of the House Science, Energy and Technology Committee on House Bill 519, Legislative Office Building, Room 304, 3 p.m.
This Daily Dispatch was written by Michael McCord.