House and Senate lawmakers took up a variety of environment and energy bills this week. Here’s how they voted.
In the House
Lawmakers in the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted down a bill Thursday that would have required state government agencies to reduce their fossil fuel use and encouraged those agencies to transition to electric vehicles.
Transportation accounts for the largest share of New Hampshire’s fossil fuel emissions, which are driving climate change.
House Democrat Jacqueline Chretien supported the bill, describing it as a simple economic and environmental win.
“Taking steps to reduce our energy needs and expenditures as a state should be something that we can all get behind,” she said.
Legislators who encouraged their peers to vote down the bill expressed concerns about the reliability of electric vehicles, their potential impacts on the grid and the potential expense and environmental impact of their batteries.
A bill that would help the Burgess biomass power plant in Berlin continue to run for another year passed in the House. A House amendment changed the bill from one that would have forgiven a debt to ratepayers, to one that would provide the plant and the legislature one year to come up with a long-term solution to address their financial issues.
On Wednesday, representatives passed two bills on the consent calendar meant to help New Hampshire prepare for the development of the offshore wind industry in the Gulf of Maine.
Another bill, which would create a new structure for community solar programs for low and moderate-income Granite Staters, also passed on the House’s consent calendar. Advocates say that bill could remove barriers to developing solar projects that benefit low and moderate-income customers.
In the Senate
In the Senate, New Hampshire lawmakers passed a bill Thursday that would create a new method for determining how far landfills should be from bodies of water after a bitter debate which included raised voices.
Current rules say landfills need to be 200 feet away from bodies of water. But the new method for siting a landfill would be based on the amount of time it would take for groundwater, which could be contaminated by leaks from the landfill, to reach a river, lake, or ocean. If the bill becomes law, landfills would need to be far enough away that contaminated groundwater would take more than five years to seep into a water body.
Senate Republican Erin Hennessey spoke in favor of the bill, and introduced a floor amendment that would make allowances for specific sites based on particular situations, such as a site’s ability to introduce additional technology to control contamination.
“We need to prevent contamination and not put our Granite Staters’ health at risk and spend uncountable funds to clean up contamination,” Hennessey said.
Those supporting the bill testified the new rule follows federal recommendations and protects the environment. But if it becomes law, they said, New Hampshire would still have more lenient requirements than other states.
GOP Senator Kevin Avard criticized the bill, saying it targets one site in particular – the landfill Casella Waste Systems is hoping to build in Dalton.
Senators voted down another bill that would have established a committee to study the criteria for siting landfills.
New Hampshire Public Radio | By Mara Hoplamazian