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Lawmakers Delay Vote on RGGI, as Clean Energy Advocates Tout Benefits

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

State lawmakers on Wednesday put off voting on the future of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative in New Hampshire.

They’d planned to consider two opposing bills about the program known as RGGI during their first session day of 2018.

One would have repealed the cap and trade program in New Hampshire entirely. Similar proposals have failed in the past.

The other bill would redirect the rebate money that residential energy users currently get from RGGI, and put it toward more energy efficiency projects in schools and low-income areas.

Both bills were holdovers from 2017. But the House delayed voting on them until next Tuesday, Jan. 9, because Rep. Richard Barry, the Merrimack Republican who chairs the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee, was absent due to a family emergency.

RGGI advocates had gathered in Concord that morning in anticipation of the votes.

In the lobby of the legislative office building, Keith Thibault of Southwestern Community Services urged lawmakers to strengthen RGGI’s benefits for energy efficiency, including weatherization programs administered by groups like his.

"This is certainly not the time to cut these services, but it is an ideal time to expand,” he said. “As we become a more efficient state, we take control of our destiny."

Ian Raymond sits on the Energy Committee in the town of Sanbornton. He said their school district used to be a major source of emissions. Sanbornton used RGGI rebate funds to build a woodchip-burning biomass plant at their middle-high school, among other improvements.

He said the success of that project and the ease of financing it has led to more upgrades.

“The benefits of these projects far outweigh any minimal ratepayer cost associated with the RGGI program,” Raymond said.

New Hampshire is one of two states among the nine that participate in RGGI where the legislature has to codify the program. The other is Maine.

Both states opted out of a new provision in the latest update to RGGI. It effectively strengthens the program’s goals automatically, state by state, if progress hits a certain threshold.  

Annie has covered the environment, energy, climate change and the Seacoast region for NHPR since 2017. She leads the newsroom's climate reporting project, By Degrees.

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