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On Earth Day, N.H. Legislators Push Renewable Energy As Post-Coronavirus Economic Solution

Zoom screenshot

Democratic state lawmakers say they'll push for renewable energy development as part of the economic recovery from COVID-19.

State senator and gubernatorial candidate Dan Feltes addressed the issue during a virtual Earth Day town hall Wednesday.

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"The jobs of tomorrow are in clean energy, so a relief measure and relief packages as we move forward need to involve clean energy,” Feltes says.

Feltes also says he'd support the proposed Granite Bridge natural gas pipeline, pending state approval, as a short-term way to reduce low-income families' energy bills.

"You can't just say, 'Folks, we're going to cut everybody off of their heat,'" Feltes says. "We have to provide a comprehensive clean energy strategy to get them the opportunity to transition."

Some environmental advocates have criticized Feltes and other state senators for supporting the fossil fuel project. The Feltes campaign says he isn't withdrawing his support, but is now tempering it as the proposal undergoes Public Utilities Commission review:

"Dan has voiced preliminary support with the understanding that it's needed to meet the growing heating demands during the winter in New Hampshire," a spokesperson says in a statement. "He looks forward to reviewing the PUC decision and analysis to determine if it is in-fact needed."

The other Democratic candidate for governor, Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, opposes the pipeline and was endorsed by the New Hampshire Sierra Club Wednesday. Volinksy focused on support for the Green New Deal in his Earth Day messages.

At a separate Earth Day roundtable with New Hampshire's U.S. Senators, environmental advocates said the response to coronavirus shows how the world can respond to climate change.

Senator Maggie Hassan noted the relatively small drop in pollution among other effects of the pandemic. She says those benefits could continue through larger policy changes during recovery from the virus.

"Part of our job is letting people see that these things can work, and can boost not only our environmental quality but our economic growth as well,” Hassan says.

She and Sen. Jeanne Shaheen say getting there will require change at the Environmental Protection Agency, which under President Donald Trump has rolled back dozens of regulations.

Those have included mercury and vehicle exhaust rules during the coronavirus pandemic – which, research suggests, has a higher death toll in areas with higher levels of air pollution.

This story was updated Thursday with a statement from State Sen. Dan Feltes' gubernatorial campaign regarding the Granite Bridge pipeline.

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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