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Hearing on Bill to Price Carbon Emissions Draws Crowd

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Annie Ropeik / NHPR
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A bill that would price carbon emissions got its first hearing in the state legislature Wednesday. NHPR's Annie Ropeik reports it aims to discourage the use of fossil fuels that drive climate change.

The legislation would take effect next year, taxing businesses that use or import fossil fuels at $20 per ton of carbon emissions. It would add $10 per ton every year through 2030. 

Officials estimate it would increase the price of things like gasoline, and collect $300 million in its first year. Most of that would be rebated to residents, with some going to environmental programs for low-income residents and small businesses.

Supporters - like Democratic state representative Marjorie Shepherdson - packed the bill's first hearing:

"What if every state said, oh, we're just a little bit of the problem, we're not going to do anything. That's ridiculous. Every state has to do what they can - every person should be doing what they can."

Others, including many Republican lawmakers, say the bill would devastate New Hampshire's economy - with a negligible impact on global warming. Former GOP Rep. Michael Vose, testifying against the bill, says it would cost too much without achieving much environmental benefit.

Rep. Bob Backus, a Manchester Democrat who is chair of the House energy committee, challenged him. "If you believe that CO2 is endangering our planet's habitability, isn't it true that we have to start somewhere?

Vose responded, "I don't believe that is true if you have compassion for your fellow citizens - your neighbors."

The bill would take effect in 2020, with a $20 fee on each ton of carbon emissions.

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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