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Electric vehicles to toxic algae: What you need to know about energy and environment bills in the N.H. Legislature

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Allegra Boverman
/
NHPR

In House and Senate sessions this week, New Hampshire state legislators considered a variety of energy and environment bills – from one that would encourage state agencies to transition to electric vehicles, to another that would address PFAS air emissions. Here’s what’s happening:

Energy

State fossil fuel reductions

A bill meant to reduce fossil fuel emissions in state facilities and encourage electric vehicle use by state agencies passed the Senate unanimously. It would have the state lease and purchase zero-emissions vehicles, like electric cars, for all new vehicles, as soon as it is feasible and cost-effective. It would also have state agencies develop a plan to transition existing vehicles to lower or no-emission models, and have the state’s fleet manager develop charging sites for state electric vehicles. The bill goes to the Finance Committee next.

Local fuel rules

The House passed a bill that would prohibit municipalities from restricting the kind of fuel sources that can be used for energy. Rep. Kat McGhee, D-Hollis, said in the session that the bill could hinder efforts in towns with climate action plans to move towards cleaner energy and create uncertainty for the clean energy sector. Rep. Doug Thomas, R-Londonderry, said it was the job of the Site Evaluation Committee to decide matters related to fuel.

Solar recycling

The House of Representatives passed a bill that would have the Department of Environmental Services develop guidance for an end-of-life program for solar panels, with solar installers being responsible for financing the recycling. Rep. Fred Plett, R-Goffstown, who introduced the legislation, has said he’s worried about the problems the panels could pose at the end of their life. Others worry the legislation would put undue burdens on the nascent renewable energy industry in the state.

Net Metering
Senators approved a bill Wednesday that would allow the Public Utilities Commission to approve pilot programs for small electricity producers to sell their power to other purchasers besides an electric utility like Eversource or Unitil. Legislators say the bill is meant to build on New Hampshire’s “progress in expanding net metering.” It would offer an alternative business model for small energy producers.

In the House, a bill that would increase the cap on how much electricity individuals and businesses who participate in net metering can generate was tabled for further consideration. The cap would be raised to five megawatts, which is the current cap for municipalities.

Climate change
The house voted to table a bill that would require the Public Utilities Commission to consider climate change when setting rates.

Pollutants 

Cyanobacteria 

The New Hampshire House of Representatives passed a bill Tuesday that would direct the state’s Department of Environmental Services to make a plan to prevent the growth of harmful algae called cyanobacteria in New Hampshire waters.

Cyanobacteria, or blue-green algae, can multiply quickly in water that is warm, slow-moving, and rich in nutrients from fertilizer or sewage. The toxic algae can have harmful health effects for humans, causing rashes and respiratory and gastrointestinal issues. Dogs and other animals can suffer severe illness and death from cyanobacteria.

The first reports of cyanobacteria in New Hampshire happened in the 1960s, and state regulators began a new program to respond to public concerns about the increasing prevalence of cyanobacterial blooms in 2020.

New Hampshire DES asks Granite Staters to call with reports of cyanobacteria at 603-848-8094.

PFAS

A bill that would put a definition of PFAS – a group of man-made chemicals that may be harmful to human health – into state law passed in the House of Representatives Tuesday.

The bill would also allow the commissioner of the Department of Environmental Services to adopt rules about airborne PFAS pollutants, as long as there is at least one scientific study showing that the individual PFAS chemical to be regulated is known or expected to cause health effects in humans after being inhaled.

Research suggests high levels of exposure to certain PFAS chemicals may lead to increased cholesterol levels, risk for certain cancers, and other harmful health effects.

Many communities in New Hampshire have likely been exposed to PFAS chemicals through contamination at the Pease Tradeport in Portsmouth and through a manufacturing facility owned by the company Saint-Gobain in Merrimack.

Solid Waste 


Plastic bags 

A bill that would allow New Hampshire towns to regulate the use of single-use plastic and paper bags was tabled for further discussion after a House committee voted not to recommend it.

Compost

A bill that would authorize municipalities to collect compostable materials at transfer stations, if approved by the municipality, passed in the House.

Landfills

The House passed a bill that would establish a formula for how far away from a water body new landfills should be built. The distance from the water body would be far enough to prevent contaminated groundwater or parts of the landfill from reaching the water within 5 years

Editor's Note: This post has been updated to clarify how SB 321 relates to existing net metering legislation.

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