Annie Ropeik

Reporter: Energy, Environment, Seacoast

Credit Samantha Searles / NHPR

Annie Ropeik joined NHPR’s reporting team in 2017, following stints with public radio stations and collaborations across the country. She has reported everywhere from fishing boats, island villages and cargo terminals in Alaska, to cornfields, factories and Superfund sites in the Midwest.

Her work has appeared on NPR, the BBC and CNN, and earned recognition from PRNDI and multiple state press clubs.

Originally from Silver Spring, MD, Annie caught the public media bug during internships at NPR in Washington and WBUR in Boston. She studied classics at Boston University and enjoys a good PDF, the rule of threes and meeting other people’s dogs.

Ways to Connect

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A bill that would strengthen rules to prevent childhood lead poisoning is one step closer to the governor’s desk.

The New Hampshire House passed the proposal by a wide margin on the first session day of the year Wednesday.

The bill, which was a holdover from last year, mandates lead testing for all New Hampshire kids aged 1 and 2, though parents can opt out.

It also lowers the blood-lead level at which the state will intervene, and creates a loan fund to help landlords deal with lead paint issues.

Kim Carpenter via Flickr CC

As the record cold continues, programs in New Hampshire that help people pay their heating bills are seeing more demand.

In Sullivan and Cheshire counties, Southwestern Community Services chief operating officer Beth Daniels says they have about as many enrollees so far this year as normal – around 3,500, with at least 5,000 expected by the end of winter.

But she says the cold is having an impact:

"All last week and already today has been phenomenally busy, just people calling us out of heat, out of fuel, or very [close] to being out,” she says.

via NEPGA

New England's electrical grid is working overtime to keep up with power demand during this record cold spell – but analysts say recent upgrades to the system's safety net are paying off.

Dan Dolan is president of the New England Power Generators Association. He says his members learned their lesson from 2014's Polar Vortex, when fuel prices spiked as power suppliers scrambled to meet demand.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Dozens of bundled-up hikers tromped onto the snowy trails of five New Hampshire State Parks Monday, marking the frigid start of 2018 with the parks’ eighth annual First Day Hikes.  

The forecasted high at Wellington State Park in Bristol was only 3 degrees. Park workers handed out beanies, face buffs and hot cider as hikers headed into the woods.

Even the wind chill warning didn’t stop Kathy Bishop and Martha Doelle – both teachers from Enfield – from strapping on snowshoes for a trek up into the park's higher elevations.

via greenenergytimes.org

Two proposals in the next legislative session would slap extra fees on hybrid and electric vehicles, but but environmental advocates say it's an unfair penalty.

New Hampshire sets annual vehicle registration fees based on weight -- $30 or $40 for a small car, into the hundreds for a big truck. Then there's the fuel tax to cover road maintenance. But electric cars don't use gas, so they don't pay the tax.

NH Solar Shares

Plymouth will soon be home to the state's first small solar panel arrays designed to help low-income families. The nonprofit behind the project hopes other towns will follow suit.  

Solar Shares has raised more $115,000 for the arrays and plans to break ground on the first one, near the Common Man Inn, in the spring.

Wikimedia commons

New IRS advice on prepaying property taxes for 2018 suggests New Hampshire residents may not be able to deduct those prepayments from this year's tax bill – but lots of homeowners in towns that allow prepayments are trying anyway.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

The nine states of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, including New Hampshire, have set a new, more ambitious goal for reducing carbon emissions by 2030.

They want to cut pollution by 30 percent -- or more, if that proves too easy.

The states in RGGI agreed this month on that new goal and other updates to the eight-year-old program. It lets polluters either reduce emissions, or buy credits to keep emitting. The proceeds from those credits go to rebates and efficiency projects.

 

Mount Washington Observatory

When weather observer Tom Padham answered the phone inside the Mount Washington Observatory at the summit around midday Thursday, it was 52 degrees -- inside.

Via USGS.gov

Lawmakers will consider at least a dozen bills about water contamination and other environmental hazards when they return to session in January.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The final witnesses gave testimony on the Northern Pass transmission line Thursday, after eight months of hearings and years of planning.

Day 70 of adjudicative hearings at the New Hampshire site evaluation committee centered on wetlands and property values.

Ray Lobdell, with the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, testified in the morning session on whether Northern Pass would affect more sensitive habitat than expected.

Annie Ropeik for NHPR

New Hampshire's Great Bay and the Piscataqua River estuary have been in bad shape for years – and the latest data doesn't show a lot of improvement.

But scientists say there's still hope for the watershed, and they're trying to home in on things people can control.

Flicker CC / https://flic.kr/p/drsrm8

Construction of the state’s largest solar array is set to wrap up by the end of the year.

The project, in Moultonborough, will help power the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative's grid.

The array is the first energy source the Electric Co-op will own and operate itself -- it buys the rest of its power for its 84,000 customers, in 115 towns across the state, on the open market.

The new solar project will only cover about 1 percent of that load, but spokesman Seth Wheeler says it’s a long-term investment.

Chris Jensen / NHPR

Eight months of hearings on the Northern Pass transmission line are set to wrap up this week.

It's the last step before state regulators start deliberating on the controversial project, which is years in the making.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

  The state won't make a final decision on the Northern Pass project until late February – but Eversource is already recruiting a workforce to build the transmission line if it's approved.

At least 100 residents and business owners from around New England braved snowy roads for a job fair in the White Mountains Wednesday.

Cog Railway

A dispute over a new trail atop Mount Washington will go before the Coos County planning board.

The Mount Washington Cog Railway cleared the three-mile trail for recreation and maintenance uses along its train tracks near the summit.

The trail runs mostly in a path left by state installation of a power line in 2010.

The nonprofit group Keep the Whites Wild says the trail violates county ordinance.

Flikr Creative Commons / Claudio Schwarz

Eversource is demanding a national environmental group take down a study that suggests they unfairly withheld natural gas capacity and inflated electric rates – but the Environmental Defense Fund is standing by its research.

Sam Evans-Brown /NHPR

Eversource is recruiting workers and suppliers for the Northern Pass power project, even as it awaits state approval.

The utility will hold job fairs for the major new transmission line in the North Country on Wednesday, and in Concord in January.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Gina McCarthy told an audience in Exeter Monday night not to be discouraged by rollbacks of policies she penned under President Obama.

Instead, she said, they should take their own action at the state and local levels.

McCarthy is now a fellow at Harvard University. She said it’s frustrating to see the Trump administration and the EPA under her successor, Scott Pruitt, try to dismantle many of her programs, including the Clean Power Plan.

Hiveminder.com

The Environmental Protection Agency has named 21 contaminated sites across the country, including one in Nashua, where it aims to make quick progress on cleanup or redevelopment.

Mohawk Tannery is an old leather processing facility on the Nashua River. It was open until the 1980s, and used to dump chromium and zinc into the water.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Eversource capped construction of a new high-voltage transmission line from Londonderry to Tewksbury, Mass., Wednesday.

The Merrimack Valley Reliability Project aims to make service more reliable and a little cheaper for customers in both states.

The 345-kilovolt line stretches 25 miles along state right-of-ways. Eversource says it will power up to 400,000 homes at peak demand.

Eversource paid less than a third of the project's cost of $129 million, with National Grid covering the rest in Massachusetts and parts of New Hampshire.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story reported that elevated PFCs were found in the Franklin Fire Department's drinking water. The chemicals were actually detected in a monitoring well at the department.

At least four New Hampshire fire departments have found an elevated level of toxic chemicals known as PFCs, either in their drinking water or in nearby monitoring wells.

Amy Quinton, NHPR

More intense storms are making it harder for freshwater streams and rivers to act as filters for nitrogen pollution, according to a new UNH study.

The research suggests larger storms could cause more harmful runoff to reach coasts and lakes.

Nitrogen comes from lots of things people put in the land – like fertilizer and sewage. Rain and snow wash that pollution into streams and rivers.

But UNH researcher Wil Wollheim says those waterways can usually clean out the nitrogen before it reaches the coast.

Liberty Utilities wants to build a new natural gas pipeline between the Seacoast and Manchester, in an effort to expand the state's strained capacity for the fuel at the lowest cost to ratepayers.

Annie Ropeik/NHPR News

The state has three weeks of hearings left before moving into deliberations on the Northern Pass project – so opponents are gathering last-minute comments from residents on the power line's proposed route.

Keith Shields/NHPR

A Connecticut construction company faces $330,000 in fines after federal officials found its workers were exposed to mercury at a job site in Portsmouth earlier this year.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, says Manafort Brothers, Inc., failed to protect its workers from repeated exposures to high levels of mercury.

File photo

The state Public Utilities Commission has approved the $258 million sale of Eversource's New Hampshire power plants to two buyers.

It caps the years-long process of deregulating the state's energy industry, with this sale spanning the past two years.

New Hampshire is the last New England state where the same company – Eversource – owns the power plants, and the delivery system for the electricity they generate. Selling off the plants is called deregulation.

The state has asked New Hampshire fire departments that use private wells to test their drinking water for a toxic chemical.

Any positive results could lead to more investigation of residential wells nearby. (Scroll down to read the letter sent to fire departments in October.)

The Department of Environmental Services wants fire stations to test for perflourinated chemicals, or PFCs. They're found in lots of man-made stuff, they don't break down, and some studies have linked them to cancer and other health problems.

Annie Ropeik/NHPR News

Ossipee residents narrowly voted down spending $1.2 million to create a town beach, which would have been the first on Ossipee Lake in decades.

The contentious plan drew hundreds of people to a packed special town meeting Tuesday night.

Two hundred and ninety-seven residents voted for the beach, while 171 voted no – putting the plan just shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

Via The Cog Railway's Facebook page

A New Hampshire nonprofit says a new trail atop Mt. Washington was built illegally. The Cog Railway company recently cleared the three-mile path to the summit on its own land – and it disagrees.

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