Bill For A N.H. State Climate Action Plan Gets First Hearing | New Hampshire Public Radio

Bill For A N.H. State Climate Action Plan Gets First Hearing

Jan 21, 2020

New Hampshire State House.
Credit NHPR

The House Science, Technology and Energy Committee held its first hearing on a bill that would propose a New Hampshire state climate action plan. Several committee members had questions about cost, oversight and enforcement. 

Under the proposed bill, the state would create a plan to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions to at least 80 percent below the 1990 levels by 2050. 

Craig Thompson, a state representative from Harrisville, proposed the bill.  He says he got the idea when a constituent asked him what the House of Representatives’ overarching approach was to the climate crisis. 

“When I thought about it, I had to tell him, we don’t seem to have one, nor do we seem to have one as a state,” Thompson said. 

This would be the first time for a law focused on New Hampshire reducing its emissions. 

But how the state would be accountable for reaching these goals still needs to be addressed, says Michael Fitzgerald, the assistant director of the Air Resources Division at the state Department of Environmental Services. 

“We don’t believe that  we have sufficient direction in here to know where to direct any type of enforcement effort,” he said.  

In 2009, a climate change policy taskforce convened by then Gov. John Lynch, put forward recommended actions the state should take to address climate change, including reducing greenhouse gas emissions at least 80 percent below the 1990 levels by 2050. 

An ad-hoc committee formed to continue the work proposed by the taskforce. But Chris Skoguland a climate and energy program manager at DES, said it “fizzled out.”  

“There has not been a comprehensive climate change planning piece of legislation,” Fitzgerald said. 

Thompson says while there are bills that address important issues, like improving vehicle mileage standards,  the state needs to take a holistic approach to tackling climate change.  

“All of those individual issues are piecemeal approach to climate change if we don’t have a specific goal in mind and a specific goal codified into law,” he said.  

Several committee members had questions about what the costs would be of this legislation. 

“I’d like to hear you talk about what is the cost of greenhouse gas and climate change versus the cost of remedying this?” asked Rep. Ken Wells, a Democrat from Merrimack.   

“In general, a number of studies align that there are huge impacts from doing nothing in regards to climate,” Fitzgerald said. 

The state has seen a drop in emissions from the energy sector in the past 15 years, but emissions in other sectors like transportation and residential areas remain steady

The bill would also require the state’s Public Utilities Commission to take into account climate change, its impacts and its financial costs into its decision-making process. 

The committee plans on having a working session for this bill in the next few weeks.