Climate, Drinking Water Back In Focus In Home Stretch Of N.H. Primary

Jan 3, 2020

Bernie Sanders supporters joined a rally last fall outside the Concord courthouse where New Hampshire defended its PFAS chemical regulations in a lawsuit from the chemical company 3M.
Credit Annie Ropeik / NHPR News

Candidates campaigning in the final stretch of the New Hampshire presidential primary are redoubling their focus on environmental issues that have long been priorities for local voters.

New Hampshire has its own sense of urgency about climate change – which will threaten coastal communities and the ski industry – and drinking water contamination, from industrial chemicals like PFAS that have affected towns statewide.

The presidential candidates have taken advantage of that throughout the campaign cycle. With less than six weeks to go before ballots are cast, they’re circling back to these issues in ads and town halls.

Former vice president Joe Biden is campaigning in the state this week with U.S. Sen. Tom Carper, a Delaware Democrat and ranking member on one Senate committee that’s spearheading PFAS action in Congress.

Carper led a roundtable about the industrial chemicals on Friday in Portsmouth, near Pease International Tradeport, a former Air Force base that’s become a proving ground for new PFAS cleanup methods and national health studies.

Biden and Carper's home state of Delaware is also headquarters to the DuPont and Chemours chemical companies, which helped make PFAS a common ingredient in all kinds of products. New Hampshire has filed two of the many lawsuits against these firms and Minnesota-based 3M over PFAS contamination.

Biden and many other candidates single out New Hampshire’s PFAS issues in their climate and environmental plans. They say it's an environmental justice issue, like the lead contamination crisis in Flint, Mich. – where disadvantaged people are more harmed by or unable to protect against pollution that did not benefit them.

And they say climate change will exacerbate existing water contamination and infrastructure risks – including through rising groundwater and heavier precipitation.

Most candidates’ climate and environmental plans focus on the need to hold polluters more accountable, strengthen federal environmental enforcement and provide more funding for clean infrastructure.

South Bend, Indiana mayor Pete Buttigieg this week released a new ad focused on climate change and economic development.
Credit Screenshot

Those are among the areas of focus of a New Hampshire-specific PFAS and climate framework released this week by South Bend, Ind. Mayor Pete Buttigieg, who is holding a town hall Friday night in Portsmouth.

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Buttigieg is highlighting his climate change plans in a new TV ad about the opportunities for workers and local economies in renewable energy and resilient infrastructure development, saying “the solution can’t come about without” rural residents and industrial workers.

In his New Hampshire environmental framework, Buttigieg emphasizes the economic promise of the budding offshore wind industry in the Gulf of Maine and promises to build on the Northeast's Regional Greenhouse Gas Intiative by enacting a carbon price and dividend for the public.

Several other candidates are also in New Hampshire this weekend. See the full calendar here.