N.H. Carbon Price Bill Gets A Second Try In Legislative Committee

Sep 23, 2019

Legislative Office Building, Concord, N.H.
Credit Ali Oshinskie for NHPR

A legislative committee gets back to work Tuesday on a proposed carbon price and dividend program for New Hampshire.

The bill, HB735, was held over in the House Science, Technology and Energy committee earlier this year. It'll be on legislators' agenda again in 2020, and it's getting some work sessions in the meantime. 

The bill’s sponsor, Plainfield Democratic Representative Lee Oxenham, has invited a panel of experts to Tuesday's meeting to get lawmakers up to speed on climate change science and the mechanics of carbon pricing.

"Economists tell us this is the single most effective measure we can take to combat the climate crisis, to transition to clean energy,” Oxenham says.

The work session comes just days after legislators failed to override the governor's vetoes of several renewable energy bills. Oxenham says lawmakers are considerably more willing to take bipartisan action on climate change.

And she thinks they recognize the urgent need for larger-scale solutions than what New Hampshire has seen before.

“Those kind of more marginal, eating-around-the-edges-of-the-problem [proposals] are widely seen now as insufficient,” she says. “We have to make a determined effort to confront the situation that we have in front of us,” she says.

The current version of her proposal would put a roughly $20-per-ton price on carbon emissions for businesses that use or import fossil fuels. The price would increase annually. Proceeds from the fee would mostly be rebated to customers.

Oxenham says this disincentives the use of fuels that drive the harmful effects on climate change, redistributes their profits to the people most affected, and levels the playing field for alternative fuels.

Critics have said the plan isn’t worth the costs it would carry, especially for New Hampshire drivers. 

The state already participates in one of the few programs similar to carbon pricing in the country – the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative.

The HB375 work session is open to the public but will not include public comment. It’s Tuesday at 1 p.m. in Concord.