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Our Turn: State should be reducing, not increasing, toxic emissions

  • Fog sits in the valley of the White Mountains in this September 2014 file photo. AP



For the Monitor
Monday, April 18, 2016

Our children’s right to clean air and a healthy environment is under threat from a troubling bill moving through the New Hampshire Legislature.

By way of background, in 2005 the Legislature established a committee to study issues related to disposal of construction and demolition, or C&D, debris and imposed a moratorium on C&D incineration.

Based on the findings of this study committee, in 2007 legislation was introduced to permanently ban C&D incineration in New Hampshire.

After extensive debate and analysis, this legislation passed with strong bipartisan support and was signed into law by Gov. John Lynch. The ban on C&D incineration has protected our state, and especially our children, against toxic air emissions and groundwater contamination. This law is now at risk.

At the request of one private corporation, SB 381 was introduced to allow incineration of processed C&D wood at a facility in Concord. SB 381 is detrimental to human health, and in particular, to children’s health.

Due to physiological and developmental factors, children are disproportionately impacted by air and water pollution. The incineration of C&D wood allowed under SB 381 would increase the levels of lead, mercury, dioxin and other toxins in our environment.

Given what we know about the cumulative effects of toxins and their long-term impact on children’s health, the argument that there are “safe levels” of toxic exposure is completely insupportable.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, researchers found that declining levels of air pollution in California were linked to the reduced rates of asthma and other respiratory conditions in children. Approximately 28,000 New Hampshire children currently suffer from asthma. As a matter of state policy, we should be working to reduce toxic emissions, not increasing them.

While SB 381 references one facility, it opens the door to additional municipal incinerators and biomass plants burning C&D debris.

As the bill’s prime sponsor, Sen. Jeb Bradley, said in his testimony before the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee, “You have to start small.” Demand to supply processed C&D wood for incineration has the potential to increase the amount of C&D coming into New Hampshire from other states. We cannot let New Hampshire become a dumping ground for this type of hazardous waste.

For more than a decade, the statewide ban on C&D incineration has provided critical protections to New Hampshire families and our environment. SB 381 would undo an effective and broadly supported environmental policy in order to benefit a private corporation.

Please call your representatives and ask them to show New Hampshire citizens that our Legislature does not favor corporations over children’s health.

(Becky Whitley of Hopkinton is the New Hampshire Field Organizer for Moms Clean Air Force. Jay Phinizy of Acworth is the former chairman of the New Hampshire House Environment and Agricultural Committee.)