Bill that reforms RGGI becomes law

Last modified: 6/26/2012 12:00:00 AM
Gov. John Lynch let a bill become law over the weekend that reforms New Hampshire's involvement in a regional cap-and-trade program, a move that disappointed environmental activists who say it halves energy efficiency funding generated by the multi-state compact.

"Keeping New Hampshire in RGGI has been a priority for the governor, and this bill does that," Colin Manning, spokesman for the Democratic governor, said in a statement. "This change in how we use RGGI funding will not allow us to be as effective in our energy efficiency efforts as we have been the previous three years, but it does keep New Hampshire in RGGI, which is why the governor allowed this bill to become law without his signature."

Earlier this month, the bill passed the Republican-controlled Legislature with veto-proof majorities in the House and Senate. Many Republicans argue the RGGI program acts as a built-in tax passed down to consumers - about 45 cents on an average homeowner's monthly energy bill, according to a state report - and last year the House refused to accept legislation that did not completely remove New Hampshire from the program, which is intended to reduce power plants' carbon emissions 10 percent by 2018.

The Senate didn't have the votes for complete repeal over Lynch's veto. But this year, once the House agreed to reforms reducing the program's impact in New Hampshire instead of outright repeal, the Senate also would have enough votes to override a veto by Lynch.

The bill now says that New Hampshire will not withdraw from the program unless two other New England states - or a New England state with 10 percent of the energy load of the participating New England states - decide to leave first. Senate President Peter Bragdon, a Milford Republican who supported New Hampshire joining the program in 2008, had argued that unilaterally withdrawing New Hampshire from RGGI would have hurt New Hampshire ratepayers by continuing to pay elevated energy prices without reaping the program's benefits.

The bill now diverts RGGI revenue from the state Public Utilities Commission to utility-run energy efficiency programs and returns some money that would have been used for energy efficiency to ratepayers in the form of rebates.

Jessica O'Hare, an advocate with Environment New Hampshire, released a statement yesterday that said, to date, RGGI has provided $27 million in energy efficiency resources to businesses, mu-nicipalities and homeowners.

"RGGI has been a key part of New Hampshire's plan to reduce pollution and move toward clean energy," O'Hare said. "While we are encouraged that our cornerstone clean energy program will live to see another day, we are disappointed that some members of our Legislature voted to cut energy efficiency funding from RGGI in half."

(Matthew Spolar can be reached at 369-3309, or on Twitter at @mattspolar.)

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