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My Turn: On energy project bills, lawmakers aren’t listening to us

Last modified: 12/11/2013 12:17:30 AM
I recently attended a work session of the New Hampshire House Science, Technology and Energy Subcommittee. There were four bills before the committee involving the protection of New Hampshire and its residents from the effects of power generating and transmission projects. The federal and state constitutions state that the government is to protect the citizens and their rights above all else. I assumed that belief would be at the forefront of committee members’ minds when addressing legislation. Not true.

The committee seemed solely concerned with sending the message to businesses that New Hampshire welcomes them – at the expense of its own state and residents.

House Bill 449 required “the Site Evaluation Committee to consider economic impact and findings and recommendations from local planning boards or governing bodies prior to issuing a certificate for an energy facility.” That seemed to be a very responsible bill.

HB 484 required “public approval prior to issuance of certain site evaluation certificates.”

HB 580 established “moratoriums on the construction of wind turbine plants and on electric transmission line projects until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan.”

HB 586 established “a one-year moratorium on applications for certificates for electric transmission facilities.”

All four bills were reasonable. They demonstrated concern for the state and the desire to get it right, yet the committee voted against recommending them to the full Legislature. The only supporting members present were Reps. Laurence Rappaport, Harold Reilly and Herbert Vadney.

One legislator said, memorably, that she was against all moratoriums, no matter what they were. One member thanked all the residents who attempted to enlighten them about the various issues, apologized and voted against their recommendations.

An audience member was so outraged she stood up, said “You never listen to us” and left. Others agreed.

One legislator said the proposals might overlap with the changes being considered for the Site Evaluation Committee (the committee that grants permits for energy generating and transmitting facilities) or with the other bills. The Site Evaluation Committee revisions will be implemented in the future; we need protections now. If the wording of two bills appear to overlap and it was unacceptable to these members, there were work sessions to correct this flaw. Why wasn’t it done? If the restrictions overlap, it is double protection.

I am astounded this committee did not listen to the nearly 2,000 people who attended the Department of Energy scoping hearings and spoke out for the need to protect New Hampshire and its residents.

While voicing my dismay at the Legislature’s lack of action, I was informed that was the way things worked. However, I recently read an article concerning the Connecticut Legislature and wind turbines. According to the Hartford Business Journal, “The Connecticut legislature on Tuesday again extended the moratorium against the construction of wind turbines, with no possibility of the ban being lifted before federal tax credits expire at the end of the year. The ban on the wind construction extends back to June 2011 when the legislature passed a law saying no new turbines could be built until the Connecticut Siting Council came up with regulations on the size, location and manner of each turbine. The Siting Council has proposed those regulations five times over the last two years, and each time the legislature’s Regulation Review Committee votes against them.”

That is legislation with substance. That legislature is taking care of its state. If the Connecticut legislature can take action, why can’t ours? Why is our Legislature not protecting us?

Admittedly, this was one committee. However, we witnessed worse at the hearing on Senate Bill 99. Currently, as a result of SB 99, the Site Evaluation Committee is being reviewed.

It is important for residents to become involved; we can’t leave it to the Legislature. There are listening sessions, work sessions (dates and places on the Office of Energy Planning website) or one could write to the energy planning office directly. It is critical that affected citizens have voting rights on rulings made by the SEC.

This is not just a Northern Pass issue or a wind turbine issue; there are projects for the future that may be in your back yard. It is New Hampshire’s future.

(Dorothy McPhaul lives in Sugar Hill.)


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