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Concord hearing gives the public a chance to comment on EPA Clean Power Plan

Last modified: 7/29/2014 1:05:13 AM
Because of climate change, New Hampshire’s moose population is struggling – fighting a longer tick season and higher quantities of parasites – and over the past decade it has declined more than 40 percent, said Eric Orff, a New Hampshire wildlife biologist. That’s why Orff said he supports the Environmental Protection Agency’s recent proposal to cut carbon emissions.

“Tonight, I am speaking for the moose,” Orff said last night at the Concord Public Library during a hearing on the EPA’s Clean Carbon Plan, which was released last month.

Orff was just one of several state residents to speak in favor of the rule for reasons ranging from cleaner air and fewer asthma attacks to longer ice fishing seasons, healthier oceans and beaches and thriving fish populations.

Organizers said the event – put on by several groups including Environment New Hampshire, League of Conservation Voters, Moms Clean Air Force and the Union of Concerned Scientists – was a chance to inform citizens and raise support for the EPA plan, which aims to reduce carbon emissions nationwide by 30 percent from 2005 levels.

“This is the most significant action proposed nationally on carbon reduction,” said Rob Werner, New Hampshire state director of the League of Conservation Voters, before the event. “We want to create an opportunity for people to comment on it . . . and to generate that support and indicate that to the EPA.”

This week the EPA is hosting four official public hearings across the country, in Atlanta, Denver, Pittsburgh and Washington, D.C., to hear feedback on its Clean Power Plan. No official EPA meeting will be held in New Hampshire. But at last night’s hearing, an EPA official in attendance outlined the policy and told attendees how to file a comment with the agency.

The testimony was also recorded and a transcript will be submitted to the EPA as formal comment.

The agency is collecting comment on the draft rule until Oct. 16 and has already received more than 300,000 comments, said Cynthia Greene, the EPA representative at the hearing.

At the EPA’s official hearing in Washington, D.C., tomorrow, New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services Commissioner Thomas Burack will testify on behalf of the state. The state DES also plans to send in more detailed comments to the EPA in written form.

DES officials are still hopeful that New Hampshire’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, a cap-and-trade program, will allow the state to meet the proposed carbon emissions reductions outlined by the EPA. “We are still working through the numbers,” said Mike Fitzgerald of the state DES.

The EPA guidelines set state-specific carbon emission rate targets and outline a variety of ways for states to reach those goals, including energy efficiency programs, renewable energy standards, efficiency improvements to existing power plants, switching to natural gas or several other options.

The EPA will issue its final guidance in June 2015. The two-hour public hearing last night attracted more than 70 attendees.

Burr Tupper of Trout Unlimited urged the audience to support the carbon reduction plan to help protect against the effects of climate change. “The water temperatures are rising here in New Hampshire . . . trout and salmon are very sensitive to increases,” he said. “We have a rich heritage we need to protect.”

Betsy Kinsey, one of the event organizers, said recently she has begun noticing her childhood asthma acting up as summer days get hotter and more smoggy. “I never used to pay attention to poor air quality days,” she said. Now, she does.

No one at the hearing spoke out against the proposal, but a few offered concerns and others said more steps need to be taken.

Joel Huberman of Peterborough said the proposal puts too much emphasis on the use of natural gas – methane – that can be just as detrimental to the environment as coal.

Will Abbott of the The Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests praised the EPA plan but said there is more to be done. This “gets us part of the way; there’s a much longer road we have to ride,” he said. “We cannot sit back and say that’s enough.”

(Allie Morris can be reached at 369-3307 or at amorris@cmonitor.com.)


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