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The Lobby: Liquid RGGI?

January 19, 2012 J

By Bob Sanders – January 19, 2012

Should N.H. “bureaucrats” have to go to the legislature before expending funds to see whether they want to join a low carbon fuel standard compact?

Cory Lewandowski, state director of Americans for Prosperity and a strong supporter of the bill, said HB 1487 would prevent “state bureaucrats” at the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services “from entering a program that will cost the state money,”
Lewandowski said such programs could increase the price at the gas pumps and in grocery stores.

However, some of the state’s bureaucrats are pretty good, said Science Technology and Energy Committee Chair Rep. James Garrity of Atkinson, and if the 10 other northeastern states adopt a “liquid Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative” it might not be such a bad idea to have some of them do what they can do.

“It would be less ugly if we were at the table,” he said.

Lewandowski hastily added that he didn’t mean to use the term as a pejorative, but simply to differentiate a paid official from an elected one.

Two of those “bureaucrats” from DES were on hand to oppose the bill, which was submitted by committee vice chair Rep. Frank Holden, R-Lyndeborough, and made essentially the same point, which Garrity – a strong opponent of RGGI – echoed.
RGGI was a compact between 11 states that required power producers to pay for each ton of carbon (or its equivalent when it came to global warming) that they put into the air. The Low Carbon Fuel Standard program, which the states started officially discussing in 2008, would try to come up with a market-based program to encourage low carbon alternatives, such as natural gas, electricity and biofuels.

As a small state that contributes little power, New Hampshire has little sway over the electric power supply. So whatever RGGI does, New Hampshire has to live with, which is the reason some people who aren’t so thrilled with RGGI still want to participate, since it allows the state to benefit.

New Hampshire doesn’t have any refineries. Most of the gas is piped in by Irving from out of state. “New Hampshire’s ability to dictate something is almost nil,” said Mike Fitzgerald, the DES administrator who says he spends about 10 percent of his time on LCFS.

However, he said “the ability of ten states, or nine states without us” has much more clout. “We have even less pull than in the electric grid.”

DES Air Division Director Bob Scott (a nominee for the Public Utilities Commission, a nomination Garrity said he supports, by the way) emphasized there were economic advantages to participating in the program.

While New Hampshire has no oil refineries, there are several companies working to produce cellular biomass fuel – from wood not from corn. Besides coming from the granite state, this fuel won’t divert food into the tank of a car.

Scott added the money from the company came from a multi-state settlement from the American Electric Power Company, money that could only be used for new programs and couldn’t be grabbed by the General Fund or to fund day-to-day permitting and inspection operations.

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