Portsmouth Press Herald: Bill could kill N.H.'s participation in RGGI
By Deborah Mcdermott - June 11, 2012
It looks as if the amended Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative bill that passed the House and Senate last week — a bill that both the left and the right decry — will likely make it into law, even if Gov. John Lynch decides to veto it.
But that doesn’t mean there won’t be a concerted effort by environmentalists to secure Lynch’s veto nonetheless, as a coalition of groups have banded together to ask their members to contact the governor’s office.
And it doesn’t mean that even those senators who approved of the amended law last week may not take a second look at their vote.
For those who were lost in the whirlwind that was the last few days of the Legislature this past week, let me bring you up to date on the RGGI effort this session.
Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, introduced the amendment subsequently approved by both Houses last week. Under the amended bill, New Hampshire could leave RGGI if two or more New England states withdraw; or, alternatively, if one state “which has at least 10 percent of the total energy load of participating New England states” withdraws.
Nobody in the environmental world or the ultra-conservative world likes this provision. It spells the death of RGGI, if not today then at some point in the future, said Catherine Corkery of the New Hampshire chapter of the Sierra Club. “It’s not a compromise,” she said. Americans for Prosperity makes no bones about its effort to dismantle RGGI — a 10-state cap-and-trade consortium — as soon as possible by repealing laws in all states, and sees the N.H. legislation as wishy-washy.
There are other provisions in the bill as well. Bradley’s amendment requires changes in the way that money raised from RGGI auctions of carbon allowances is allocated. For one, the first dollar of each carbon allowance sold at auction would go to energy efficiency measures and the remainder would go to ratepayers.
Also, that $1 would be directed toward consumer energy efficiency programs such as rebates for Energy Star appliances. Currently, the money from auctions is awarded in grants to municipalities and businesses.
Last Wednesday, the House voted 211-74 and the Senate voted 17-6 to approve Bradley’s amended version, which was adopted by a conference committee.
Interestingly, two days before the vote, the program administrator of RGGI released a three-year summary of the program’s effectiveness. It found that average carbon dioxide emissions in the 10-state region has fallen by 23 percent compared to emissions levels at the start of the program.
This information comes on the heels of a report by economic consulting firm Analysis Group in Boston. It found that RGGI added $1.6 billion in value to the economies of the participating states, creating 16,000 jobs. In New Hampshire, the study found, RGGI generated $17 million and created 458 jobs.
So, where do we go from here? Corkery of the Sierra Club said the governor is expected to get the bill by Tuesday or Wednesday of this week. He then has five days to deal with it, either by signing it into law, letting it become law without his signature, or vetoing it.
The Sierra Club is joining a number of other environmental groups in urging members to contact Lynch asking him to veto. “Even if the numbers don’t look good, this was one of his keystone pieces of legislation,” she said. “We want to send him a message that he can feel comfortable vetoing it, because he represents small business and municipalities that supported this.”
If he does, it goes back to the House and Senate for a vote to override or sustain the veto. In the House, an override is certain; in the Senate, it’s less clear, said Sen. Nancy Stiles, R-Hampton. Even though Stiles voted for Bradley’s amended bill, she said, “I don’t know if it’s the best compromise.”
She said if the governor does veto the bill, she will closely consider whether she should reconsider her vote and, if she does, whether fellow Republicans who helped her last year stave off a bill calling for outright repeal can be convinced to join her.
Meanwhile, don’t think you’ve necessarily seen the end of RGGI repeal efforts. Corey Lewandowski, N.H. director of Americans for Prosperity, said he “absolutely” expects the Legislature to revisit the issue next year, with legislation that would mandate immediate repeal.
“With a Republican as governor, I will work to rid the state of this useless cap-and-trade program,” he said.