By Danielle Sugarman
On Wednesday May 11, 2011 the New Hampshire State Senate voted to remain in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). The move followed months of speculation after the passage of House Bill 519 in February, in which the New Hampshire House of Representatives voted to withdraw the state from the emissions trading program. Governor John Lynch staunchly opposed New Hampshire’s removal, arguing that it would be a blow to the state’s efforts to become more energy efficient and energy independent and would cost the state $12 million in annual revenues without lowering electric utility rates. He vowed to veto the bill if it reached his desk.
Wednesday’s proposal is meant as a compromise measure as the Senate lacks the votes necessary to override a gubernatorial veto. It was put forth by Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley as an amendment to H.B. 519. The proposal would limit how money generated through RGGI is spent by dedicating it to well-established energy efficiency programs while still retaining the state’s participation in the program.
Proponents of the Senate agreement argue that it corrects inefficiencies in the original RGGI system by ending “politically motivated grants” while preserving funding for the utility company’s efficiency programs which they contend are responsible for roughly 85 percent of the energy savings for the state. Senator Bradley estimates that his proposal would drop the cost to ratepayers of the New Hampshire program from 35 cents a month to 17 cents. The proposal passed in the Senate by a margin of 16-8. While the amended legislation still requires additional votes from the House and Senate before it can advance to the Governor, the vote substantially weakens the clout of those who supported a complete repeal of the law.