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Lawmakers, industry leaders give 2024 outlook on clean energy bills

Lawmakers, industry leaders give 2024 outlook on clean energy bills

House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm gave the crowd a comprehensive overview of legislation that addresses a number of environmental concerns in the upcoming 2024 session. (Granite Post/Colin Booth)

By Colin Booth

December 15, 2023

Leaders from the legislature and clean energy industry on Thursday gave a look ahead to 2024 priorities in a legislative preview hosted by the New Hampshire League of Conservation Voters.

Speakers addressed a crowd of over 50 local advocates and lawmakers on insights and analysis on the 2024 New Hampshire environmental policy landscape and the need for continued funding for energy efficiency investments, advocacy for more renewable energy sources, and the development of offshore wind.

House Democratic Leader Matt Wilhelm gave the crowd a comprehensive overview of legislation that addresses a number of environmental concerns in the upcoming 2024 session.

“In a state riddled with PFAS contamination and increasing risk of cancer and disease clean air, water, and soil must continue to be a top priority for legislators because the way we treat our environment has a very real impact on our quality of life, our state’s economy, and our health,” Rep. Wilhelm said.

PFAS are a group of synthetic chemicals that were designed to repel oil and water, for temperature resistance and friction reduction for a wide range of consumer and industrial products—including as coatings for paper products and cookware and in firefighting foams.

Scientists have dubbed PFAS as “forever chemicals” because they take thousands of years to break down and can accumulate in soil, water, plants, animals, and people over time.

PFAS can spread to humans, who can then suffer from a variety of health complications—including cancer, increased cholesterol, and thyroid disease.

Wilhelm pointed to bills Democrats plan to put forward in 2024 that address a broad range of environmental concerns, including cyano-bacteria mitigation and net metering. 

Cyanobacteria are photosynthetic bacteria that can be harmful due to their ability to form toxic algal blooms in water bodies, which can release toxins affecting human health, aquatic ecosystems, and water quality.

Net metering is a system where individuals generate their own energy (like solar power) and can send excess back to the grid, receiving credits on their electricity bill. It encourages renewable energy use and helps reduce electricity costs.

In New Hampshire, cyanobacteria are a concern due to toxic algal blooms in lakes, affecting water safety and recreation. Republican in New Hampshire have proposed slashing the net metering tariff from the current default service rate to the wholesale electric rate, which critics say would significantly harm the renewable energy industry in the state.

RELATED: What to expect from the NH State House’s 2024 session

Wilhelm also said they plan to hold plastics manufacturer St. Gobain accountable by extending the commission to investigate and analyze the environmental and public health impacts relating to releases of perfluorinated chemicals in the air, soil, and groundwater in Merrimack, as well as Bedford, Londonderry, and Litchfield.

Wilhelm also hit Republicans in the State House for what he characterized as an approach to climate issues that was “not serious”.

“They’re going after any and all strides New Hampshire can make to curb climate change and contamination — and instead using the legislature to inflame and embolden climate change culture wars,” he said.

Wilhelm pointed to specific pieces of Republican legislation as evidence of his position, including bills that would prohibit the state of New Hampshire from enforcing the regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency, another which accuses climate activists of being historically wrong in their climate predictions, and one which would prohibit electric vehicles from using state parking garages.

Nick Paul, Director of Legislative Affairs at Clean Energy, a non-partisan organization, spoke about legislative efforts to improve regulations among energy providers in the state to better address the overarching goals of both the industry and the state.

“The ultimate goal here is to align the monetary incentive of utilities with the best interest of New Hampshire’s ratepayers, our business community, and also more broadly, larger societal goals such as protecting our environment, and mitigating climate change.” Paul said.

Rob Werner, State Director at the League of Conservation Voters, which hosted the speakers, discussed future events planned by the group in early 2024.

“We have a youth climate action and clean energy forum coming up on January 18, here in Concord will be at the Bank of New Hampshire stage, and this program is purposefully designed and timed to be right before the New Hampshire primary,” Werner said. “We want to provide an opportunity for a lot of policy messaging around climate action and clean energy, particularly with young voices.”

Author

  • Colin Booth

    Based in Epsom, Colin Booth is Granite Post's political correspondent. A Granite State native and veteran political professional with a deep background in journalism, he's worked on campaigns and programs in battleground states across the country, ranging from New Hampshire, Texas, Pennsylvania and Washington D.C.

CATEGORIES: CLIMATE | POLITICS
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