In voting that wasn’t a surprise to most people involved closely in the issue of encroaching wind power and transmission line projects, the NH House Science, Energy and Technology Committee voted to retain most of the bills related to those projects.
Garnering the most controversy and attention lately was House Bill 580 that would have stopped all power infrastructure construction in the state immediately upon passage. Representative Rappaport requested an “ought to pass” on the bill with vocal support from Representative Khan, Representative Bradley and Representative Vadney. While Representative Babar spoke of reservations about the wording of the bill, but the most vocal resistance to the moratorium idea came from Representative Nicholas Levasseur. Levasseur seemed to speak a straight industry line, saying that the moratorium will “send a bad message” to businesses that New Hampshire is “fickle” in their support of business decisions.
Representatives Bradley, Khan and Vadney spoke in favor of the bill. While some said that they felt that retaining the bill for study over the summer will give the legislators time to consider the issue of wind power more carefully, many reps disagreed. Rep. Vadney said that prime New Hampshire areas, such as the Newfound Lake region are currently threatened with pending turbine construction that without a moratorium, could in fact come online very soon. He said that he has his doubts that without the moratorium there would be any way to stop such activity, “I worry it will be too late before we come up with an energy policy if we retain, important sites are under threat now.”
Rep. Bradley also weighed in on the issue, speaking from his military background saying that one thing he learned was the value of deadlines and also the value of delay, that when in doubt oftentimes a delay is the best option to avoid mistakes.
Representative Nicholas Levasseur made the final weigh-in, responding that the RPS (Renewable Portfolio Standard) mandate may not be met, that business will lose interest in investing in the state and that the SEC process will assure that delicate regions will not suffer damage or destruction.
All bills relating to the electrical power infrastructure in the state were referred to retention which means that the bills will remain within the committee for study. There was discussion of setting up a sub-committee to take on the task of doing more research on the issues that the bills bring up and formulating more substantial bills or one bill to handle these contentious issues.
The following is a summary of the bills and some of the discussion that went before related to electrical infrastructure development, specifically wind power and transmission lines. The respective votes up or down are listed as well. Each bill is linked for further information:
HB 166 – “An act requiring the public utilities commission to make specific findings as to the public need for proposed transmission lines.” Motion to retain – passed unanimous
HB 449 – “…requires the site evaluation committee to consider economic impact and findings and recommendations from local planning boards or governing bodies prior to issuing a certificate for an energy facility.” Motion to retain – passed with Rep. Bradley voting no
HB 484 – “requiring public approval prior to issuance of certain site evaluation certificates…” Motion to retain – passed with Rep. Bradley and Rep. Calli-Pitts voting no
HB 568 – “requiring new elective transmission lines in New Hampshire to be buried.“ Rep. Rappaport moved for “ought to pass”, Reps Khan, Murotake and Bradley voted yes. Rep. Nicholas Levasseur, Rep. Vadney and Rep. Pasteur urged a no-pass saying the issue needed more study. Motion for passage defeated.
Rep. Townsend made motion to retain the bill – passed with no votes from Rep Khan and Bradley
HB 569 – “requires that all electric transmission lines in the state of New Hampshire be placed within state transportation rights-of-way to the extent possible.” Motion to retain – passed, Reps Bradley, Khan, Murotake and Reilly voted against.
HB 580 – “establishes moratoriums on the construction of wind turbine plants and on electric transmission line projects until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan.”
Motion to retain by Backus who said, “I believe that issues that underlie this bill merit consideration and retention.” Reilly, the author of the bill said he supports retention to avoid a possible loss on the whole floor. Vote was taken, motion to retain passed with the following voting against retention: Rep. Khan, Rep. Rappaport, Rep. Vadney, Rep. Bradley. Rep. Babar made the general statement, “citizen input is important” possibly in reference to wanting to hear more from his constituents on the issue. Rep. Richard Levasseur wanted to know if the reference to power lines in the moratorium included Northern Pass or if it just referred to power lines related to the wind turbines.
HB 586 – “establishes a one-year moratorium on new and pending applications for certificates for electric transmission facilities.” Motion to retain – Rep. Khan, Bradley, Borden and Vadney voted against, motion passed.
At this point the committee will be in session tomorrow to discuss options such as setting up a sub-committee to work the bills. This is the time to call your representative in your area, to discuss the importance of preserving the western highlands of New Hampshire and the White Mountain region. The link below will get you to your representative. Also important is to talk to members of the committee that are on the fence on this issue and let them know how that you cannot destroy the environment in order to save it.