House Committee Approves RGGI Repeal
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(CONCORD) The House Science Committee has approved a bill along party lines to pull New Hampshire out of the two-year old Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. The ten-state compact, known as RGGI, aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuel power plants by 10% by 2018. HB 519-FN, as amended by the Committee, would end New Hampshire’s participation in RGGI at the end of this year, and place any remaining funds into an energy efficiency program administered by the state’s electric utilities.
The House Committee on Science, Technology, and Energy heard eight hours of public testimony last week on HB 519, which as introduced would have repealed RGGI legislation immediately. Representatives Frank Holden (R-Lyndeborough) and Sam Cataldo (R-Framnington) offered an amendment at yesterday’s Executive Session delaying repeal until January 1, 2012. That would run until the end of the RGGI’s first three-year Control Period, which requires five fossil fuel power plants in New Hampshire to acquire allowances for every ton of carbon dioxide they emit from 2009 through 2011.
The amendment also strikes a repeal of the Energy Efficiency and Sustainable Energy Board, known as the EESE Board, which advises the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) on ways to reduce demand for electricity and promote renewable power sources.
Under RGGI, New Hampshire and nine other Northeastern states auction off the right to emit carbon dioxide. Under the agreement, states must spend at least 25% of the proceeds on programs to reduce carbon emissions, such as energy efficiency upgrades and solar power subsidies. The New Hampshire Legislature has given the PUC authority to hand out most RGGI revenues through the Greenhouse Gas Emissions Reduction Fund (GHGERF), but took $3.1 million from the fund last year to help balance the state’s budget.
The original bill would have transferred anything left in the GHGERF to the state’s General Fund. The Holden Amendment moves any money left at the end of this year’s carbon allowance auctions into the Core Program, which pays for consumers to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient.
Both the Holden Amendment and the bill as amended passed by 13-5 party line votes. Committee Republicans argued that the climate science cited to pass RGGI has been undermined, and that the program is a hidden tax on New Hampshire ratepayers. Democrats claimed that the Committee was rushing the bill without sufficient study, and pointed to a RGGI-funded study that shows New Hampshire receiving more in benefits than it pays in higher electric rates. They say ratepayers will be left paying the price whether New Hampshire backs out of RGGI or not, because most electric customers buy from the New England grid.
Since the bill needs to go to the Finance Committee, the Science Committee had to send the bill to the full House by the end of the week. The House is likely to take up HB 519-FN at next week’s session. House Speaker Bill O’Brien (R-Mont Vernon) yesterday sent a note to Committee Chair Jim Garrity (R-Atkinson) touting his support for the bill as amended.