In a two-to-one vote the New Hampshire Senate approved a bill designed to maintain the state’s involvement in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI).
After the state’s House of Representatives approved legislation in March that would remove New Hampshire from the ten state cap-and-trade program, the Senate chose to amend New Hampshire’s participation, instead of repeal it.
Some key alterations in the Senate’s bill include replacing an emission reduction fun with an energy efficiency fund administered by utilities. Additionally, the state will increase energy efficiency rebates. Finally, the legislation includes a clause that will allow New Hampshire to withdraw from RGGI if another state with at least 10% of the total electricity production under the initiative exits the program.
RGGI is a cap-and-trade program that regulates carbon emissions from Maine to Maryland. Energy providers must purchase allowances to mitigate the carbon emitted from their operations. Thus far RGGI has raised $860 million through the auction of emissions credits. These funds are earmarked for investment in renewable energy and energy efficiency programs.
Critics of the program say it is an additional tax for ratepayers. Senate Republican Leader Jeb Bradley (R), who proposed the bill, says residents pay 35 cents per month for the program. His proposal would cut that cost to 17 cents per month. The bill is seen as a compromise, as Governor John Lynch (D), a firm supporter of RGGI, would likely have vetoed legislation calling for New Hampshire’s exit from the program.
Holding the opposite view of the initiative’s critics, Gov. Lynch says beyond the environmental benefits, RGGI is an important source of revenue for the state. He says exiting the program would eliminate $12 million in annual revenue while not lowering electric rates.”
The latest bill will now go to the House for a vote. Senator Bradley sees his bill as the best scenario, “You can’t always get what you want, but what we need today is good government. We have got to fund programs that work.”
Photo by Danilo Rizzuti.