New Hampshire Legislature Restricts Participation in Low-Carbon Fuel Programs

New Hampshire Legislature Restricts Participation in Low-Carbon Fuel Programs
August 1, 2012

The New Hampshire legislature has enacted legislation prohibiting state officials from creating or participating in a low-carbon fuel program without first getting approval from the legislature. The legislature passed House Bill 1847 on June 21 and Gov. John Lynch (D) allowed the bill to become law without his signature. 

Bad Experience with RGGI

New Hampshire is a member of the nine-state Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), which aims to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in northeastern states. RGGI has proven costly for participating states, raising electricity prices by inducing states to use more expensive alternative energy. Legislators in New Hampshire and other states are considering withdrawing from RGGI as a result. Last year, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie issued an executive order withdrawing the state’s membership.

“RGGI has proven to be unnecessary, ineffective, and nothing more than a tax on energy use,” said Todd Wynn, director of the energy, environment, and agricultural task force at the American Legislative Exchange Council.

The new law is seen as a compromise between legislators seeking to pull New Hampshire out of RGGI and advocates of carbon dioxide reductions.

Costly unilateral efforts by the federal government or individual states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions are doomed to failure, Wynn said.

“A few isolated states cannot have any significant impact on global greenhouse gas emissions, as developing countries will overwhelm any unilateral reductions,” he explained. 

Meaningful or Just Symbolic?

Colin Manning, a spokesman for Gov. Lynch, said the new law is largely symbolic.

“As a practical matter, this bill does not change our current practice, as our Department of Environmental Services seeks legislative approval before entering into programs like these. Therefore, the governor let the bill become law without his signature,” said Manning. 

The new law will allow the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services to participate in regional and national discussions of low carbon fuel programs. However, the department must report to a fiscal committee on a semiannual basis all expenses resulting from the department’s discussions. 

RGGI Results Debated

Lynch reported the state raised $16 million in tax revenue through its participation in RGGI through the end of 2010. Wynn, however, says the revenue comes at a significant price.

“A tax on energy use will no doubt raise revenue for the state, but it comes at the expense of higher electricity rates, a cost borne most severely by those with lower incomes. Nearly 50 percent of U.S. households earn less than $50,000 per year, and these households spend more on energy than on food, spend twice as much on energy as on health care, and spend more on energy than on anything else except housing,” Wynn explained.  

“Increases in energy prices will mean that Americans have less money in their pockets to purchase health care, healthy food, exercise, shelter, and many other essentials for a healthy and long life,” said Wynn. 

Alyssa Carducci (ad.carducci@gmail.com) writes from Tampa, Florida.