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SB-99 Bill

Please vote ‘ought to pass’ on the SB-99 and HB-2 – Read HERE as well.

Dear Friends,

One of the most significant pieces of legislation I sponsored this session is Senate Bill 99, an act relative to the process for applying for a certificate for an energy facility.  The original intent of this bill was to update New Hampshire’s Site Evaluation Committee’s procedures for the review, approval, monitoring, and enforcement of compliance in the planning, siting, construction, and operation of energy facilities.  With the advent of changes in national, regional, and state regulation of energy transmission facilities over the last decade, it seemed only logical that a conscientious legislature would want to ensure we are keeping up with the times.

Last week several legislators met with the Chair of the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) to review the legislation.  As we began to discuss the bill, I saw that his copy of the legislation was heavily marked up with red ink–clearly it seemed we were going to disagree on the content of the legislation. 

Before we even started to review the bill, the SEC Chair advised that the “system was at the breaking point,” (referring to the Site Evaluation Committee).  He stressed the need to “not tinker around the edges” (referring to SB99) and that “a fresh and comprehensive look” was warranted.  He advised that evolution in technologies combined with budget cuts and time spent in litigation was causing a real significant strain on the various agencies who sit on the Committee.  This wasn’t the first time I had heard this–the Chair had provided similar remarks when he testified before the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee. 

As a result of this meeting, we significantly amended the bill by removing all the language and inserting language to do two things:

First, as now amended, SB99 says the site evaluation committee “shall not accept any applications or issue any certificates for new electric energy generating facilities or elective electric transmission facilities for a period of one year following the effective date of this act.  The purpose of this moratorium is to provide the state with an opportunity to conduct a full review of the capacity of the site evaluation committee as presently structured and funded to meet the charge as set forth in the purpose statement of RSA 162-H:1.”

Second, “the legislature shall direct a study of current site evaluation criteria and identify recommendations that address funding needs, future technology expertise requirements, and staff and make a report…on or before December 1, 2013.”   This study could consider questions like: Should we be providing a funding source for the SEC to be able to hire their own experts?  Should we be asking for an application fee that might be held in a fund to pay for litigation or experts?  What about economic impact analysis on land values and tourism?  Should SEC’s authority be expanded to consider how many energy projects should be sited in one or more areas or should oversight reside in some other place (e.g., State Energy Plan)?

To the last question, while former Governor Lynch’s goal of 25% renewable energy by the year 2025 may have been a laudable goal, it lacked an essential element–it provided no general oversight of how and where projects are sited in New Hampshire.  This is evident with the recent activity in the Newfound Lake area, where one wind farm is in place and three more are looking to be sited. 

SB99 as amended, is intended to hit the “pause” button on elective renewable energy projects until comprehensive modifications to the Site Evaluation Committee are made.  This will ensure the SEC has the necessary tools to do an effective review of energy projects without undue stress on human and financial resources.  It will also ensure that the state’s mission of maintaining a balance between the environment and the need for new energy facilities in New Hampshire is achieved.

Some will claim that this legislation will create a “chill” on development.  I suggest to you that the “chill” is already here–very real and very damaging–because there is no oversight, no comprehensive consideration of the negative impact on landscape, land values, and tourism.  There is a chill on land values, a chill on home sales, and a chill up and down the spines of New Hampshire residents and NH businesses as they wonder if anyone is looking out for them.

We are the stewards of New Hampshire’s mountains and landscapes–it is what makes New Hampshire unique–and why people visit and move to our state.  So let’s be intentional about what happens when power generating facilities are sited among our most precious assets, let’s not just let it happen.  Let’s make sure our Site Evaluation Committee has the resources to make good decisions in NH’s interests–a balance between the environment and the need, if any, for new energy facilities in New Hampshire.

SB99 will have a public hearing on Wednesday, March 20th at 10 a.m. in the State House, Room 103–I encourage you to attend and testify.

As always, I want to hear from you.  If you have a concern you’d like to share, an event you’d like me to attend, or a problem you think I might be able to help with–please call or email.

Your Senator from District 2