Rep. Charlie Bass: State’s Republicans should stay true to party’s environmental roots

As a former member of the New Hampshire House and Senate, I have watched with dismay efforts undertaken by Republican legislators to roll back the laws that were passed to encourage energy diversity and native energy production in our state. I am equally saddened by efforts to withdraw from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative. These efforts are neither good policy nor consistent with traditional Republican values.

I would remind my fellow Republicans that it was under our leadership that the White Mountain National Forest was established. John H. Sununu was governor when the Land Conservation Investment Program was established. Governor Judd Gregg doubled the size of the LCIP program, and authored the Rivers Protection and Shoreline Protection acts. And at the federal level over the last 100 years, almost all major environmental initiatives, including the creation of the EPA, occurred under Republican presidents.

Indeed the very words “conservation” and “conservative” share the same derivation. Good environmental and energy policy should be a core conservative value.

As an entrepreneur, I helped build a stable, profitable New Hampshire business that has provided hundreds of good-paying jobs in the renewable energy industry.

I believe that New Hampshire cannot stay competitive with its neighbors if its economy is increasingly anchored to an energy structure primarily dependent on non-native resources like oil and propane. We can’t sit aside and let neighboring states reap the long-term benefits of the new clean-energy economy, which include increasing amounts of native resources, such as biomass, solar, water and wind.

Consider this: Granite Staters spend $6 billion each year on energy, 66 percent of which leaves the state to pay for imported fossil energy. By allowing this to continue, New Hampshire has had limited ability to control volatile energy costs that wreak havoc with our state budget as well as the budgets of our residents and employers.

Indeed, if the Legislature were to consider a series of initiatives that would have as their goal the reduction of the export of energy dollars from 66 percent to 50 percent by 2025, the state would in effect be injecting nearly a billion dollars in wealth into our economy annually, dollars that are now leaving the state.

New Hampshire should be continuing to take action to reduce overall energy use, set a plan to protect consumers against rising fuel costs, send clear and stable policy signals, and unleash the private market to finance the infrastructure. There are many ways to accomplish these goals, including; system-wide efficiency investments (customer-side and utility/supplier-side); replacing imported fossil fuel use with locally produced renewable energy, with a balance between distributed generation and utility-scale generation; and advancing renewable fuels and technologies for heating, cooling and transportation.

Economic engine

Strong leadership should set the rules of the game for our economy by minimizing policy risk, sending clear market signals and leveraging available public funds. Instead of well-intended discussions to return our RGGI or Renewable Energy Fund proceeds to ratepayers, most of whom will see mere pennies, we could be investing those dollars here to lower our costs now – and in the future. Investing in efficiency and native energy resources is a proven economic engine, and the savings multiply across all sectors.

Energy diversity, with a focus on local energy production, along with a pragmatic plan to support important regional environmental and energy priorities, is good for our state and its economy, creates good jobs and, perhaps surprising to some, is a core Republican value.

Concord Monitor
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(Charles F. Bass of Peterborough served in the New Hampshire House from 1982-1988 and the state Senate from 1988-1992, and represented New Hampshire’s 2nd Congressional District from 1995-2007 and 2011-2013. He is currently engaged in the government law and policy practice of Greenberg Traurig LLP.)

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