A House committee voted yesterday to retain seven bills dealing with energy projects, opting to delay legislation aimed at postponing or forcing changes to wind-turbine projects and the Northern Pass, a $1.2 billion plan to transmit hydropower from Quebec on power lines through New Hampshire.
Several members of the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee indicated during yesterday’s meeting that they want to take a comprehensive look this summer at issues raised by the various bills before making any recommendations to the full House.
“I believe that the content of the bill has merit, but it would do better with additional work,” said Rep. Charles Townsend, a Canaan Democrat, about one of the bills.
Some of the most heated debate came on legislation that would place an immediate moratorium on new wind turbine plants and electric transmission lines “until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan.”
Rep. Kenneth Grossman, a Barrington Republican, said that because he thinks “the issues that underlie this bill have so much merit, that we really need to take the additional time necessary to get it just right.”
But other members of the committee said they believe wind turbine projects should be halted immediately.
“Everything I’ve discovered – on my own and through this committee – is that wind projects are not economical, nor will they ever be economical, and I believe that we should stop them before the state is destroyed,” said Rep. Laurence Rappaport, a Colebrook Republican. “And if we retain the bill, I worry that it may be late by the time we come up with a commission to decide on an energy policy.”
And Rep. Aboul Khan, a Seabrook Republican, said a moratorium would provide the time officials need to study broader energy issues.
“We can think of a lot of things later on if we have a moratorium,” Khan said.
The committee voted, 14-5, to retain the moratorium bill.
As for the rest of the legislation, a bill that would let the Public Utilities Commission order transmission lines to be buried if they aren’t “necessary for the public good” was retained on a 19-0 vote.
A bill instructing the state’s Site Evaluation Committee to consider local recommendations when approving new energy facilities was retained on a 18-1 vote.
A bill that would require new “elective transmission lines” (private, for-profit lines that aren’t needed to maintain the reliability of the power grid) to be buried underground was retained on a 17-2 vote. An attempt to recommend passage of the bill died on a 14-5 vote.
A bill that would require new transmission lines to be located in state transportation rights of way “to the extent possible” was retained on a 17-2 vote.
A bill that would place a one-year moratorium on new electric transmission facilities was retained on a 15-4 vote.
And a bill that would require local town meeting or city council approval for projects visible from public property, such as roads, was retained on a 17-2 vote.
Under the House’s rules, bills retained in committee must go to the full House for action by sometime next year.