Kuster joins Hanover panel to discuss clean energy agenda

  • Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., is interviewed at the Valley News in West Lebanon, N.H., on Jan. 24, 2018. (Valley News - Geoff Hansen) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. Geoff Hansen

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 1/27/2020 9:21:21 PM
Modified: 1/27/2020 10:13:56 PM

HANOVER — U.S. Rep. Annie Kuster, D-N.H., projected both urgency and optimism on Monday as she worked to build local support for a “clean energy agenda,” a set of proposals in Congress that she and Democratic colleagues have filed to help reduce carbon emissions.

Sitting with nine other panelists from local environmental groups and the town of Hanover, Kuster discussed wide-ranging legislation, including rejoining the Paris Climate Agreement and helping consumers finance renewable energy upgrades to their homes.

Other proposals include plans to update public school facilities to be less carbon dependent and a section devoted to “clean transportation,” which includes investments in developing fuel-efficient vehicles and support for green public transit systems.

Kuster is also backing an “energy innovation and carbon dividend” measure that includes a “fee” on fossil fuels which would be reinvested to American households and “would inject billions” of dollars into the economy, a handout from Kuster asserted.

Kuster, who is in her fourth term and sits on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said she is concerned about the impact of climate change on New Hampshire, noting that the Granite State has seen shorter winters and increased precipitation over the last 50 years.

“The goal (is) eliminating carbon pollution and creating jobs in our economy,” said Kuster, adding that, “I don’t see it as an ‘either or,’ I see it as a ‘both and.’ ”

Kuster, said she has used her time on the Energy and Commerce Committee to learn about how environmental policy can help individuals and businesses. She said the committee may hold hearings on the bills as early as February and that she hopes to see significant progress by summer. Several speakers acknowledged that the public may be hesitant to make drastic changes.

Matt Leahy, representing the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, reminded the crowd that climate change is not a monolith.

“When people start dwelling on climate change, it can be overwhelming...but when you break the issue down into small steps, people can make a difference,” said Leahy, who discussed his organization’s attempts to preserve the state’s forests.

Madeleine Mineau, executive director of Clean Energy NH, said that her organization is increasingly focused on transportation. Mineau thanked Kuster for her support for green transportation, saying that, “we don’t have the most robust state policies in place.”

Hanover officials seem to favor Kuster’s efforts. In 2017, the Sustainable Hanover Committee voted to endorse a pledge to transition the town to 100% clean energy by the year 2050. The resolution was part of a nationwide campaign by the Sierra Club.

April Salas is the sustainability director for the town of Hanover and the executive director of the Revers Center for Energy at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business. Her focus was on education and outreach. Salas believes that if we are to “aggressively solarize,” schools must introduce green education into their curricula. She mentioned that she had developed a lesson on energy efficient lighting to be distributed to middle schools.

“We’re trying to be comprehensive. There’s no silver bullet so we take a silver buckshot approach,” said Kuster, who studied environmental policy as an undergraduate at Dartmouth College.

There are currently two Republicans seeking to challenge Kuster in November.

Former state Rep. Lynne Blankenbeker, R-Concord, said through a spokesman, “I believe that humans have an impact on climate and that we need a comprehensive energy strategy that includes renewable and nuclear energy. Over Rep. Kuster’s 8 years in office she has failed to deliver any meaningful bi-partisan piece of legislation addressing energy. The last thing we need is a New Hampshire version of the Green New Deal.”

The campaign of former state Rep. Steve Negron did not respond to an email request for comment, but when he ran against Kuster two years ago, he said, “I would agree that climate change is happening but to the degree that the sky is falling, I don’t believe that.”

Rohan Chakravarty can be reached at rchakravarty@vnews.com or 603-727-3248.

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