Over the last week, proposed budget cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency and President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement have dominated the headlines. On Monday, June 5th, Peterborough welcomed Congresswoman Annie Kuster to Town Hall to lead a conversation about New Hampshire’s energy future.
After moving the unexpectedly large crowd of nearly a hundred people to a bigger room, Selectman Tyler Ward introduced the Congresswoman to an eager audience. “The greenest town in New Hampshire,” Peterborough is one of many committed to sustainability goals and practices, regardless of the government’s position. Focusing on the positives, Kuster pointed to the communities, businesses, and individuals who have taken this news as an opportunity to band together and raise their voices with a united call, “We Are Still In.”
Shifting her attention to proposed environmental budget cuts, Congresswoman Kuster shared some New Hampshire-specific numbers. Our state’s environmental programs receive 35% of their funding from the EPA, which is facing a roughly 30% cut in 2018. What does this mean for us? The Diesel Emission Reduction Act program, which provides federally funded grants for clean diesel projects will be cut by 80%. Lead Hazard Control grants will be eliminated completely. The EPA-state Performance Partnership Grant program, which provided New Hampshire with $6 million last year for programs to improve air quality, will be eliminated.
If you’re not one of the 100,000 New Hampshire residents suffering from asthma, you might not think about air quality on a daily basis. We are lucky to have fresh air that does not draw attention to itself. Having lived in Southern California, where the smog of Los Angeles dominates the skies and even the strongest lungs need prescription inhalers to get through tough summers, I can say first hand that this is invaluable.
The proposed budget cuts will be under review for the next several months, and individual voices matter. Congresswoman Kuster urged those present to reach out to their local representatives, call or write to Governor Sununu, engage in the democratic process.
Also taking the podium were Concord City Councilor Rob Werner, Mark Froling of Froling Energy, and Greg Blake, owner of South Pack Solar. Werner chairs the Energy and Environment Committee and serves as the New Hampshire State Director for the League of Conservation Voters, and has successfully advocated for the installation of solar panels on public buildings, among other things. Froling’s energy company designs, installs, and commissions commercial-sized biomass heating projects throughout New England, utilizing mainly wood pellets and dry wood chips. And Greg Blake—you guessed it—is a Solar Professional.
These three men focused their attention on the growing energy economy in New Hampshire, discussing not only the hundreds of jobs created by the renewable energy industry, but also the millions of dollars in savings that new energy technologies provide. Peterborough is proof. Froling’s company has made a major impact on the town, which heats 75% of its municipal buildings with wood chips, off-setting millions of gallons of fuel use. Eighty percent of oil money leaves not just the state, but the country, while 80% of biomass money stays right in New Hampshire. South Pack Solar has installed roughly 80 systems in the Monadnock region, creating jobs for local contractors and producing roughly 550,000 kilowatt hours of clean electricity a year. Over the course of these systems’ 25-year life spans, they will have produced 13.75 million kWhs, saving roughly $2.3 million and reducing CO2 emissions by 21 million pounds.
Congresswoman Kuster closed the event on a positive note, remarking that the environmental train has left the station and can not be stopped. We have made incredible strides in the name of sustainability and will continue to do so. It is a “win-win-win” situation, as she described it: people will breath better and live healthier lives, we will create jobs and economic opportunity right here in New Hampshire, and we’ll save our planet from the impact of climate change.
As a young professional in New Hampshire, building my business and my life here, it gives me a lot of hope to see the large turnout for this event. Today’s decisions will shape our future, and it is our responsibility to make sure that future is a good one. If these issues matter to you, now is the time to contact your leaders.