What Are Our Highest Priorities?

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A guest blog entry from Jay Smith, MD, MPH - Policy Committee C0-Chair

What are our highest priorities? What do we try to protect from the budget slashers?  How does the need for cleaner energy investment and higher energy efficiency rank when we are fighting to maintain services that directly serve the disabled, the mentally ill, the drug addicted, poorer seniors and anyone who has become needy enough to need some public assistance?

In addition to slashing away at services, the House approved a budget that sends no money (from what all ratepayers pay into the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative) to ongoing, successful efforts in low income housing weatherization and municipal energy efficiency programs.  They also have raided pretty much all the money from the Renewable Energy Fund (payments utilities must make if they can't find enough renewable energy on the open market).  This fund is used to subsidize the creation of more distributed energy generation for both electricity and heat.  Since those programs help reduce peak demand, they actually lower everyone's energy bills since utilities have less need to pay the markedly increased cost of fossil fuels that occurs when there are spikes in demand.  That isn't direct enough a benefit to average ratepayers that it is widely understood.  This allows those with big investments in fossil fuel infrastructure to deride these efforts as an unhelpful subsidy to the people who are rich enough to put up solar panels for hot water and electricity.

Each person who advocates on these issues will need to decide where to put most of their energy.  Personally, I already have my solar up on my roof but since we need massive amounts more to reduce fossil fuel pollution now and in the future, I will keep going to the legislature and testifying on the co-benefit to public health of burning less fossil fuels.  In case you haven't been aware of this, excellent studies show that burning less will lower cardiovascular disease even more than it benefits people with chronic lung diseases.

The NH Senate is likely to amend the House budget in many ways.  It isn't likely that they will restore every cut or prevent every raid on renewable energy and energy efficiency project funds.  But the more pressure on Senators and Representatives that comes from their own constituents, the more likely that the committees of conference in June will find they do need to accommodate many of the concerns that are raised on all of these issues.  If you don't know who to write, go to gencourt.state.nh.us and find the links for who your House member(s) and Senator are.  It's good to write both of them on most issues since whatever the Senate does with the budget will also have to go back and be passed by the House or changed again in committee of conference and then passed in both chambers before going to the governor.
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