NH House kills proposed moratorium on wind energy plants
By JOHN DiSTASO Senior Political Reporter
CONCORD -- The House Wednesday refused to place a moratorium on wind turbine and electric transmission line projects while studies are completed to develop a state energy strategy and review the energy plant siting process.
Although House Bill 580 as written would have applied to the Northern Pass project as well as wind plants, had the move to kill it been rejected, proponents would have amended the bill to have it apply only to wind projects.
But as it stands, there will be no moratorium on wind plants as the House adopted its Science, Technology and Energy Committee recommendation that the bill is inexpedient to legislate. The vote to kill the bill was 194-148.
Key to the bipartisan vote was the fact that both the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers were opposed to a moratorium.
Rep. Robert Backus, D-Manchester, said that while wind power “isn’t perfect” and its reliability is intermittent, “it does make a contribution” in reducing pollutions.
He said a moratorium would apply statewide even though some communities are in favor of wind projects.
The bill established a moratorium on the construction of wind turbine plants and electric transmission line projects until the state issues a comprehensive energy plan.
An advisory committee established last year is scheduled to issue such a plan by Sept. 1.
As a result of that tight deadline, Backus pointed out, the moratorium would not have “much practical impact.”
But he said a moratorium would “send a big sign that not only is New Hampshire anti-wind,but that it is also anti-business.
“It sends a dead wrong message about we’re up to in New Hampshire at this time,” said Backus.
He also said it’s a misnomer that windmills scar the landscape. He said he finds them pleasant to look at.
“I don’t think this is going to end the foliage season,” Backus said.
But Rep. Herbert Vadney, R-Meredith, said wind power is unreliable.
“All to often these turbines sit high on our ridge lines doing nothing except waiting for usable wind,” he said. He said in New Hampshire there is “usable wind” only 30 percent of the time.
“Let’s take roughly a year off, think about it, and determine where we want to go,” Vadney said.
Rep. Rebecca Brown, D-Sugar Hill, said the proposed moratorium was “not about being pro or con” regarding wind power. “It’s about process. It’s about getting things right.”
She said “it makes common sense and good policy sense.”
Rep. Harold Reilly, arguing in favor of a moratorium, said wind turbines are “spoiling our landscapes” and hurting the values of nearby properties.
Rep. Laurence Rappaport, R-Colebrook, backing a moratorium, said, “While we have a serious energy problem, commercial wind turbine development appears not to be the solution.”
He cited “the capriciousness of wind” and said that as a result, it is difficult to wind power integrate into the grid.
Backus, however, said, “A moratorium is a very blunt instrument to carry out a task.”