Sam Evans-Brown

Environment and Education Reporter

 

Sam Evans-Brown has been working for  New Hampshire Public Radio since 2010, when he began as a freelancer. His work has won several local broadcast journalism awards, and he was a 2013 Steinbrenner Institute Environmental Media Fellow at Carnegie Mellon University. He studied Politics and Spanish at Bates College, and before reporting was variously employed as a Spanish teacher, farmer, bicycle mechanic, ski coach, research assistant, a wilderness trip leader and a technical supporter.

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NH DES

When Ted Diers, the watershed bureau administrator with DES, first started working at New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services a few years ago, he spotted an employee walking down the hall with a bucket.

Diers asked him where the bucket was headed and learned that since 1972 employees had been sampling rainwater on the roof of the building for its acidity and for various pollutants.

“And so I said, ‘Wow, that’s a great data set. What do we do with it?’” Diers recalls, “and he said, ‘Well, really nothing.’”

Courtesy: NH Agricultural Research Station

Walking in among the rows of more than a 100-varieties of cold-hardy kiwis planted at his UNH observational vineyard, Professor Iago Hale says forget those fuzzy brown kiwis, if you really want flavor, try his plants. 

“Right off the bat you’re dealing with a much, much sweeter fruit, but it’s not cloyingly sweet,” he says squinting against the morning sun, “It also has a lot of acid to it, so it has this really complex flavor to it, a lot of tropical kind of flavors: pineapple, mango, papaya – I mean they’re amazing!”

https://flic.kr/p/5CMq7a / Flicker CC

This story starts with with John Ramaska, of Manchester, and any customer like him. A while back, he wanted to switch to heating his house with natural gas.

“My neighbor in back of me right over here has gas, so I’m in between gas and gas. No big deal, this is great!” he says, describing his thinking at the time.

But then he found out the pipe that connected him to the gas main wasn’t up to code, and he’d have to get a new hot water heater, and in the end Ramaska didn’t make the change.

https://flic.kr/p/5Dr6fa / Flicker CC

State officials announced Monday that the state’s renewable energy fund, which provides rebates for people putting solar panels on their roofs or installing high efficiency wood-fired boilers, earned $4.38 million dollars last year.

That might sound like a lot, but it’s a drop of 75% from the previous year.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  Tom Steyer, the billionaire who poured more than $70 million into an effort to make climate change a top issue in the 2014 elections, was back in the Granite State Friday.

He toured Conner Bottling Works in Newfields, a soda-maker which covered its roof in solar panels.

“Why come all the way from California to New Hampshire?” he said in response to a reporter’s question during a round-table, which elicited chuckles from the crowd.

“Other than the beautiful day, the great business and the charming people, is that your question?” he joked.

Via Outdoorhub.com

The invasive beetle that has devastated ash trees in the Midwest is now confirmed in a fourth county here in New Hampshire. State officials have found Emerald Ash Borer in a box trap in the town of Gilmanton.

On Monday, a quarantine which prohibits taking wood across county lines will extend to Belknap county.

New Hampshire’s State Entomologist, Piera Siegert, says the pest has also been found in Hillsborough, Rockingham and Merrimack County. The infestation appears to be clustered in the center of the state.

meltedplastic / Flicker CC

The City of Manchester is halfway into replacing all of its streetlights with energy efficient LEDs.

The total price tag for replacing 9,000 street lights? $3.7 million dollars.  

But the savings, according to the city’s Deputy Public Works Director Tim Clougherty are “in the neighborhood of $550,000 dollars a year.”

The city says the upgrade will pay for itself in less than six years.

Courtesy: New Hampshire Fish and Game

  A loon has been found dead in Alton Bay with a piece of lead fishing tackle in its gizzard.

According to the Loon Preservation Committee, every year between seven and eleven loons are killed by lead fishing tackle. The one found in Alton Bay is this year’s first.

“The majority of the lead deaths we get are in July and August, and that corresponds exactly with peak lake use and peak fishing,” says Harry Vogel, Senior Biologist with the Committee.

Saratoga Associates

The state’s energy siting board has put off deciding whether to take jurisdiction over the proposal to build a small wind farm in the town of Antrim.

But for Portsmouth-based developer Eolian Renewable Energy, what’s a few more weeks when you’ve been trying to build a wind farm for seven years?

The latest question before the state hinges on whether proposed changes designed to lessen the visual impact of the project are different enough to constitute a new project.

It might seem like Jack Kenworthy is a glutton for punishment.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

A wind farm that was rejected by a state panel in 2013 is asking for a re-hearing.

Antrim Wind is asking state regulators this week to take ultimate authority over whether the wind-farm gets built. Portsmouth-based Eolian Renewable Energy it has eliminated one turbine and shrunk a second from its initial 10-turbine proposal, and the new project is different enough that it should get a second hearing before the state.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Nearly one third of the farms in New Hampshire are owned and operated by women, which is well above the national average. Farmers and agricultural officials believe that could help agriculture continue to grow in the Granite State.

These were some of the insights from a roundtable discussion at Dimond Hill farm in Concord, attended by Congresswoman Ann Kuster, and US Deputy Secretary for Agriculture, Krysta Harden.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

New Hampshire’s largest utility says a US Supreme Court ruling which on mercury emissions won’t affect its plans to install pollution controls at its coal-burning plant in Portsmouth.

The ruling – which finds the EPA should have incorporated estimates of the cost of the proposed regulation earlier on in the process – comes after Eversource has already begun work on upgrades to the sixty six-year-old plant.

Sara Plourde / NHPR; Data: Legislative Budget Assistant

A show-down over budget politics is brewing between New Hampshire’s Democratic Governor and Republican controlled Legislature.

Renewable energy advocates hope they can use it as an opportunity to convince budget writers to reconsider funneling money away from renewable incentives to fund the Department of Homeland Security.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Eversource Energy says it has come to an agreement with an electrical union that will funnel more work to New Hampshire residents.

The company has proposed three major transmission projects. The most well-known is the controversial power line that would connect New England to Canadian hydro-power called the Northern Pass, but also two upgrades in the southern part of the state needed to beef up weak spots in the grid – the Seacoast and the Merrimack Valley reliability projects.

Courtesy: Mel Pepin

Meet Declan Alexander Rourke, an AT/RT cancer survivor.

Soon he’s visiting Disneyland, and is super pumped about a Star Wars attraction, where he will get to fight Darth Maul.

“I am not sure if Maul is going to have a single bladed light-saber, or a double, because in the Clone Wars, he has a single… Episode One… double,” he effuses, slapping his hand on the table for emphasis.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

With lawmakers now in the final phase of crafting the state budget for the next two years, schools around the state are watching the process uneasily. The Legislature is looking, once again, to tweak the formula it uses to send money to local districts. 

biblioholic / Flicker CC

The two biggest school districts in the state have not met the federal benchmarks set for participation in a controversial state-wide standardized test, known as the Smarter Balanced.

Sam Scherf / Flicker CC

  Just slightly more than a month after the nation’s biggest solar company moved into the New Hampshire market, another major renewable energy firm has followed suit.

Sunrun solar, a pioneer in the booming practice of leasing solar panels to home-owners announced it will offer its products to Southeastern New Hampshire starting this week.

However, it’s not the abundant sunshine that’s attracting these companies, it's likely has more to do with high electricity prices.

Opponents and supporters of the proposed expansion to the Mount Sunapee Ski Resort are pushing to have their say one last time before a state deadline for comments.

The Friends of Mount Sunapee and the Sierra Club teamed up for a campaign that gathered over 1,900 comments. These opponents say they will fight the expansion – which would add a new lodge, lift, and trails on the western side of the mountain – every step of the way.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

If you visit Appledore Island during spring bird migration, consider wearing a helmet.

“Yeah I mean the herring gulls will hit you and it’s jarring, but the black-backs hitting you can do some serious damage,” says Sarah Courchesne, a sea-gull researcher with Tufts University, as she and her students suit up to go out and catch seagulls.

The gulls that nest around the research station get very protective this time of year

Kinder Morgan / FERC

In a filing with federal regulators, natural gas pipeline developer Kinder Morgan says it has chosen a location for a major natural gas compressor station in New Hampshire.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Last week, a UPS truck rolled up to an office of the Division of Forests and Lands. Its cargo? A cooler full of Asian wasps from a lab in Michigan.

Molly Heuss, who works on the state’s emerald ash borer program, cuts off the packing tape that holds the cooler shut to check out its contents.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

 

The US Coast guard says so far it seems that a small oil spill near the mouth of the Piscataqua River has been totally cleaned up before it could reach the shore.

The spill came from oily water held in a tank aboard the research catamaran Ferdinand R. Hassler, after it had been used on the ship.

Flicker CC

The state has won a federal grant to fund a major land conservation deal near Cardigan Mountain.  

The Forest Legacy Grant program gave the state $3.8 million dollars to put a conservation easement on the forest near Cardigan Mountain. 5,100 acres in the towns north of Newfound Lake will still be harvested for timber, but can now never be developed.  The landowner – Green Acre Woodlands, which also owns anabutting property where Iberdrola developed the Groton Wind farm – will continue to hold the property, while the state will hold the conservation easement.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Kindergarten is a year of transition. Kids are learning how to listen, follow directions, sit still... but while they are making that transition, there’s a lot of mandatory wiggling.

In Mr. Woody’s morning kindergarten class, in Plainfield, a class of students blows off some steam while doing a “wiggle dance.” A stereo plays a children’s song that Mr. Woody sings along to, and the kids giggle and flail.

Jeannette S. / Flicker CC

New Hampshire Fish and Game commissioners have voted unanimously to ban using chocolate as bear bait.

The ban will be phased in beginning September 1st of this year. Hunters will be allowed to use chocolate donuts and pastries this season, in order to use up any supplies of bait they’ve already purchased, but all chocolate will be prohibited in the 2016 season.

Via USDA website

Lawmakers in the New Hampshire Senate say they will restore funding for a program to incentivize renewable energy. The future of that program has been in question ever since House budget-writers proposed emptying the fund to plug holes in the state’s overall budget.

Renewable energy installers have been lobbying hard for restoration of the fund, which last year gave out more than $6 million dollars in grants and rebates to hundreds of projects.

The program is funded by payments made by utilities which have failed to reach annual renewable energy goals.

Thomas Favre-Bulle / Flickr Creative Commons

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

When you’re a transmission arborist, you spend a lot of time in a helicopter, cruising over power-lines.

“So here’s an example of non-compliant vegetation,” says Kurt Nelson who does this job for Eversource. He indicates some young pines growing underneath the tall transmission towers. They aren’t high enough to endanger the lines… yet.

“That’ll be a target for us,” says Nelson.

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