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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ISO New England

  This fall, energy industry watchers were predicting that a cold-winter in New England would lead to high natural gas and electricity prices.

But despite record-breaking cold, energy prices have – thus far – remained in check this winter.

Last winter, the whole-sale price for electricity – that’s the price utilities and electricity supply companies pay – spiked to unprecedented heights.

Courtesy Kaitlyn Coogan / Keene Sentinel

Keene State College will reimburse the city of Keene for police over-time incurred during last fall’s Pumpkin Fest riots.

The bill for the police response to rioters during the Pumpkin fest was $90,000 dollars. The festival’s organizers, Let It Shine Inc, has already paid $59,000, but said that it should not be responsible for the whole bill. Keene State announced Let It Shine will make another payment and then the college will cover whatever remains.

Jim Graham / Flicker CC

The headline of this year’s graduation report from the National Student Clearinghouse is that 78 percent of students who start out in traditional 4-year public institutions in New Hampshire wind up graduating within six years.

That’s higher than any state in the country except for Iowa.

Private schools do nearly as well, with 75 percent graduating.

Credit Kinder Morgan / http://www.kindermorgan.com/content/docs/TGP_Northeast_Energy_Direct_Fact_Sheet.pdf

The Republican Majority Leader in the New Hampshire House of Representatives has asked federal regulators to reject a proposal to build a natural gas pipeline in Southern New Hampshire.

Jack Flanagan – who represents two towns on the proposed pipeline’s route – says he prefers a competing project in Massachusetts that would widen existing pipelines.

“It made sense to me that if you have an existing pipeline, why would you need a new one? Let’s just make the existing one a little bit larger to handle the demand,” Flanagan said in a phone interview.

While the Kinder Morgan natural gas pipeline proposed for the Southern tier of the state has gotten a lot of attention of late it’s not the only project proposed for the region. There’s another pipeline build-out on the table in Massachusetts, and people in New Hampshire – even those who don’t buy any natural gas – could wind up both paying for it, and benefiting from it.

Courtesy The University Of New Hampshire

University of New Hampshire President Mark Huddleston used his annual state of the university speech largely as a pitch for additional state funding.

In his address, Huddleston reiterated his pledge to again freeze tuition if the state boosts its funding, saying “in fact all it will take is for our lawmakers to return funding to 2009 levels. How heavy of a lift can that be?”

That would be an increase of almost $40 million dollars over two years.  In her budget, Governor Maggie Hassan proposed a more modest, $13 million dollar increase.

Jim Graham / Flicker CC

In-state students in the University of New Hampshire system may have to wait until June to know how much tuition will cost this coming school year. The University System’s Board of Trustees announced today they would not set rates for in-state students until they learn how much state funding they will receive during this budget cycle.

That could make it tricky for some families to decide what they can afford to attend.

Dan Arndt / Flicker CC

  The Audubon Society says it has observed 90 bald eagles in New Hampshire this winter. That’s the second year in a row that the count has documented a record number of the once-endangered birds in the Granite State..

When bird enthusiasts did the first winter count of Bald Eagles in New Hampshire in 1981, they saw fewer than ten. The population stayed low through the 1980s, but then began to rise.

Sam Evans-Brown for NHPR

A public outreach campaign for a major natural gas pipeline kicked off at an open house Wednesday in Winchester, New Hampshire. 

The proposed project, by Texas-based pipeline developer Kinder Morgan, was moved North to New Hampshire late last year, in part to ease concerns of critics along the original route in Northern Massachusetts. Despite the company’s efforts to minimize the line’s impact, resistance along the new route has been just as strong.

The scene outside a presentation of any major energy infrastructure project tends to feature two crowds: unions…

Kinder Morgan / http://www.kindermorgan.com/content/docs/TGP_Northeast_Energy_Direct_Fact_Sheet.pdf

Natural gas pipeline developer Kinder Morgan will hold the first in a series of public forums tonight on its proposed Northeast Energy Direct pipeline.

There's already a great deal of organized opposition to the project in New Hampshire, after the proposed route was shifted into the state late last year.

It encountered similar resistance in Massachusetts.

The pipeline would bring natural gas from the Marcellus Shale formation in Pennsylvania.

Developers say it would help alleviate winter price spikes in natural gas and electricity prices in New England.

Christopher Sessums via Flickr CC

The fraught topic of education funding is again before lawmakers as two bills seek to eliminate a cap aid to local schools that was imposed in 2011. The bills hope to head off a possible lawsuit from school districts that have missed out on millions of dollars because of that cap. 

The push for change has bipartisan support, even though it could result in less funding for many schools.

Julian- / Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire Electric Coop will soon be the first utility in the state to fulfill a state-mandated requirement on how many customers are allowed to sell their solar energy back onto the grid. This has led some potential solar customers concerned about whether they will recoup their investment to bring their complaints to the Coop’s Board of Directors.

To get what this brouhaha is all about, you first have to know what net-metering is.

Mac Armstrong / Flicker CC

State lawmakers are being asked to decide if hydro-power from Canada should be eligible for renewable energy subsidies.

The proposal was one of two presented by Republican David Murotake of Nashua that would make modifications to the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS).

He says lumping hydro in as renewable energy would drive down the cost of meeting the state’s renewable energy goals.

Woodstove 2006
Gord McKenna / Flickr Creative Commons

Starting Thursday residents of Cheshire County can turn in old, inefficient woodstoves for a voucher towards a new cleaner-burning stove.

The vouchers are worth $1,000 towards an EPA certified woodstove, $1,500 towards a pellet or gas stove, or $4,000 towards a new outdoor wood boiler. In all $425,000 worth of vouchers will be given out.

Woodstoves built before 1988 are a lot less efficient and put out a lot more pollution than modern stoves, and since they are essentially big chunks of iron they last a long time.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

In a meeting Wednesday, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission began a discussion on whether to open a bobcat trapping season. The proposal is far from final, but it’s already attracting the ire of the animal rights community.

Late last year biologists at the University of New Hampshire announced the results of a study, commissioned by Fish and Game. They estimated that from 1989 to today, the bobcat population in New Hampshire had rebounded from less than 200 cats to somewhere between 800 and 1,400.

Let It Shine, Inc.

The organizers of the Keene Pumpkin Fest have proposed a new public safety arrangement for next year’s event.

The organizers only want to be responsible for safety and security within the festival’s footprint.

In a Facebook post, Let It Shine, Inc. – the Pumpkin Festival’s non-profit organizer – said in 2015 it would like the city of Keene and Keene State College to take charge of controlling rowdy college students in neighborhoods near the event.

NH Lottery

  The New Hampshire Lottery is selling a bacon-scented scratch ticket.

The I Heart Bacon Scratch ticket features a $1,000 dollar grand prize and ink which releases the a bacon-like aroma when scratched.

To publicize the release of the ticket, the Lottery will be giving out free bacon in Keene, Durham, Hooksett and Manchester starting on Friday.

The tickets cost $1 a piece and winning tickets will reveal either a heart or a bacon symbol.

PSNH / Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission has agreed to put the brakes on a big decision regarding the state’s largest electric utility, Public Service of New Hampshire.

The first is how much it will be reimbursed for a scrubber on a power plant in Bow that saw more than hundred million dollars more than was initially estimated. And the second is whether they should be allowed to continue to own power-plants – period – or if instead independent, third-parties should be the only companies in the electricity generation market.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Opponents of a proposed natural gas pipeline expansion in Southern New Hampshire delivered a petition signed by 1,900 New Hampshire residents to lawmakers in Concord, Wednesday. The petition asks for one thing: more time before pipeline developer Kinder-Morgan can start its permitting process.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The hard-core hikers call it the grid, the big list.

Perhaps you know someone who has walked up all 48 of New Hampshire’s 4,000 foot peaks. It’s a lot less likely, but maybe you’ve even met someone who has hiked them in the winter. But for the most resolute hikers, even that’s not enough. They strive to hike every 4,000-footer in every month of the year...that’s 576 hikes.

It took more than a decade, but on Wednesday New Hampshire Senate Majority Leader Jeb Bradley got to check off the 576th box in his grid.

Robert Kuykendall / Flicker CC

People in New Hampshire can now send text messages to Nine-One-One if they are having an emergency.

The new service is meant to be used only when there is no other option, such as situations when calling would put an individual at risk.

“Call if you can, text when you can’t,” explains Michael Todd, spokesman for the NH Department of Safety.

Sara Plourde / NHPR; Data: NH Legislative Budget Assistant

It’s a budget year, and lawmakers will soon be hard at work trying to come up with a balanced two year spending plan. If past is precedent, one place where budget-writers on both sides of the aisle may look for money is from what are known as dedicated funds – pots of money raised by fees and earmarked for specific purposes. But this year the practice may face serious pushback.

uspto.gov

The parent company of Public Service of New Hampshire says it and its subsidiaries will collectively change their names to Eversource Energy.

Photo Courtesy of USSA

  A member of the US Alpine Ski Team from New Hampshire has been killed in an avalanche in Austria.

Ronnie Berlack of Franconia was one of two skiers who perished in the accident. Twenty-year-old Berlack was one of seven skiers named to the US ski team’s development squad last spring. He had finished in the top twenty in two events in last year’s US championships in Squaw Valley.

A.F. Litt / Flickr Creative Commons

The power of natural gas pipeline developers to take private property using eminent domain will come under the scrutiny of state lawmakers this legislative session.

Federal law dictates that any interstate gas pipeline which has won approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Committee (FERC) is granted the power to take land it needs for the project, so long as it pays fair market price.

Jim Belanger, a Republican from Hollis, has sponsored two bills at the request of a constituent in his town. "They weren't my idea," he says.

NRCgov / Flickr

If Vermont Yankee, the 620 megawatt nuclear power plant, and all of the spent nuclear fuel being stored on its site were to just up and vanish tomorrow, what would be left is a pretty good spot for a power plant.

Now that the plant is now offline and many are asking, what’s next? While the site of the power plant has a lot going for it, building something else where a nuclear reactor once stood is no easy task.

Federal Health officials say 23,210 New Hampshire customers signed up for health insurance using healthcare.gov during the first month of the second enrollment period.

Nearly seventy percent of enrollees qualified for federal subsidies, and more than 40 percent were new customers under the federal exchange.

Jonas Seaman / Flicker CC

In the upcoming legislative session state lawmakers will be asked to add a charge to pre-paid cellphone contracts to help pay for nine-one-one service.

Landlines, Voice Over IP and standard cell phone contracts already carry a 57 cent surcharge that pays for 9-1-1, but pre-paid cellphones, which are increasingly popular, don’t.

D-Kuru/Wikimedia Commons

The number of homes in New Hampshire using wood for heat has more than doubled over the last decade, from 3.8 percent in 2005 to 8.6 percent in 2013.

Much of that increase comes from wood pellets. Pellets have advantages over cord-wood – they are less work and burn more cleanly – and are cheaper than fuel oil or propane.

But the fuel’s rapid growth has meant the pellet industry has earned a few black-eyes from the occasional shortage, and manufacturers and retailers are struggling to figure out how to smooth out their supply chain.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Public Service of New Hampshire wants to seek a settlement on two major proceedings currently before utility regulators.

The first decision facing the Public Utilities Commission is how much ratepayers should have to spend to reimburse the cost of a $422 million scrubber on its coal-fired power plant in Bow. The second is whether it’s in customers’ best interest to allow PSNH to keep its power plants, or if the utility should sell them.

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