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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Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  At 4:30 in the morning, a worker unloading number six oil from a barge at the Sprague River Terminal in Newington, smells fumes. He finds a leaking pipeline, and radios to stop the pumping, but already there are an estimated 5,000 barrels of oil in the river.

It sounds scary, but as the crackling voices over the radio in the boat supervising the cleanup make clear, there’s nothing to fear. Before every transmission, they declare, “This is a drill, this is a drill.”

Christian Patti / http://christianpatti.com/

The question of who will pay the cost of cleaning up emissions from the state’s largest coal-fired power plant is before the Public Utilities Commission this week.

“The issue that we’re facing here today is that as a result of increases of costs of commodities as well as increases in the engineering complexity of what we had to build, the price was higher than a lot of people expected it to be,” said PSNH’s lead attorney Bob Bersak.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  Environmental issues have never ranked high on the list of issues that drive most voters to the polls. But this year, Tom Steyer – a former hedge fund manager and billionaire – has pledged to spend $50 million dollars in a few key races around the country, hoping to make climate change a central issue. This spending begs a question: can talking about global warming actually win elections?

Steyer’s operation in New Hampshire, NextGen Climate, has 24 full-time staff, and 5 field offices with two more slated to open in the coming weeks.

Dennis Amith via Flickr CC

A new study out of Dartmouth College estimates that arsenic in well water could be causing as many as 830 cases of cancer in the granite state.

Related: Worried About Your Water? How To Get Your Well Tested

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Republican Frank Guinta, who is running to regain the congressional seat he held for one term, says he and his opponent, Democratic incumbent Carol Shea-Porter, would have agreed on at least one vote. Guinta would have voted against the Obama administration’s current military campaign in Iraq and Syria.

In a conversation with NHPR’s Laura Knoy at the UNH School of Law’s Rudman Center, former Congressman Guinta said he would want more details on the president’s plan to arm moderate Syrian rebels.

Northeast Regional Planning Body / http://www.northeastoceandata.org/maps/maritime-commerce/#

New Hampshire citizens got a chance Monday night to weigh in on a first-of-its-kind ocean plan at a hearing in Portsmouth. Officials from across the region are working on recommendations on how to use federal waters.

This is a big committee. It includes representatives from the six New England states, ten Native American tribes, ten federal agencies, and the region’s fisheries regulator.

The goal is to balance the various uses of the ocean beyond three miles off-shore.

Joachim s Muller / Flickr CC

Parts of the cod fishery could soon be closed or see tighter catch limits. The cod fishery has been in free-fall for years, but this week, the New England Fishery Management Council asked the federal government to take “emergency action” to stop the decline in cod stocks. That could mean closing sensitive areas to fishing.

Cod catch limits were cut by 77 percent in 2012, but Pat Fiorelli, Public Affairs officer with the council, says it hasn’t helped.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

In Peterborough, right next to the waste-water treatment plant, there’s what looks like a giant mud pit, with puddles covered with thick green algae.

“What was here was a waste water-treatment lagoon with water depths of around six to seven feet,” explains Rodney Bartlett, the town’s director of public works, as he watches as load after load of rock and gravel is dumped into the mud. “What we have in process is the water’s been removed, sludge has been removed and the filling process has started, and on top of that will be a one megawatt solar array.”

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Lawmakers, energy developers, and policy wonks descended on downtown Concord today for the annual New Hampshire Energy summit. The event couldn’t come at a more appropriate time, last week New Hampshire electric utilities – with the notable exception of the state’s largest, Public Service of New Hampshire – announced winter rate hikes ranging from twelve to fifty percent.

David DeHetre / Flickr CC

  Another utility has announced that electric rates will rise this winter. For customers of the New Hampshire Electric Coop, the state’s second largest utility, winter electricity bills will rise 12.2%

The rate increase takes place on October 1st, and will cost ratepayers using 500 kilowatt hours $12.47 cents more per month. The increase is due to increasing rates on the energy half of the electric bill, which are increasing from 8.97 cents per kilowatt hour, to 11.6 cents.

New Hampshire’s Consumer Advocate has asked regulators to soften the blow of a big rate hike expected for as many as 42,000 New Hampshire electricity customers. The average customer of Liberty Utilities, which provides electricity to towns on the Massachusetts border and in the Upper Valley, says customers, might pay as much as $50 more per month for winter if the increase is granted, a 50 percent increase.

On cold winter days, homes burning natural gas for heating fill up most of the pipelines coming into New England, and what little gas is left over becomes very expensive.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

As early as next year, college students in New Hampshire teacher preparation programs will be taking a new test. It’s known as the TCAP, and all 14 of the state’s teacher education schools are adopting it voluntarily. While some states have opted to sign on to tests designed elsewhere, the Granite State has blazed its own trail when it comes to creating what has been compared to a bar exam for teachers.

Every student teacher who has graduated from UNH knows about the Portfolio. It was a collection of reams of lesson plans, tests, handouts; the artifacts of teaching.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  Many teachers and teachers-of-teachers will tell you that after passing your certification exams, graduating and getting your certificate, you’re still not ready to teach.

“You have the idea of what’s going to go on, but when you walk in the idea is usually just blown to heck and back,” says Joe Cilley a high-school art teacher at Belmont high school.

“The problem is that college is theory, it’s all theory! It’s not practice,” adds Kelly Hamilton, who teaches English in Belmont.

Mike Gifford / EAB Trap

New Hampshire has expanded its firewood quarantine to Rockingham County and Hillsborough County east of interstate 293, after discovering an invasive beetle in Salem.

The Emerald Ash Borer – which has decimated ash trees in the mid-west – was discovered in traps mounted less than a mile from an infestation just south of the New Hampshire-Massachusetts border, in North Andover.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Scott Brown, the GOP’s nominee for US senate, disagrees with a change the New Hampshire Republican party made to its platform last weekend.

The new plank calls for support of “the pre-born child’s fundamental right to life and personhood under the Fourteenth Amendment,” mimicking the language in proposed constitutional amendments that seek to give fetuses the same rights as people.

Monday night at a conversation hosted by NHPR and the Rudman Center at the UNH School of Law, Brown distanced himself that plank.

Via Creative Resistance

More than two hundred New Hampshire residents are headed to New York City Sunday for a massive climate change demonstration.

Organizers of the People’s Climate March – which include environmental advocacy groups, labor unions, and religious organizations – think anywhere from one to four hundred thousand people could be in attendance.

From the Granite State there are 3 full charter buses leaving from Concord,  another two are coming from Maine to pick up folks in Portsmouth.

Tashir Hashmi via Flickr CC

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has voted to sustain three of Governor Maggie Hassan’s vetoes from the last legislative session.

The bills would have cracked down on bullying between state employees, given the legislature the power to decide privacy disputes raised during audits of state agencies, and made it illegal to disclose the name of a lottery winner.

A majority of the house, but not the needed two thirds, voted in favor of the auditing and the lottery winner privacy bill.

Stonyfield Yogurt and Wikifoods

  A handful of companies are trying to take an idea straight out of Willy Wonka and turn it into reality: edible packaging. I mean, why dump tons of waste into landfills when the container your food comes in could be a part of the snack?

One company called WikiFoods has taken inspiration from fruit to create a frozen yogurt ball surrounded by an edible skin. But marketing glitz aside, this product shows that duplicating nature is no easy feat.

Spectra Energy

Developers are proposing a natural gas pipeline expansion that would beef up the lines connecting New Jersey to Nova Scotia. The possible expansion is the fourth that has been proposed for the region.

Northeast Utilities and Spectra Energy are partnering in the bid to expand two already existing gas transmission networks, the Algonquin network, and the Maritimes and Northeast Pipeline.

The project would supply as much as a billion cubic feet per day, which would be a big boost to gas supplies.

Sunset Power Lines
Michael Kappel/Flickr CC

A group representing power plants all over New England has asked regulators to weigh in whether Northern Pass is receiving inappropriate subsidies from Public Service of New Hampshire.

At issue is what’s the definition of a “competitive affiliate.” These are companies that the utility owns, and which provide similar services. The New England Power Generators Association or NEPGA, a group that represents PSNH competitors and opposes Northern Pass, argues in a filing submitted to regulators at the Public Utilities Commssion on Monday that is what Northern Pass is to PSNH.

Josh Rogers / NHPR

There were nine primaries in New Hampshire’s state Senate yesterday; eight of them between Republicans.

Two Republican incumbents – David Boutin of Hooksett, and Nancy Stiles of Hampton –beat back more conservative challengers. Boutin’s race the tougher: he bested former state rep Jane Cormier by single digits.

The one Democratic primary was in Merrimack County. It was to fill the vacancy created by the retirement of Senate President Sylvia Larsen. Concord School Board member Kass Ardinger – who was endorsed by Larsen – was routed by Dan Feltes, a legal aid lawyer.

Jon Sullivan / Flickr CC

  After a year of increases, the price that power-plant owners pay to emit a ton of carbon under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI, fell this quarter.

Investors, who crowded into the market last year, were less bullish in the latest auction. They took only 20 percent of carbon allowances this quarter, down from 55 percent at the beginning of 2014.

Josh Rogers / NHPR

In the final debate of the Republican primary for US senate, Jim Rubens and Bob Smith had one last chance to put Scott Brown on the ropes. They did their best, but Brown avoided any major missteps.

From the moment he’s come into the race Scott Brown has been seen as front-runner. Now with the primary just days away, Smith and Rubens are still trying to run him down.

When Brown, who has voiced support for an assault weapons ban in the past, evaded a question on gun control his rivals pounced.

Melanie Holtsman / Flickr CC

The New Hampshire Department of Education has rejected the Manchester School District’s request to opt-out of a new standardized test to be given this spring. In a letter to the school district, Education Commissioner Virginia Barry writes that if Manchester doesn’t administer the Smarter Balanced exam, it could lose nearly $17 million in federal education funds.

Kevin Bryant / Flickr CC

Researchers studying the Gulf of Maine say its waters are warming faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, and worry the rising temperatures will hit New England commercial fisheries hard.

The study is still in its preliminary phase, and is being conducted by scientists at the Gulf of Maine Research Institute. According to their data the waters off of New England’s coast are warming by about a half a degree Fahrenheit per year on average. That gives the region a dubious distinction.

NH OEP

At the tail-end of the section that opens New Hampshire’s ten-year energy strategy, released Tuesday, there are three paragraphs that acknowledge the issue which has been dominating the regional energy conversation. During the winter prices spike because natural gas electricity plants have been built and homeowners have converted to natural gas for heating and the region’s network of gas pipelines has not expanded as demand has grown.

Ben McLeod / Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire Supreme Court has ruled four men sentenced to life in prison for murders committed when they were minors should get new sentencing hearings. The decision retroactively applies a 2012 US Supreme Court ruling that deemed mandatory life-sentences for juveniles cruel and unusual punishment.

NHPR Staff

A unanimous New Hampshire Supreme Court ruling out today says a controversial school choice program will once again be able to give tax-credit-funded scholarships to religious schools, but today’s ruling is far from the final word.

Under the Education Tax Credit, companies can give donations for scholarships, and claim 85 percent off their business taxes. Scholarship organizations use those donations to give money to students who want to change to private school, a different public school, or homeschool.

The Supreme Court will release its ruling later this morning on whether a small but controversial school choice program is constitutional. 

Under the 2012 law, businesses that donate to private scholarship organizations can receive an 85 percent tax credit. The organizations then give scholarships to students attending private schools, homeschool or an out-of-district public school. Seventy percent of the scholarships go to public school students who leave the public school system for another option.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Republican US Senate candidates Bob Smith, Jim Rubens, and Scott Brown squared off this morning for a debate broadcast on WGIR. The repeated confrontations during the debate highlighted the growing tension between the trio as September 9th Primary nears.

Former State Senator Jim Rubens for weeks has been demanding Scott Brown lay out what – specifically – he would propose to replace Obamacare. That again was he tactic Rubens used Wednesday morning.

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