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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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.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

This is the second of two stories about  New Hampshire’s Virtual Learning Academy Charter School, (VLACS) New Hampshire’s statewide online charter school. To read the first, click here.

Pauline Landrigan, an English teacher with VLACS, is touching base with one of her students, Siri Condike.

“Are you going to be together with family in a couple of days?” asks Landrigan.

“No actually I’m going to be working,” Condike responds.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Nearly every school in the state has students like Tristan Quismundo. He goes to high school in Londonderry and failed English his sophomore and junior years.

“I kind of just get distracted, and wander off think about other things, ‘cause I don’t really find English literature that interesting.”

But as of 2008, students like Quismundo have another option. Now he’s a senior, and instead of just making another go at the classroom, he signed up for VLACS, the Virtual Learning Academy Charter School.

Christian Patti / http://christianpatti.com/

The state’s largest electric company has asked for a winter price hike. Even after the increase Public Service of New Hampshire will still have the lowest winter rate of any utility in the state.

PSNH has asked regulators for an energy rate of 10.56 six cents per kilowatt hour, an increase from the current rate of 9.87 cents per kWh. The utility estimates that for an average rate-payer, using between 500 and 700 kWh per month, bills will rise somewhere between $5 and $8.

Chris Jensen / NHPR

A proposed wind farm in the Monadnock Region is resubmitting its application to the state. Almost two years ago regulators rejected the project.

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

A natural gas pipeline developer says New Hampshire is now its preferred route for a brand new project it hopes to build in 2017. 

Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based deveoper, had initially planned to route the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline through Northern Massachusetts. After grass-roots groups and several politicians pushed back against the plan, the developer began to explore alternatives.

billy v / Flicker CC

A mobile-home park in New Ipswich has become the 110th in the state to be purchased by its residents. That means that nearly a quarter of the state’s 450 so-called “trailer parks” are now owned by the people who live in them.

Juliana Eades, President of the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund which financed the deal, says banks won’t give mortgages to people who live in manufactured homes located on someone else’s land.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

  The Mount Sunapee Ski Resort is asking the state for permission to build new lifts and new trails. It’s a proposal that was stymied by political resistance in Concord for ten years. Now with a change of governors, a court victory, and growing local support for the expansion, the lay of the land for the expansion has shifted dramatically.

The state’s executive council has confirmed two appointees to the Site Evaluation Committee.

Roger Hawk, a planning consultant from Concord, and Patricia Weathersby, a lawyer from Rye, will serve as the public’s representatives on the SEC.

The nine member Site Evaluation Committee consists mostly of the heads of various state agencies, and authorizes large-scale energy proposals such as power plants and transmission lines.

The positions are new this year, as the SEC was reformed in an attempt to streamline it and make it more responsive to the public’s concerns.

Chris Jensen / NHPR

Losing power is annoying. Losing power for several days when you’ve got a large turkey to cook is infuriating.

Tom Magliery via Flickr CC

With frigid temperatures arriving this weekend, Kimberly Ohman with Catholic Medical Center in Manchester says people should be hypervigilant for hypothermia.

"Shivering for one, that’s going to be your number one warning sign. Also just a little bit increased confusion, and the difficulty speaking is going to be another warning sign, difficulty walking, some people may have an altered gait that’s unusual for them," Ohman says.

Courtesy Chris Saunders

With tens of thousands of New Hampshire homes  without power, many residents got creative in order to cook their Thanksgiving meals.

Gilmanton resident Kelly Cleveland said her household at least has a backup plan. "My husband has grand ideas of cooking our turkey in our wood cookstove, so it should be very interesting to see how this comes out."

Asked if the family had tried this technique before, Cleveland said, "Not with a turkey. I did try a roast one time, and blew up my Pyrex baking dish. So hopefully he'll choose something other than Pyrex."

Andrew Moor / Flicker CC

Cold temperatures this November have been a boon to the snowmaking efforts at New Hampshire ski areas. A number of resorts are opening a week earlier than expected.

“You know when the temperatures are cold like this like in the teens and low twenties, and it’s dry, they can cover a lot, it’s amazing what they can do,” says Jessica Keeler with Ski New Hampshire.

She notes Cranmore and Pat’s Peak are opening a week ahead of schedule. Waterville valley also opened this weekend, as scheduled, and both Loon and Bretton Woods opened a week ago.

Mass. Office of Travel & Tourism Via Flickr CC

According to the latest study of the so-called Capital Rail Corridor released last night by the New Hampshire Rail Transit Authority running commuter rail from Manchester to Boston would cost $246 million dollars, and attract at least 650,000 riders per year.

Many in a standing-room-only audience in Nashua were ready to forge ahead with expanding train service, but the study will likely face a chillier reception in other parts of the state.

New England Cod Fishermen are again facing stricter catch limits.

Last year, fisherman faced a 77 percent cut in how many cod they could catch, and now the New England Fisheries Management Council has voted to establish another 75 percent cut. Together the cuts reduce the catch limit for Gulf of Maine Cod from 6,700 metric tons in 2012 to 386 in 2015.

Flicker CC

The southern tier of the state is getting its first dusting of snow of the winter season this morning. As it does, the first question on the minds of many is probably “how is the driving?”

We have never been better at keeping roads clear during snow-storms, but now for environmental and budgetary reasons the question is how to use less salt.

NASA / Flicker CC

There’s a cold snap on the way.

At least one town in Wyoming has set a new all-time low for the month of November, and that arctic air mass is now barreling its way toward New Hampshire.

While it’s unclear to what extent this cold actually is a piece of the polar vortex, that doesn’t mean the vortex isn’t an important driver of New England’s winter Climate. Experts are debating if more extreme swings from warm to cold are part of what a changed climate will look like in New England.

Via Vermontbiz.com

Kinder Morgan, a natural gas pipeline developer, says it is seriously considering an alternative route for a major new pipeline that would bring the line up into New Hampshire. The new route would bury the pipeline almost entirely under power lines in existing rights of way.

Currently, the expansion to the Tennessee Gas Pipeline network is proposed to run through Northern Massachusetts, where it has sparked the concerns of residents.

Emily Hoyer / Flicker CC

A new study from the University of New Hampshire and Fish and Game finds that the state’s bobcat population has rebounded substantially.

Bobcats were hunted and trapped all the way through 1989, when the cats became so scarce that the state ended bobcat hunting. Back then there were estimated to be fewer than 200 bobcats in the state. Today, the new study estimates there could be as many as 800 to 1,200 of the elusive felines.

The study didn’t ask the question of what factors are leading to the recovery, and there is almost certainly more than one.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Some electricity customers in New Hampshire are in for a shock this winter. Numerous utilities across New England have announced electricity rates that are some of the highest in the history of the continental United States. And it’s a problem that’s expected to get worse before it gets better.

For some consumers, this is more real than for others. Don Sage and his wife make due on a bit less than $30,000 a year in social security payments. So he can ill-afford to pay another $40 a month on his electric bills.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

Democrat Maggie Hassan defeated Republican Walt Havenstein to claim a second term as governor. Despite a solid showing by Havenstein it was one of the first state races to be called last night.

Standing before her supporters in Manchester, Hassan cited familiar priorities and stressed that much work remains to be done.

“Together we will make it easier for our families to get ahead, by continuing our healthcare expansion, by holding down the cost of higher education, and by restoring or increasing the minimum wage in New Hampshire,” she said.

Governors in New Hampshire are rarely tossed after a single term, but this race ended up being tougher than expected. Walt Havenstein started a thirty point underdog, but the race became increasingly closer as the season progressed.

“To go from a standing start – 7 percent name recognition and Judy didn’t know who they were – to bringing this race to a competitive finish is an incredible accomplishment,” remembered Havenstein as he conceded defeat, “and you should all be proud of what you have done.”

Havenstein, who led two defense contracting firms, including BAE systems, dropped more than $2 million dollars of his own money into this race, but even so top Republicans knew Havenstein faced long odds.

“This contest was a little bit David and Goliath as I think everybody knows,” said State Senator Jeb Bradley, “Our David, Walt Havenstein fought the fight of his life, and came very close tonight,”

fivethirtyeight.com

New polls out over the past few days show all four of New Hampshire's major races in the state to be too close to call. 

That might prompt us to believe that anything could happen tomorrow, but as poll watchers will tell you, any single poll is just that: a single poll.

NHPR's Brady Carlson spoke with Harry Enten, a senior political writer with FiveThirtyEight -- the politics blog that introduced many politcal watchers to predictive elections models -- about just that. 

With the discovery of an invasive beetle infestation Hillsborough became the latest New Hampshire county under a firewood quarantine. The quarantine expansion went into effect last week, after Emerald Ash Borer was discovered in the town of Weare, which makes three counties now in lockdown. This means that firewood can no longer be taken from Hillsborough County and brought elsewhere.

Images captured from Jericho Power's proposal to the Berlin Planning Board

The North Country is on its way to getting a 5-turbine, 14-megawatt wind farm on a ridge called Jericho Mountain to the West of Berlin.

The city of Berlin is working with a private developer to build what’s been termed a “community” wind farm, because of its small size. Despite the objections of wind opponents, the executive council approved the final piece of the project’s financing puzzle Wednesday.

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