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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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,”

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.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

A stark choice was on display Monday night as Democrat Carol Shea-Porter and Republican Frank Guinta met for their final debate before the mid-term elections next week, televised live on WMUR TV.

In their three campaigns against one another, Guinta and Shea-Porter have debated more than a handful of times. They rarely agree on much.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

When Democrat Carol Shea-Porter first ran for congress 8 years ago, few gave her much of a shot.  Most of the powers that be in the democratic party lined up behind someone else, and her campaign was a decidedly hand to mouth operation.

“Well nobody, got paid first of all, so you didn’t have to get that much money if nobody gets paid,” explains Caroline French. Back then she was in charge of making sure Shea-Porter got to her events on time.

French says that first campaign was won on pure enthusiasm.

Screenshots via NH1 news

In their first debate Democrat Ann Kuster and her Republican Challenger Marilinda Garcia both did their best to connect their opponent to another, less popular politician.

Garcia tried to tie Kuster to Obama, whose approval rating in the latest UNH poll was below 40 percent.

“She chaired his campaign committee or parts of it while in New Hampshire, and as recently as a few months ago she still claims to be one of his strongest supporters in Congress,” said Garcia.

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 /

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 /

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.