Environment

Via Flickr CC / https://flic.kr/p/7MMKBg

Merrimack residents will vote this month on giving the town control of their water utility.

It comes after two years of struggle with contamination in local wells, likely stemming from local plastics-maker Saint Gobain.

Laurene Allen co-founded Merrimack Citizens for Clean Water, and says the local public water company's board hasn't been transparent about its dealings with the polluter.

Brett Amy Thelen / Harris Center for Conservation Education

Frogs and salamanders in Keene got a vote of confidence from the City Council Thursday night.

Officials unanimously approved a plan to close a local road for a few nights this spring to let migrating amphibians cross in safety.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state Department of Environmental Services is on the road this week and next, taking feedback on a complex draft of new rules for development around wetlands.

This is the first total rewrite of the state wetlands code since the 1990s, and it's been in the works since 2014.

DES says its goal is to speed up the permitting process for lower-impact projects and make everything clearer. The proposed rules for tidal areas also account for climate change and sea level rise.

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New studies say a decrease in snow days as the climate changes is taking an economic toll on states like New Hampshire—as well as an environmental one.

A national report commissioned by nonprofit Protect Our Winters says when snow falls and stays on the ground, spending on winter sports tends to increase. (Read the report here.)

ISO-New England

The nonprofit that runs New England's electric grid says it will need more fuel and flexibility in the coming years to keep the lights on without prices spiking.

ISO-New England gave its annual "State of the Grid" briefing Tuesday.

CEO Gordon van Welie says New England now has more new wind capacity in the works than new natural gas capacity for the first time – and solar is also on the rise.

Via USGS.gov

A bill that would force the cleanup of a hazardous landfill on the Seacoast hit a stumbling block in a House committee Tuesday.

The bill would require the groups that dumped hazardous waste at the Coakley Landfill in Greenland in the 70s and 80s to start cleaning it up.

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The state starts taking public input this week on new rules to protect wetlands from construction and other impacts.

It's the first complete overhaul of the state wetlands code since 1991.

Department of Environmental Services spokesman Jim Martin says the agency has been working on it for years, with help from others:

“Loggers, foresters, conservation commissions, wetland scientists and so forth – these are people that work and deal with wetlands rules and regulations on probably almost a daily basis,” Martin says.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Women are one of the fastest-growing demographics for outdoor recreation in New Hampshire.

The state Department of Fish & Game has encouraged that for more than 20 years with its “Becoming an Outdoors-Woman” program, or BOW. It helps the department make money and cut down on preventable rescues.

NHPR’s Annie Ropeik attended the winter BOW last weekend in Holderness, and found out it’s also about women helping women learn to fend for themselves. 

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Conservationists say two iconic New Hampshire animals – moose and loons – show how climate change will reshape the region in the years to come.

They talked about their latest research – and how they hope people will respond to it – at the Audubon Society in Concord Wednesday night.

It was the same day New Hampshire and Maine set new records for winter warmth. Highs were in the 70s in Concord, and the snowless Mount Washington summit reached 48.

BOEM

Seacoast residents can weigh in tonight on a federal proposal to drastically expand offshore drilling around the country.

The North Atlantic makes up about 3 percent of the oil and gas resources federal officials want to put up for lease. Governor Chris Sununu and many other Northeast lawmakers oppose the plan.

Courtesy Bretton Woods

On the heels of this winter's record-breaking cold comes record-breaking warmth.

Temperatures are previewing spring in New Hampshire this week, with forecast highs peaking in the upper 60s for parts of the state Wednesday.

Mount Washington had the warmest Feb. 20 on record Tuesday, notching a 41-degree high at the summit.

The peak's all-time February high is 43, with an all-time winter high of 48. The summit Observatory says on Twitter those records might fall this week, too.

Rob Strong / Sierra Club

A new report from the Sierra Club says about 50 American municipalities are now working on using 100 percent renewable energy in the coming years.

The first New Hampshire town to get on board was Hanover, which says it’s nearly a quarter of the way toward using only renewable electricity by 2030.

EPA on Twitter

During his New Hampshire visit Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt signaled plans for new federal energy policies that could bolster a struggling regional industry – biomass.

In a letter to Gov. Chris Sununu, Pruitt suggests the agency plans to add biomass, including wood and other plant-based fuels, to its “‘all of the above’ energy portfolio.” (Read the full letter below.)

Michael Kappel via Flickr CC

With the Northern Pass transmission line on the rocks, regulators in Massachusetts are facing a big decision. They had planned to give that project a long term contract, but now might have to pick a different option.

Some are hoping it'll be another New Hampshire project, a transmission line proposal from National Grid called the Granite State Power Link. Morning Edition Host Rick Ganley spoke with NHPR's energy reporter Annie Ropeik about that project and its prospects.


col&tasha, Flickr

Massachusetts is expected to decide by Friday if it can move forward on a deal with Northern Pass.

Since Eversource was denied a permit by the state of New Hampshire, other developers – large and small – have been eager to step up.

Massachusetts wants to sign a contract or contracts for 1,200 megawatts of renewable power by late 2020.

John K via Flickr CC

The town of Colebrook is the first to get money from a state trust fund for water infrastructure upgrades.

It comes from New Hampshire’s $236 million settlement with Exxon Mobil in 2015, over contamination from a gasoline additive known as MtBE.

Marine insight

Governor Chris Sununu says it looks unlikely new offshore drilling would affect New Hampshire, but regional fishery managers are still worried.

The U.S. Department of the Interior says it wants to open most of the nation's coastline to new oil and gas leases. Sununu opposes drilling off New Hampshire's Seacoast, and says Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke assured him the North Atlantic won't be high priority.

Google maps

New Hampshire has put the brakes on the Northern Pass energy project for now, but some towns are still prepared to block it with local laws asserting their view on big utility development.

Plymouth is the latest municipality to approve an ordinance saying certain energy projects, while allowed under state law, are harmful to local health and environment.

When such laws are enforced, developers either have to go elsewhere, or sue to build in town.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state Site Evaluation Committee waded deeper into questions of Northern Pass's impact on the North Country on Wednesday.

Fewer protesters and even fewer supporters were there to listen than on the first day, as members continued their final deliberations on permitting the transmission line.

In discussions of how Northern Pass will affect land-use plans along its route, members seemed to grow more conflicted about how to define the tipping point where the project might become too impactful.

Annie Ropeik for NHPR

UPDATE:  New Hampshire regulators began final discussions Tuesday on whether to grant a permit to the Northern Pass transmission line. 

State officials and public representatives at the Site Evaluation Committee in Concord will meet 12 times between now and Feb. 23.

NHPR File Photo

Eversource’s Northern Pass transmission line is the sole project picked for long-term energy contract negotiations with Massachusetts.

Officials made the announcement Thursday afternoon, less than a week before New Hampshire begins its final permitting deliberations on the controversial project.

Northern Pass would carry 1,090 megawatts of power from Hydro Quebec dams to the New England grid, over a partly-buried 192-mile power line. It would run under New Hampshire’s White Mountains and mainly follow existing transmission lines, ending in Deerfield.

Thomas Gehrke / Flickr Creative Commons

Energy developers are set to learn Thursday which of their projects will get long-term contracts to provide 1,200 megawatts of renewable energy to Massachusetts.

Several projects in New Hampshire are in the running.

Developers sent in more than 40 proposals to bring hydro, solar and wind power to Massachusetts, primarily from Northern New England and Canada.

New Boston Fire Chief Dan MacDonald

The freeze-thaw weather cycle of recent weeks is fueling ice jams in rivers across New Hampshire – including in New Boston, where a huge, persistent blockage could cause flooding this spring.

The jam on the Piscataquog River is more than 3,000 feet long – the length of 10 football fields.

New Boston Fire Chief Dan MacDonald says it's made of foot-thick icebergs that have melted and cracked, then frozen back up into a single solid glacier.

BOEM

Hearings on plans to open New England and most of the nation's coastline to offshore drilling have been postponed due to the government shutdown.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management was set to talk about the proposal in Concord on Tuesday. It’s rescheduling that meeting and others this week in Maine, Boston, and Providence, while some of its funding is suspended and employees are furloughed.

Hearings in the drilling hubs of Louisiana and Alaska are also postponed this week. A hearing in Hartford, Connecticut, is still set for February.

Courtesy ReVision Energy

A new solar panel installation at Phillips Exeter Academy is now the largest at any school in the state.

The array of more than 1,500 solar panels was installed by Revision Energy. The company says it will provide the majority of the electric load for the private school’s new field house.

Christina Zlotnick with ReVision Energy says the continued decline in solar energy costs has more businesses interested in projects like this one.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

The state commission on the Seacoast’s high cancer rates signaled Friday it would push for cleanup at Coakley Landfill, despite objections from the Environmental Protection Agency.

The legislators and public representatives who make up the Cancer Cluster Investigation Commission have a report due this fall on what's driving those cancer rates, and they’ve honed in on the EPA’s Coakley Landfill Superfund site as a likely culprit.

Representative Charles McMahon, a Republican from Windham, chairs the commission.  

Andy Schafermeyer / N.H. Fish and Game

Residents can fish without a license for one day only Saturday as part of a twice-yearly state program.

The Fish and Game Department holds another free fishing day the first Saturday in June, but this is only the second time they've done one in the winter.

Inland fisheries chief Jason Smith says recent weather might make open water levels too high to fish in some places – which means this year is all about ice fishing.

File Photo

New Hampshire's Democratic congressional delegation is requesting that the Pease International Tradeport be included in a nationwide health impact study on chemicals such as PFOA found in drinking water.

Legislation authored by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter establishing the study was signed into law by President Donald Trump last month.

The Pease Tradeport formerly served as an Air Force base. In 2014, the city of Portsmouth closed the Haven well at Pease after the Air Force found high chemical levels.

National Grid Map

Developers behind a transmission line that's competing with Northern Pass to supply renewable energy to Massachusetts will hold a listening session in Concord on Thursday.

National Grid's Granite State Power Link would carry 1,200 megawatts of Canadian wind power through Northern Vermont to Monroe, New Hampshire.

Boston-based nonprofit Citizens Energy is co-developing the project. They'll be at the Concord Holiday Inn from 2 to 3:30 p.m. Thursday to talk about how the power line could benefit low-income families along its route.

Annie Ropeik for NHPR

State officials say they're close to finalizing a deal that would bring clean water to Bedford residents whose wells have been contaminated with toxic chemicals called PFCs since 2016.

The contamination likely came from air emissions at the nearby Saint Gobain Plastics Plant. Since then, many residents have been drinking bottled water as they wait for Saint Gobain to pay to connect them to Manchester's water system.

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