Environment

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Meanwhile, many of the stresses that threaten water quality – more waste-water, increased runoff from pavement, and fewer forests to naturally filter water – increase hand-in-hand with development. Those in the conservation community say the cheapest route is to keep water clean by putting land into conservation, instead of trying to clean it up after it’s already a mess. No-where is the tension between environmental quality and more acute, than on the seacoast, in the communities of the Great Bay.

Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric utility, has filed an appeal with the state supreme court. PSNH is trying to head off regulators’ attempts to question whether the company should have installed a mercury scrubber on its largest coal-fired power plant.

Peter Roome, Creative Commons

September 21st is the 75th anniversary of the Great New England Hurricane of 1938. The Category 3 storm tore through the center of the region moving at 70 miles per hour, with wind speeds that reached 125 miles per hour. In just hours, it killed hundreds and caused millions of dollars in damage.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

When setting aside land for conservation, what are the priorities? Nice views? Old trees? Mossy stone walls? A pair of conservation groups think that maybe the biggest consideration should be how much the land will help different species survive climate change.

New Hampshire’s show-stoppers are its great granite peaks, and a lot of resources are going toward protecting them.

Flikr Creative Commons / Claudio Schwarz

The New England Independent System Operator, or ISO, who operates the region’s electric grid, presented the latest draft of its 10-year plan in Boston on Thursday. 

All Things Considered Host Brady Carlson speaks with NHPR's Sam Evans-Brown about the future of energy in the region. 

The ISO operates the Grid, but it doesn’t own any power plants, so how exactly are they involved with planning for the future of where we get our electricity.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR; Data: RGGI

Results have been posted from the latest auction of allowances for emitting a ton of carbon dioxide under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI. After rising in the first half of the year prices and demand have leveled off this quarter. The right to emit a ton of carbon sold for $2.67 this quarter.

That’s down nearly 17 percent from the last auction, but still substantially higher than the floor price where it had been trading for more than two years.

artist in doing nothing / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers working on a bill that would require the labeling of food containing Genetically Modified Crops heard from a leading advocate of GMO labeling Tuesday. New Hampshire is one of a patchwork of states considering similar such bills.

Michael Hansen, a senior scientist with the publisher of Consumer Reports Magazine, told lawmakers that Europe’s labeling requirements show that many of the concerns raised by opponents of GMO labeling are unfounded.

fatedsnowfox / Flickr Creative Commons

The United States Department of Agriculture is distributing vanilla flavored rabies vaccine packets from airplanes over New Hampshire. The packets will show up in Coos and Grafton counties as part of 5-state pilot study of a new rabies vaccine.

The vaccines are thrown from 500 feet from a small aircraft over rural areas and distributed by hand in towns. They’re vanilla flavored, which trials have shown to be a favorite flavor for critters.

PSNH / Flickr Creative Commons

New Hampshire lawmakers weighing the future of Public Service of New Hampshire are not ready to force the utility to divest, or sell, their power plants. During its third meeting of the summer on Wednesday, the joint Electricity Restructuring Oversight Committee admitted that they did not have enough information – and perhaps not enough expertise – to make an informed decision.

The town of Eliot, Maine has submitted a petition to the EPA asking it to look in to pollution that drifts over state lines from New Hampshire power plants. The petition takes aim at Public Service of New Hampshire’s Schiller station, which has two coal-fired boilers in Portsmouth.

Normally such petitions are based on air quality monitoring data. No such monitoring has been conducted inside the town’s limits, but modeling done by the Sierra Club suggests when the plant runs at full power, it would exceed sulfur dioxide limits within the towns borders.

Ella Nilsen / NHPR

A collaborative project between New Hampshire universities, the National Science Foundation, and state agencies is looking at ecosystem health and how the environment is affected by climate change.

At first glance, this part of Saddleback Mountain in Deerfield looks like a regular forest. But look closer and you see thick, black electrical cords running along the forest floor and silver instruments sitting among the trees.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Several   seacoast communities have been ordered to upgrade their waste-water treatment plants by the EPA.But towns are pushing back on the question of how much the plants need to improve.

Durham is in that boat. The town is trying a new approach to pollution control called adaptive management. And depending on how things go for Durham, this could be the way the way towns and the EPA will resolve difficult and expensive water problems going forward.

The Nitrogen Numbers

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The chief regulator of EPA’s Water division visited Durham Wednesday to check out the town’s collaboration with UNH to create innovative solutions to pollution in storm-water runoff. Town officials used the opportunity to underscore a new approach to achieving clean water.

National Renewable Energy Laboratory / NREL

Regulators have given Public Service of New Hampshire, the state’s largest electric utility, permission to phase out its EarthSmart Green rate, which allows customers pay more to support renewable energy. PSNH asked for relief from the program because just 148 customers are signed up; that’s about .04 percent percent of their customers.

But it’s a phenomenon that isn’t unique to PSNH. In general New Hampshire rate-payers haven’t been convinced to switch to more expensive renewable rates.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

On the dock of Great Bay Marine, there’s what looks like a little raft tied up, but get close and you hear the hum of a water pump. This is where Fat Dog Oyster Company is based.

Reporter Sam Evans-Brown recently spent a day with Jay Baker and Alex Boeri of Fat Dog for his story on the boom in oystering in N.H.'s Great Bay Estuary. You can check out more of his photos and sound in this 2-minute video:

With recent heavy rains, more New Hampshire ponds and lakes have been under water quality advisories.

See a map of current beach advisories here.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Oyster farming in the Great Bay Estuary is in the midst of a little bit of a boom. In recent years, the number of oyster farms has leapt from 1 to 8, with more on the way. These gains are boosting the hopes that using these filter feeders as an “outside-the-pipes” way to clean up the waters of the Great Bay could become a reality.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

The EPA has given the state of New Hampshire $1 million dollars to help clean up contaminated industrial sites, or brownfields. The Capitol Region Economic Development Council received $800,000 dollars for it’s a revolving loan fund that helps developers clean up brownfields. The remaining $200,000 goes to the Lakes Region Planning Commission for assessments of sites in need of clean-up.

NHPR / Michael Brindley

Environmental advocates and state lawmakers gathered in Concord on Thursday to praise President Obama’s recently announced climate action plan.

Tom Irwin, vice president and director of Conservation Law Foundation’s New Hampshire office, says a key component of the plan is to cut carbon emissions from power plants.

He pushed back against critics who argue this is a unilateral action by the administration.

Steve Rhodes / Flickr Creative Commons

President Obama’s newly announced climate action plan could have impacts down the line for New Hampshire. The big headline for New Hampshire is that over the next two years the EPA will develop restrictions on carbon emissions from power plants.

“Power plants can still dump unlimited amount of carbon pollution into the air for free.” Obama told students assembled at Georgetown University, “That’s not right, that’s not safe, and it needs to stop.”

That raises questions for the state’s coal plants.

A big priority for environmental groups – The Land and Community Heritage Investment Program, or LCHIP – has survived through budget negotiations. But that win comes at the expense of a raid on funds set aside for renewable energy development.

Under the budget deal struck today LCHIP was allotted the full $8 million dollars that it’s expected to raise. The program uses funds raised from fees tacked on certain real-estate transactions to pay for land conservation grants.

Jim.Richmond / Flickr Creative Commons

Residents in the border town of Elliot, Maine have voted to ask the EPA to test air quality downwind of a Portsmouth power plant. Eliot is just across the river from Schiller Station, a three-boiler plant run by Public Service of New Hampshire. Two of its boilers burn mostly coal, and a third burns primarily wood chips.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Saturday was World Ocean Day. Coastal and Marine scientists used the occasion to highlight their growing concern over Ocean Acidification, and it’s impacts on New Hampshire.

The laws of thermodynamics dictate that as CO2 increases in the atmosphere, the ocean will absorb more CO2 as well. As that happens, the acidity of the ocean slowly begins to rise, which can start to dissolve the shells of young plankton, the foundation of the ocean’s food chain. 

Captain Kimo / Smokestacks

The price of carbon under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative or RGGI is on the rise. For some time the cost that a New England Power plant has paid for the right to emit a ton of carbon dioxide was bumping along near the floor price of $1.98.

That price has jumped ever since the RGGI states announced that they would lower the cap on carbon dioxide, bringing it in line with the lower emissions that have resulted from the region’s switch to natural gas. In the last two auctions, carbon has gone for $2.80 and $3.21 a ton.

New Hampshire’s Senate has joined the House of Representatives and voted to ratchet down the cap on carbon dioxide restrictions under the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, or RGGI. Because of the historic rise of cleaner burning natural gas, it’s been easy for  carbon dioxide RGGI’s existing caps. So earlier this year, the RGGI board asked the member states to lower those caps by 45 percent.

aaronHWarren / Flickr Creative Commons

The New Hampshire House of Representatives has voted to ban lead fishing jigs or sinkers that weigh less than an ounce.

The bill had a hard fight to get to this point. Last year it was scuttled in the House after passing unanimously out of the Senate. A big reason for that was opposition from the Fish and Game commission, an appointed body that many see as supportive of sportsmen.  That’s why Republican John Burt from Goffstown voted against the bill.

NH Department of Environmental Services

The New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services has released a draft of a major study trying to pin down the sources of nitrogen pollution in the Great Bay Estuary. The results offer some insight, but few easy solutions.

Sam Evans-Brown / NHPR

Fiddleheads are the whimsical, tightly coiled spiral of fern sprouts that push their way up from under the layers of winter debris on the forest floor. They are also a regional and seasonal delicacy, and their season is incredibly short. In some Southern parts of the state, it may already be over. For any given fiddlehead patch, it can last as little as a week and a half.

Chris Hunkeler / Flickr Creative Commons

Governor Maggie Hassan has sent a letter to the governor of Connecticut, Democrat Dannel Malloy, asking him to reject changes to that state’s renewable energy laws, called the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS). The changes are seen as a boost to the controversial Northern Pass Transmission line.

The Governor Hassan’s letter says the Connecticut proposal that would allow hydro to be counted toward that state’s renewable energy goals quote, “undermines our common goal of fostering new and small-scale renewable resources here in New England.”

Peupleloup / Flickr Creative Commons

Lawmakers in Connecticut are working to review and revamp the rules that encourage renewable electricity generation. And the changes as proposed could be good news for Canadian hydropower, and bad news New 

  Hampshire Biomass.

Democrat Bob Duff chairs the Energy and Technology Committee in the Connecticut State Senate. He’s also a sponsor of a controversial bill on renewable energy.

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