Senate Bill 448 is now headed to the Senate Finance Committee. (Drew Angerer | Getty Images)
This story and headline were updated on Aug. 2 at 2:42 p.m. to clarify that the version of the bill that was signed into law did not contain language preventing discussion of low carbon fuel standard programs.
In 2019, Gov. Chris Sununu decided that New Hampshire would not join the Transportation and Climate Initiative, but state officials at the Department of Environmental Services continued spending time and money staying up to date on regional efforts to reduce transportation emissions through low carbon fuel standard programs, namely electric vehicles.
A Republican-sponsored bill aimed at stopping those talks without explicit approval from the Legislature and Executive Council was proposed, but the version of the bill signed into law on Friday was stripped of language barring discussions. Instead, the law requires approval from the Executive Branch before joining or participating in a low carbon fuel standard program. Rep. Jeanine Notter of Merrimack, the House majority whip and the bill’s prime sponsor, said she introduced the bill to cut costs. Notter cited 800 hours of staff labor at a cost of about $50,000. She said the Transportation and Climate Initiative is an attempt to drive up the cost of gas.
The regional cap and trade initiative aims to reduce emissions from transportation by focusing on clean vehicles and fuels. The initiative is also working on a network of electric vehicle charging stations in the Northeast.
The effort to prevent state employees from discussing the program was criticized by Democrats, some of whom called an earlier version of the bill a gag rule they said would stymie important communication about policies in the region that may affect New Hampshire.
The law will require Environmental Services employees to seek explicit approval from the Legislature and the Executive Council before joining, implementing, or participating “in any state, regional, or national low carbon fuel standards program or similar program that requires quotas, caps, or mandates on any fuels used for transportation, industrial purposes, or home heating.”
House Bill 373 was signed Aug. 30 and it will take effect Oct. 29.
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