The Bulletin Board

New standards for renewable natural gas become law

By: - July 1, 2022 12:52 pm
The State House and State House grounds under a partly cloudy sky

Senate Bill 424 – regarding so-called renewable natural gas – was signed into law last week. (Dana Wormald | New Hampshire Bulletin)

A new framework for using so-called renewable natural gas is now law after Gov. Chris Sununu signed Senate Bill 424 last week.

The bill went into effect upon signing, and its goal is to encourage gas utilities to procure what’s called renewable natural gas and invest in the necessary infrastructure.

Renewable natural gas is considered an emerging technology, and it utilizes the methane that is a natural byproduct of the decomposition process. Environmental groups raised concerns that the process of extracting and transporting the gas could result in methane, a potent greenhouse gas, leaking into the environment. But state lawmakers and the state’s gas utilities supported the measure, which lays the groundwork for adopting the technology.

The new law allows utilities to charge ratepayers for renewable natural gas power and infrastructure. These expenses would have to be approved by the Public Utilities Commission, the government entity responsible for regulating the state’s utilities.

Liberty Utilities had already proposed a renewable natural gas project, which was put on hold while the legislative process on SB 424 was ongoing. The cost of natural gas proposed in that project would be around three times the cost of traditional natural gas, at $10.47 per dekatherm. The Office of the Consumer Advocate recommended rejecting the proposal, which would be cost effective only “when wholesale gas prices are astronomically high,” as they are this year.

Renewable natural gas is created when food waste decomposes in a landfill, often called landfill natural gas, and also comes from livestock operations that generate agricultural waste, as well as wastewater treatment plants. After the gas is processed, it can be used interchangeably with traditional natural gas. Groups such as the Conservation Law Foundation that support transitioning away from fossil fuel use are worried renewable natural gas could be used to justify ongoing investment in fossil fuel infrastructure.

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Amanda Gokee
Amanda Gokee

Amanda Gokee is the New Hampshire Bulletin’s energy and environment reporter. She previously reported on these issues at VTDigger. Amanda grew up in Vermont and is a graduate of Harvard University. She received her master’s degree in liberal studies, with a concentration in creative writing, from Dartmouth College. Her work has also appeared in the LA Review of Books and the Valley News.

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