Joint Testimony from Conservation Partners on Senate Bill 281

From the Appalachian Mountain Club, New Hampshire Audubon, Conservation Law Foundation, Nature Conservancy, and Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests

Hearing before the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee
April 1, 2014

Our five organizations support Senate Bill 281 as passed by the Senate. It creates a framework for rulemaking that we agree is workable, and provides much-needed guidance to the Site Evaluation Committee (SEC) as it begins the process mandated last year by SB99 of developing rules for the siting of all energy facilities. As the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee looks at the bill, we also encourage you to explore whether SB281 could be amended to apply to the siting of all energy facilities.

As originally introduced, SB281 set height and spacing requirements for wind turbines that would have effectively precluded commercial wind projects in New Hampshire. None of our groups believe that a wholesale prohibition of wind power is desirable, and we all generally support appropriately-sited and conditioned land-based wind projects that demonstrably reduce New Hampshire’s use of fossil fuels and avoid pollutant (including greenhouse gas) emissions and other externalities associated with non-renewable forms of energy generation.

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee amended SB281 to remove the unworkable height and spacing requirements, and refined other elements of the bill including language on sound, shadow flicker, fire protection plans, and decommissioning. It also added critical guidance on assessing visual impacts, considering the cumulative impact of multiple projects, and addressing impacts on natural resources.
The forum for fleshing out detailed technical standards and administrative procedures is the SEC rulemaking process, which is just now getting under way. But currently the SEC has little guidance from the Legislature on what broad issues the rules need to address. SB281 as passed unanimously by the full Senate last week would provide the SEC with this policy guidance. While each of our organizations might prefer different language in any number of places in the bill, it presents a reasonable list of the significant issues that the SEC must address during the SB99 rulemaking process.

That said, we would also note that SB281 is currently aimed only at wind power projects. We encourage the House Science, Technology and Energy Committee to explore whether the bill could be amended to apply to the siting of all energy facilities, as most of the provisions of the amendment are equally applicable to a range of other energy projects—from transmission lines to biomass to gas plants. In those instances where certain issues are specific to wind only—for example shadow flicker—the SEC could make it clear in the rules that does not apply to those other types of energy projects.

While we recognize that there are likely to be issues not addressed by SB281 that the rule-making may need to include for other types of energy facilities, by broadening the amendment from wind only to cover all energy facilities, the Committee will provide the SEC’s rule-making process a strong foundation, and a jump-start, for developing these rules within the timeframe mandated by SB99.

Regarding the timing of the SB99 rule-making process, we also encourage the Committee to request that the three state agencies who will carry the main burden of getting the rulemaking on siting done – DES, OEP, and the PUC – provide a specific work plan and schedule for how the rulemaking mandated last session by SB99 will be accomplished by the rulemaking deadline of January 1, 2015. This should be provided to the committee in time for it to be considered before the House takes final action on SB281.

In conclusion, we urge the Committee to support SB281 in its current form, and to consider whether the bill should be amended to make it applicable to the siting of all energy facilities.

Thank you for your consideration.
Susan Arnold, Appalachian Mountain Club (
Christophe G. Courchesne, Conservation Law Foundation NH (
Carol Foss, NH Audubon, (
Jim O’Brien, The Nature Conservancy, NH Chapter (
Chris Wells, Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests (

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