NASHUA BULLETIN                                 April 24, 2015


Welcome to the Chamber's weekly legislative newsletter, The Advocate!  With the start of the new year comes the start of NH's state legislative session.  For those of you who have been active with our Chamber for a while, you already know to expect this legislative newsletter in your inbox each week. It provides a recap of what happened in Concord each week, and previews what is coming up in the following week that pertains to various business interests. We hope you find this weekly publication informative, and a great way to stay attuned to what is happening in Concord that impacts southern NH's business community!


Nashua and Manchester Chambers Join In Capitol Corridor Pitch
As we reported last week, the Senate Capital Budget Committee is now reviewing the proposed state budget that was sent over to the Senate from the House. Last Friday, the Committee began its formal review of the Department of Transportation's portion of the budget with a briefing from DOT. We were pleased that one of the areas that DOT brought up with the Committee was the reinstatement of $4 million that was slated to be used for on-going development of the Capitol Corridor Project. That money would allow for the completion of preliminary engineering and environmental analysis. The funds to accomplish this work were removed during the House phase of the budget.

This week, the Greater Nashua and Greater Manchester Chambers have been working on a joint submission to the Committee to express support for the Capitol Corridor Project and to urge the Committee to reinstate the $4 million. We want to make sure that the Committee recognizes that the recently released Capitol Corridor Study showed that the establishment of four commuter rail stops between Lowell, MA and downtown Manchester would draw a minimum of 668,000 riders a year, with the creation of 5,600 permanent jobs supporting 3,600 new residential units along the corridor. Approximately 230 jobs would be created for the construction of the rail line, and an additional 3,400 construction jobs would be created to build the real estate development generated by rail. Beginning in 2030, 1,700 new jobs would be created in NH every year due to the expansion of passenger rail. It comes as no secret to Nashua-area businesses that this is a big deal for the region and that the Chamber has been a strong voice in support of passenger rail.

But this doesn't just benefit Nashua and Manchester. The Nashua-Manchester corridor is the economic backbone of our entire state; as goes the economy in southern NH, so goes the entire state's economy. Therefore, the communities in our Lakes Region and our North Country benefit from having a more robust state economy thanks to rail, due to the increase in business and property taxes that would flow through Concord and to those communities. It's important for state legislators from outside of southern NH to understand that rail has an impact on them as well, rather than it just benefiting Nashua and Manchester in some sort of vacuum.

We will keep you updated as events progress on this issue with the Capital Budget Committee.

Big Doings On The Energy Front

Few if any issues in New Hampshire are as big a concern to the business community as is the topic of energy costs. This week saw some significant developments in the energy arena.

On Monday, the Public Utilities Commission issued an Order initiating a proceeding to look into the costs of electricity (the formal title of the docket is "Investigation Into Potential Approaches To Ameliorate Adverse Wholesale Electricity Market Conditions In New Hampshire" - no kidding!) As the Commission noted in its Order, significant constraints on natural gas resources in New England have led to extreme price volatility in gas markets in the winter months and this in turn has resulted in significantly increased wholesale electricity prices and thus higher rates for New Hampshire electric customers. The Order states that the average retail price of electricity in New England is the highest in the continental United States. The Commission correctly notes that this poses "a threat to our region's economic competitiveness."

Among the items specifically mentioned in the Commission's Order as particular subjects to be examined, the first one raised is the potential development of additional natural gas resources for the benefit of the electricity supply in the region. The Commission also mentions energy efficiency, renewable generation and other innovative means of seeking to reduce the state's dependence on fossil fueled electricity.

The Commission obviously feels that there is no time to lose. The first event that will take place in this docket will be a public stakeholder meeting at the PUC just two weeks from Tuesday, on May 12. That public stakeholder meeting will take place at the PUC (21 South Fruit Street in Concord) at 10:00 a.m., at which time anyone who wants to participate can make a statement regarding the matters being considered in this docket. The final report from the Commission Staff is to be presented to the PUC by September 15th. This is a relatively short timeframe in the world of major PUC dockets, and it makes it possible for the Commission to be able to issue any appropriate determinations in advance of the 2016 legislative session, thus making it likely that whatever comes out of this review will be the subject of legislation next year. 

To return to measures that the legislature is currently considering, the House Science & Tech Committee is preparing to hold a public hearing on Tuesday on SB 221. As you will remember from prior issues of The Advocate, this legislation creates a framework for electric rate reduction financing. Over the last few weeks, the various stakeholders have been waiting for the State negotiating team to produce numbers so that the business community can see what the effects of this legislation are going to be on electric rates. In particular, businesses have been eager to learn the answer to one big question: are they better off as a result of this legislation than they would be if the legislation did not go into effect? Eversource Energy will be getting us more information on that subject at Monday's meeting of the Chamber's Advocacy Committee, and we will report back to you next Friday on what the results of those discussions are.
Another bill that we are closely following is HB 208, which at the moment is in the Senate Energy Committee. This bill came out of the House as a measure to rebate regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI) proceeds to ratepayers. The Senate Energy Committee is looking at some potential amendments to that bill, and one amendment that is being sponsored by Senator Dan Feltes of Concord has gained a sizeable amount of support on the business side. The Feltes amendment provides that RGGI proceeds above the threshold price for RGGI allowance sales will be rebated to commercial and industrial ratepayers on a per kilowatt hour basis, and it would also create additional funding for energy efficiency and low income programs. A tip of the hat to Sen. Feltes for his ability to deliver an amendment that has positive impacts for all interested parties. It looks like the Senate Energy Committee will vote on this one next Wednesday.

Sponsored by
Devine Millimet

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