This piece was written by Kathleen Callahan for the New Hampshire Business Review:
New federal standards that limit carbon emissions from power plants and cross-state air pollution could present an economic opportunity for green businesses in New Hampshire and New England, according to an official with the Environmental Protection Agency.
“Restoring the health of our environment is part of continuing the economic vitality of our region,” said Curt Spalding, New England regional administrator for the EPA, who spoke about the new regulations at an event held Wednesday at the Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.
Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen also spoke at the New Hampshire Clean Energy Solutions Roundtable, which was hosted by the New Hampshire Sierra Club.
Spalding was there to discuss the Carbon Pollution Standard for Future Power Plants, which the EPA proposed on March 27 pursuant to the Clean Air Act.
The standard, which Spalding said has been “quite controversial,” would place limits on the levels of carbon dioxide that can be emitted at power plants built in the future.
Whether the proposed standard will have much of an impact in New Hampshire is “a very good question,” said Spalding.
It won’t immediately disrupt any proposed projects in New Hampshire, because there aren’t currently any proposals to build a new coal-fired power plant in the state.
And, said Spalding, the standard “probably will not affect New Hampshire air quality in a significant way in terms of transport – it’ll just prevent it from getting worse.”
New Hampshire is a downwind state, meaning that most of the air pollution the state experiences comes from outside the state’s borders, blown in from other regions of the country.
“The bottom line is, when it comes to air pollution, we’re at the end of the transport,” said Spalding. “The political understanding of that is pretty deep in New Hampshire.”
A 2004 report by the state Department of Environmental Services said that the “vast majority” of air pollution in New Hampshire is due to emissions from large power plants in Midwestern states and large urban areas to the south of the state.
The report estimated the health-related impact of air pollution transported into the state at more than $1 billion annually.
And that figure, wrote then-Gov. Craig Benson, didn’t include “the increased costs of doing business, increased health care claims, and the loss of worker productivity due to respiratory illness.”
While the carbon standard may not have a major impact on New Hampshire, there are other EPA rules that will have a greater impact in the Granite State, said Spalding.
They include the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards, which limit the toxic air pollutants on existing power plants, and the Cross-State Air Pollution Rule, which was issued in July and revised in October.
There is ongoing litigation delaying the implementation of that rule, which would require states to significantly improve air quality by reducing power plant emissions that contribute to air pollution in other states, but the EPA believes it will hold up in court.
Both Shaheen and Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte support the cross-state rule.
In testifying before the Senate, Ayotte – who was among six Republicans who voted against a bid by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., to overturn the rule – said there was “a long, bipartisan tradition in New Hampshire of working to advance common-sense, balanced environmental regulations.”
Spalding echoed these sentiments at the roundtable, saying that “the problem here isn’t partisan — the problem is regional and somewhat economic.”
In talking to the assembled group of businesspeople at the roundtable, who represented a cross-section of green businesses in the state, Spalding encouraged them to see the regulations as “an opportunity for New England” to develop the sort of green technologies that could put Americans to work producing clean energy at home.
“You’ve got everything you need,” he said. “You’ve got the innovation centers here.”