"New Hampshire's participation in programs like the regional greenhouse gas initiative (RGGI) programs that force customers to pay high prices in order to subsidize noncompetitive energy supplies and fund government programs, must come to an end," Lamatogne says in official campaign literature.
He also has sparred publicly with Hassan about the issue in debates. The New Hampshire branch of Americans for Prosperity, a group co-founded by oil billionaire David Koch, has weighed in with radio ads slamming Hassan for supporting the "RGGI tax." The group also named Lamatogne "conservative of the year" in 2011.
Hassan, who was instrumental in bringing the state into RGGI, has been outspoken about defending it.
Lamatogne's position is significant for two reasons, analysts say.
Last year, Lynch vetoed a bill that would have pulled the state out of the program. The state Senate failed to override Lynch by one vote.
If Lamatogne makes it into the governor's mansion, renewed attempts to pass a repeal bill could be successful.
"I have no doubt this will come up again" in the Legislature, said Michael Licata, a vice president of public policy at the Business and Industry Association of New Hampshire, adding that text of repeal bills already are floating around the statehouse.
RGGI decisions could reverberate beyond N.H.
Second, the regional program is undergoing its first major review in three years. Officials in nine states are examining whether to change the program's emissions limits and protocols via public meetings.
An incoming governor dedicated to pulling the state out, in the same way Gov. Chris Christie (R) did in New Jersey, could make it more difficult to make dramatic changes regionally. Even if Lamatagone were elected and failed in getting a legislative bill through, his rhetoric would be heard elsewhere, said Johnanna Neumann, regional director at Environment New Hampshire.
"The bully pulpit matters," Neumann said.
Critics have long said RGGI has a weak carbon cap and does little to cut emissions. They point to the fact that low natural gas prices and the recession helped push regional greenhouse gas output below emission limits before the program got started in 2009, leaving little incentive for utilities to do anything further (ClimateWire, Jan. 12).
But for supporters like Hassan, the program's carbon auctions have funded energy efficiency programs that have cut electricity usage and decreased emissions beyond where they would be otherwise. They point to a 2011 report from the Analysis Group finding that RGGI added $17 million in net economic benefits to the state.
In a Laconia Daily Sun editorial supporting Hassan, former New Hampshire Democratic gubernatorial candidate Mark Fernald noted that New Hampshire residents consume electricity from out of state, meaning that state taxpayers would still have to pay for the program via carbon fees on utilities bills if it left the program.
Climate change "may be the biggest issue we face in the world today. Ovide Lamontagne would let the rest of New England take our RGGI money," wrote Fernald.
Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500