By Jacqueline Lundsted
HB1797 was introduced in 2018 as an act that would require companies found of contributing to pollution to pay 50 percent of the cost of contamination, cleanup, and remediation. Although I fully support the intentions of the proposed House Bill 1797, I don’t believe it was thorough enough to carryout those intentions. The bill aims to protect the natural resources, and ensure the safety of New Hampshire citizens from pollution caused by irresponsible companies. There is no doubt that these things are necessary in order for our state to continue to prosper in industry, as well as tourism, but HB1797 might not be exactly what we need. At first glance, the bill is intimidating (especially from the perspective of the companies which it targets), but is it too much? It certainly gets the point across that pollution will not be tolerated, but it does have its limitations.
The bill was initially voted on in the house committee on Resources, Recreation, and Development. The committee voted the bill down, but their statement as to why they did so present some ideas that should be taken into consideration for a revision of HB1797. The response I found most compelling was the idea that this bill might actually deter companies from spending the proper amount of money to clean up a contamination. The addition of a 50 percent penalty on the cost of contamination, cleanup, and remediation could compel companies to spend as little money on this process as possible. Spending less on taking care of the contamination would save them even more money in terms of the 50 percent surcharge. This seems disgraceful from an obvious moral standpoint. However, if a company is willing to sacrifice the integrity of the environment to carryout their business, odds are they aren’t too concerned with how well it gets cleaned up.
I’m also concerned with how this bill would effect industry within New Hampshire. With such harsh penalties, this bill might actually drive business out of our state. Accidents happen, and under HB1797 companies are at risk to pay exuberant amounts of money if these accidents contribute to pollution. Some companies may not want to take that risk, and opt to move their operations elsewhere. While this may sound like a good thing (considering the environmental impacts of industry), it could be catastrophic economically. New Hampshire relies on industry to provide for its citizens. Without the variety of businesses and companies, the job market and economy could be devastated.
My concerns with HB1797 are in no way an argument against the bill, rather areas I believe are opportunities for modification. The bill addresses a pressing issue that we need to get a handle on to prevent further harm to our people and land. In order for this bill to be successful it is necessary to take into consideration the concerns of those on the other side. Rather than giving up, I think the bill could be successful with a few revisions that satisfy both parties, while still maintaining its original initiative.
NH Science for Citizens
Department of Environmental Studies
Keene State College
Keene, NH 03431
A project of students and faculty at Keene State College in collaboration with local NH state representatives.