By Julia Yates
House bill 1797 aims to deter large companies with a high potential to pollute from moving to New Hampshire in pursuit of lenient pollution regulations. If New Hampshire can strengthen its laws against pollution it will not be as appealing to large companies looking for an area where there will be little consequences for their contamination. By adding a 50 percent tax to contamination remediation costs it will force companies to think twice before considering New Hampshire as an easy dumping ground. This bill was prompted by the movement of Saint Gobain’s performance plastics plant from Bennington, Vt. to Merrimack, N.H in 2002. The motivation behind this move was that New Hampshire has laxer pollution regulations than Vermont. This bill hopes to prevent this from happening in the future by strengthening NH’s regulations and adding a 50 percent tax to “containment, cleanup, and remediation of water, air, and soil pollution”. Although the bill seems to have the best intentions it does leave me with some questions and criticisms. The bill is extremely broad in some aspects and leaves some specifics to question.
One area of confusion is where the money from the 50 percent tax will go and who will benefit from it. In the bill it states that the money will go to the state’s general und where it can be allocated to different services within the government. My concern is that this may not be the most beneficial area for the revenue because it does not directly benefit the environment or those who are effected by the contamination that is being taxed. As a revision to this bill I might say that the money should be allocated to environmental services in the state to benefit. The money could then fund future clean-up efforts or water, land, or air tests to ensure that all the contamination has truly been remediated from the natural environment. If the revenue could support environmental causes it would be more in line with the positive environmental intentions of the bill.
As an alternative to giving the money to an environmental resource, the revenue could possibly go to those who were affected by the contamination. For example, if a large company spills hazardous chemicals and they find their way into the drinking water of private properties in the area the people living in these homes could be compensated. These chemicals can have dangerous effects on the health of civilians. I believe that using the revenue of the tax to help the individuals and families affected by the contamination could be a more important use of the money.
Additionally, the bill leaves me questioning if the companies would be the ones to fund the 50 percent tax or if the remediation and tax will be covered by insurance companies. This was not made clear in the bill and could raise some issues. The bill also does not fully explain who will monitor companies to ensure that they pay the additional tax. In order for this policy to work it must have a set plan of how it will be enforced. I believe that in order for this bill to be sound it needs to be explained in further depth. Many of my questions could be addressed if the bill was not so broad and if it went into more description about the specific processes it would take to instate.
I support the intentions of House Bill 1797 and I believe that it could have potential if it was tweaked in some ways. Most of my personal issues with the proposal come from how broad the bill is. In theory the additional 50 percent tax could deter companies from polluting but I don’t think it could logistically work with the limited information given in the bill.
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.