By Emma Coffey
New Hampshire State Representative, Jim Mcconnell, and 5 fellow co-sponsors proposed House Bill 1797 on January 3rd, 2018. As stated, “this bill adds a 50 percent charge to all amounts assessed to persons liable for costs of containment, cleanup, and mediation of water, air and soil pollution” (McConnell, 2018). Due to the lack of regulation, the hope for this bill if passed would be to deter large corporations from setting up business and discarding any of their pollutants into our pristine New Hampshire environment.
This bill makes a strong argument strengthening environmental laws in the state, however I feel as though it is too vague given the context. Jim McConnell is passionate about this state and protecting the health of its citizens as we have seen regarding having brought justice to a cluster if cancer cases allegedly caused by contamination in West Swanzey, NH. Through all the concern, it seems that representative McConnell did not efficiently analyze how this bill would effect of the well-being of others involved. Obligating polluters liable to pay an additional 50% of cost is a steep amount to request and is probably a major contributor to why the bill got turned away on January 30th, 2018. This large amount would most definitely deter corporations from entering New Hampshire however, it would shift the economy in the state.
In addition, there has never been any type of bill proposed and passed before with a fine quite like House Bill 1797. While conducting research, it was discovered that other states such as Alaska, Hawaii and areas along the east coast have penalties if found polluting the local land, water or air. Nevertheless, these penalties range from a few hundred dollars to a couple thousand and may include jail time. The largest amount found paid toward the state government was if a pipeline was leaked on Alaskan territory, in which case over a million dollars would be charged. House Bill 1797, if revised, would benefit by setting a minimum or maximum amount to the fine. The troubling part of the bill is that if $1,000,000 were spent on clean-up of a chemical leak in New Hampshire, and additional $500,000 would be paid to the state.
House Bill 1797 reads simply in only less than two pages. If attempted to get passed once more in upcoming year a good suggestion to make would be a more detailed version as the bill remains vague. The bill is unclear to where the 50% charge would go beside the state general fund. We are uninformed of how the money will be spent within the state; establishing better transportation systems, school education programs, health studios? The best solution would be to funnel the funds gained from these big polluters back in protecting the environment and the citizens living in the surrounding area. Conservation programs, sustainable energy and water quality, to name a few programs, should be the highlight of this bill. The bill must enlighten the State House and the public as to why it is so important. As stakeholders, they have interest in knowing how will they directly be rewarded or penalized in the future. This is a great beginning in establishing more regulations against major polluters on New Hampshire territory. With a few adjustments, House Bill 1797 has the ability to make it in New Hampshire State Legislation.
McConnell, Jim. (2018). House Bill-1797-FN-A AS INTRODUCED. LegiScan. Retrieved from https://legiscan.com/NH/text/HB1797/id/1661681.
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.