By Madelyn Thomas
House Bill 1797 was designed to keep unethical, polluting businesses out of New Hampshire, and could be an important part of legislation once revised. It’s important to compare the costs and benefits of all aspects of the bill- such as companies coming to New Hampshire might be valuable in the sense that it brings new job opportunities, but when it becomes a public health or ecological crisis, this is when the costs outweigh the benefits. We need to have a law in place that would prevent larger companies from taking advantage of New Hampshire’s pristine environment and putting our people in danger. That is why revising and continuing to push for HB 1797 to be passed in future years is essential; at the same time, understand certain aspects of the bill need to be changed in order for it to achieve the goal, and not hinder economic growth.
One of the first recommended revisions for HB-1797 is to specify where the money goes when it enters the general fund. The general fund money is budgeted for services from education to correctional facilities and the Fish and Game Department. The bill would need to outline specifically where these funds would go, and instead of just being deposited into the general fund, be invested to further aid in damage remediation. For example, being put towards helping the environment, if the money was collected in that case because of the environmental destruction. Or to help pay for medical expenses if the pollution impacted human health.
Secondly, the meaning of pollution needs to be more defined. There are several forms of environmental remediation a company can have that could be subjected to the 50% charge the bill proposes. For instance, if a dairy farmer’s waste or a vegetable farmer’s pesticides impacted the wildlife around the farm, they would have to pay for remediation in some circumstances. This bill impacts more than just the “big bad companies” coming to New Hampshire specifically to take advantage of our lenient environmental laws.
Another form of environmental remediation a company could have that would lead to them to pay a 50% charge would be accidental spills and contaminations. Companies should prepare for the worst as best as they can, but can’t always control the cause of needing cleanup. If the reasons for remediation can be proven preventable, the business should have to pay, but not if the accident was unavoidable. Part of the purpose of the bill is to push businesses to have more methods to prevent accidents from happening, and it’s imperative that we keep with motive while not to completely obstruct the business from running per usual. Consequences of having a law that is vague on what is considered a pollution, and not factoring in accidental damage would likely take a toll on small companies and may even cause them to go bankrupt.
Implementing the three revisions previously stated would keep our economy healthy, while still holding businesses accountable for environmental destruction. Having HB-1797 in place would strengthen the environmental regulations in New Hampshire and ensure public safety.
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.