February 14, 2017 update: A bill to repeal the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) will be retained the committee for now, the bill’s sponsor told ICIS Analytics. Republican Jeb Bradley, the New Hampshire Senate Majority leader, also told the Associated Press that he doesn’t expect two bills aimed at repealing RGGI and the renewable energy portfolio standard (RPS) to pass. Senator Bradley explained that repealing the RPS could put jobs in the growing renewable energy jobs at risk.
In addition, the sponsor of the RPS repeal bill belatedly filed a Declaration of Intent form required of state legislators who introduce bills that pose financial or personal conflicts of interest. The form was filed only after the Energy and Policy Institute raised concerns in the original article below. The limited information disclosed by the bill sponsor fails to fully address these concerns.
February 7, 2017 update: Local clean energy businesses and supporters turned out in force today in Concord to voice their support for the RGGI and RPS. This strong show of public support for clean energy came during a winter storm that brought snow, sleet, and freezing rain to the Granite State.
The primary sponsors of two separate bills aimed at repealing RGGI and the RPS in New Hampshire were no shows for today’s public hearings on their controversial bills.
Representative Michael Harrington, the sponsor of the RGGI repeal bill, did not show up for the 10 AM hearing on his bill. A state representative who spoke in lieu of Harrington declined to answer questions or take a position on the bill. Harrington is the bill’s only sponsor. No explanation was offered for Harrington’s absence, beyond that he couldn’t make it.
Representative Bart Fromuth failed to show up for the 2 PM hearing on his bill to repeal the RPS, and no specific reason for his absence was provided. Representative Michael Vose, a co-sponsor of Fromuth’s bill, spoke instead. One solar supporter noted Fromuth’s role in running Resident Power, a competitive electricity supplier that is subject to the RPS, and voiced concern about conflicts of interest discussed in further depth in the original article below. Those concerns were promptly muted by Representative Richard Barry, who chairs the committee that hosted today’s hearings. Barry just happens to be a co-sponsor of Fromuth’s RPS repeal bill, and a longtime opponent of New Hampshire’s clean energy policies.
Greg Moore, state director for the Koch-backed Americans for Prosperity (AFP), was among the few to testify against RGGI and the RPS today. Moore was granted an early speaking spot during the packed afternoon hearing on the RPS, while Rep. Barry used his bully pulpit to interrupt and rush testimony by RPS supporters as the day wore on.
Beyond Moore and AFP, the RGGI and RPS repeal bills received only the sparsest of support. The overwhelming majority of the testimony came from RGGI and RPS supporters who spoke to the economic, climate, and public health benefits of these key clean energy programs.
A video recording of the public hearings on both bills can be found here.
February 5, 2017 update: This article has been updated below with information about the New Hampshire General Court’s ethics guidelines, and Representative Bart Fromuth’s failure to file Declaration of Intent forms to document conflicts of interest involved in his sponsorship of bills to repeal the state’s renewable portfolio standard and roles in running and representing utilities subject to that law’s requirements.
A bill to repeal New Hampshire’s renewable portfolio standard is backed by the Koch brothers, and is sponsored by a state representative who is an executive in a company that runs utilities subject to the law’s requirements. And a separate bill to repeal the state’s participation in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative has received similar backing.
Repealing state renewable portfolio standards is a priority for the Koch network in 2017
As Jim Geraghty of the National Review first reported last weekend, the Koch group Americans for Prosperity (AFP) recently highlighted plans to push for the repeal of renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policies in Kansas, New Hampshire, and North Carolina. The news came as the powerful network of political donors led by Charles and David Koch met at the Renaissance Resort and Spa in Indian Wells, California.
The RPS repeal push will be part of the Koch political network’s broader plan to spend $300 to $400 million to influence public policy in 2017-2018. It also represents the latest attempt to revive a largely failed campaign by a number of Koch backed groups, including AFP and the American Legislative Exchange Council, to roll back state RPS policies.
A total of 29 states currently have RPS policies on the books, the same number as when the Koch network launched its anti-RPS campaign back in 2012 (though the makeup of those states has shifted slightly). These failed attacks serve as a reminder of the popularity and job creating benefits of our nation’s fast-growing wind and solar power industries – growth propelled in large part by those state policies requiring utilities to obtain a percentage of their electricity from renewables.
First up: A zombie bill in New Hampshire
On February 7, the New Hampshire House of Representative’s Science, Technology, and Energy Committee will hold a hearing on a bill – HB 225 – to repeal the state’s RPS. The bill is sponsored by Representative Bart Fromuth, and is a zombie version of a similar 2015 bill that Fromuth floated, which died in the House.
Rep. Fromuth is the chief operating officer for the utility conglomerate Freedom Companies, according to a financial disclosure form he filed for 2017.
The corporate portfolio of Freedom Companies includes competitive electricity suppliers, such as Resident Power and PNE Energy Supply, that are subject to the state’s RPS. It also includes Freedom Energy Logistics, which has represented at least one competitive electricity supplier that was found to have failed to comply with the RPS in a case before the state’s Public Utility Commission, a case that Fromuth’s firm lost for its client.
Moore money, more problems for Representative Bart Fromuth
AFP New Hampshire included plans to target the RPS in its 2017 Legislative Agenda. It so far appears to be one of the only groups publicly pushing for repeal of the RPS, based on a review of online search results for bill supporters.
The individual contribution from Moore is also recorded in the state’s campaign finance system:
A failure to disclose properly disclose conflicts of interest
The New Hampshire General Assembly’s Ethics Guidelines require state legislators to file a Declaration of Intent form whenever:
- A legislator or a legislator’s household member has a financial interest that could reasonably be expected to have a greater financial impact (either beneficial or detrimental) on a legislator or a legislator’s household member than would accrue to any other member of the business, profession, occupation, or other group which the legislator listed in the Financial Disclosure Form; or
- A legislator or a legislator’s household member has a personal interest in the outcome of a matter that is the subject of official activity, distinct from and greater than the interests of the public at large. A “personal interest” exists where a legislator or a legislator’s household member could otherwise be affected by the outcome of such activity, or when a legislator or a legislator’s household member has a responsibility for the welfare of an organization and where that welfare could be affected by the outcome of such activity.
In addition, the guidelines require that:
This declaration shall be publicly announced prior to any participation by the legislator in the official activity and the Declaration of Intent form shall be filed with the clerk of the member’s respective body prior to the time of the official activity and be made available for public inspection during normal business hours.
The definition of “official activity” includes the introduction of legislation, and the guidelines specify that Declaration of Intent must be made prior to signing off as a sponsor or co-sponsor of a particular piece of legislation.”
But no Declaration of Intent form is publicly available online for Rep. Fromuth for 2017. The “very few” Declaration of Intent forms for 2017 that have yet to be posted online do not include any filing by Rep. Fromuth, the executive administrator for the General Assembly’s Legislative Ethics Committee confirmed via email.
In fact, no Declaration of Intent form is available online for Rep. Fromuth for any of the years since he first joined the House in 2014. Rep. Fromuth introduced his 2015 and 2017 RPS repeal bills without properly disclosing conflicts of interest involving in his roles in running and representing utilities subject to the requirements of the very law he wants to repeal.
Hearings on two zombie repeal bills in one day
Also on the Science, Technology, and Energy Committee’s agenda for February 7 is a hearing on another bill – HB 592 – to repeal the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI). Legislators have tried to withdraw New Hampshire from RGGI before, with AFP New Hampshire’s backing, and failed.
Representative Michael Harrington is sponsoring the current RGGI repeal bill. Harrington has served as an advisory board member for the New England Ratepayers Association (NERA), a group which does not disclose its funders but is widely suspected of representing utility interests. Harrington was critical of RGGI and net metering incentives for rooftop solar in recent testimony on the group’s behalf before the state’s Public Utility Commission.
In keeping with the opaque nature of NERA, it is unclear whether or not Rep. Harrington has received compensation for his work for the group. What is clear is that Rep. Harrington did not disclose his relationship with NERA in his financial disclosure filing for 2017. In addition, no Declaration of Intent is publicly available online for Rep. Harrington for 2017, though the General Assembly’s ethics guidelines require one be filed when a legislator has “a responsibility for the welfare of an organization and where that welfare could be affected by the outcome of such activity.”
Americans for Prosperity is backed by the Koch brothers and other fossil fuel interests
AFP’s ties to the Koch brothers are well documented at this point, but it’s worth a reminder that the concern here isn’t just about the money. Marc Holden, a senior vice president and more for Koch Industries, serves on AFP’s board of directors. David Koch serves on the AFP Foundation’s board.
While the Koch brothers would likely describe their opposition to state RPS policies in ideological terms, these attacks are also clearly aimed at stifling the competition from wind and solar power in order to shore up the profits from Koch Industries’ many fossil fuel and electricity-related ventures. For example, Koch Energy Services, a corporation registered in New Hampshire, markets “natural gas and power throughout North America.”
In 2015, the most recent year for which funding data is publicly available, AFP received $23,250,000 from the Koch-affiliated Freedom Partners Chamber of Commerce, which counts Marc Holden and other Koch employees among its board members. AFP also received funding in 2015 from the Charles Koch Foundation and Charles Koch Institute.
Bankruptcy documents filed by Alpha Natural Resources and Peabody Energy also exposed AFP’s dark money ties to the coal industry. The book Dark Money by Jane Mayer shines further light on the big money and special interests represented by the broader Koch political network.
Copycat attacks on New Hampshire’s clean energy and climate change leadership
Efforts to repeal the RPS and RGGI in New Hampshire mirror attacks on similar policies in many other states, attacks that largely began when the Koch-backed American Legislative Exchange Council started peddling so called “model policies” aimed at rolling back these sorts of policies to state legislators all over the country. In fact, the original 2011 bill aimed at repealing RGGI in New Hampshire lifted language directly from ALEC’s “State Withdrawal from Regional Climate Initiatives” bill template (though that language was later removed to try to hide ALEC’s fingerprints). Rep. Richard Barry, the sponsor of that 2011 RGGI repeal bill, is now a listed as a co-sponsor on Rep. Fromuth’s 2017 RPS repeal bill.
These attacks have come back to bite ALEC, which has faced an exodus of corporate members amidst the controversy and public outcry over its efforts to stand in the way of progress on climate change and renewable energy. Even fossil fuel and utility companies like American Electric Power and Shell have left ALEC, along with big tech companies like Facebook and Google.
John Kasich, the Republican governor of Ohio, recently tipped his hat to the job creating benefits of those pro-renewable energy tech firms when he ended an unpopular freeze on the Buckeye State’s renewable energy and energy efficiency standards. Republicans now control the state legislature and governor’s office in New Hampshire, and they should use their bully pulpit to beat back this latest attack on the Granite State’s clean energy economy.