To The Daily Sun,
It's an unfortunate reality these days that the first casualty in politics is usually the truth. Take this year's special election for Executive Council in District 1. At a recent debate in Meredith, Joe Kenney, the Republican nominee, claimed that he is a forceful opponent of industrial wind power, and that his Democratic opponent, Mike Cryans, isn't. The facts, however, do not support Mr. Kenney's claims.
Mr. Kenney spent 14 years in the state Legislature in Concord, first as a state representative (1994-2002), then as a state senator (2002-2008). His legislative career coincided with the deregulation of the electric industry and a mandate for more renewable energy projects, including industrial wind farms.
Kenney supported each bill to advance these policies, starting with the deregulation of the electric generation industry (Chapter 374-F) in 1996, and in subsequent measures to relax the siting and oversight requirements for large-scale renewable energy projects.
In 1998, for example, Kenney supported bills that exempted wholesale electric generation projects from regulation as public utilities (SB 341) and removed the longstanding prohibition on their exercise of eminent domain (HB 1659). In 2007, Kenney voted in favor of establishing Renewable Energy Portfolios (HB 873) and for streamlining the timelines and procedures to approve wind-energy projects (SB 140).
I do not mean to fault Mr. Kenney for his support of these bills. Most of these measures passed unanimously on voice votes in the House and Senate, demonstrating the bipartisan wave of optimism that surrounded each measure at the time.
But we can't let optimism cloud our common sense. Plainly, Mr. Kenney failed to foresee the negative consequences of his votes, which have now arrived in the form of industrial wind development on our mountaintops and lake shores. The Public Utilities Commission certainly recognized what the Legislature had done in 2007, when it noted in a year-end report:
"In Senate Bill 140, the Legislature took the first step in the process of informed decision making when it identified as a problem the need to upgrade the electric transmission system in northern New Hampshire in order to accommodate the construction of the sizable wind and biomass generating facilities critical to achieving the benefits of HB 873 . . ."
(PUC Background Report to the General Assembly re: Electric Transmission Infrastructure, Dec. 1, 2007, page 44.)
But if Mr. Kenney recognized it, he didn't raise any objection or offer any amendments.
As he campaigns today against "big wind," Mr. Kenney should at least explain to the voters how his votes in the Legislature from 1996-2008 square with his position today, and why he supported, without objection, measures that have led directly and predictably to the situation we now confront.
In contrast, Mike Cryans has never supported wind-generation projects. When it comes to renewable energy, Mike's work as a Grafton County Commissioner has included the opportunity to build a wood-chip energy plant at the Grafton County complex. Unlike industrial wind power, which brings harmful environment and economic impacts, usually at the hands of foreign companies, biomass energy expands economic development at the local level by creating a steady market for local woodsmen and local contractors. The Grafton County biomass plant has produced taxpayer savings in energy costs totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars each year.
New Hampshire's energy future will depend on a reliable supply of renewable power. The question is how to produce this power in a manner consistent with our common interests.
Mr. Kenney spent 14 years in Concord rolling back the State's ability to regulate and oversee large industrial energy projects. Mr. Cryans's work in Grafton County has promoted the generation of cost-effective renewable energy in the local economy.
Rather than rhetoric, the candidates should be judged by their records.