Sununu’s regressive energy plan no surprise given his record

Since Governor Chris Sununu released his 10-year State Energy Strategy this week, it’s worth reviewing his history on energy and environmental issues.

Sununu has denied climate change, defended President Trump’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement, refused to join the bipartisan US Climate Alliance, considered withdrawing New Hampshire from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, voted against renewable energy projects as an Executive Councilor, gone back and forth and back and forth on studying commuter rail, and lied about signing a law to subsidize renewable energy.

Paris Climate Agreement Withdrawal

When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement in June 2017, Governor Sununu, touting his background in science, refused to examine the scientific merits of the Paris Climate Agreement and backed the Trump administration’s decision to withdraw, saying:  

“You know it’s not my job to go through the whole accord and look at the in-depth impacts across the country, economically. The president has done that, his team has done that, and they’ve made the decision they feel is in the best interest of the United States and I stand by that.”

Sununu’s response also shunned his responsibility as Governor to be a caretaker for New Hampshire’s environment. He claimed to have no authority to take action on climate change, which stands to impact every state and part of the world, saying:

“I don’t have a real reaction right now to be honest it’s nothing I’ve really thought about. It’s a federal issue at this point. It’s nothing, I’m focused on the 603 and what we do here.”

US Climate Alliance

Following President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Climate Agreement, a bipartisan group of governors from 16 states and Puerto Rico formed the US Climate Alliance with the mission of upholding the objectives of the Paris Agreement.

While Governor Sununu refused to include New Hampshire in the US Climate Alliance, his fellow Republican Governors Phil Scott of Vermont and Charlie Baker of Massachusetts enthusiastically joined the group.

“Our administration looks forward to continued, bipartisan collaboration with other states to protect the environment, grow the economy and deliver a brighter future to the next generation,” Massachusetts Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.

While Governor Sununu’s lack of  leadership has failed New Hampshire at the state level, Manchester, Portsmouth, Nashua, and Somersworth have joined Climate Mayors, a group of cities dedicated to upholding the goals of the Paris Agreement.

The non-partisan fact-checking project PolitiFact rated Sununu’s criticism of the US Climate Alliance “mostly false” and said he was “blowing smoke.”

Climate Change Denial

When he was running for Governor, Chris Sununu dodged questions about whether he believed climate change is happening (while, ironically, talking about how he always gives “straight answers”).  

Sununu has repeatedly denied , when asked during an interview on New Hampshire Public Radio whether he believes that carbon emissions are a leading cause of climate change, Governor Sununu denied basic climate science, saying the following:

“I don’t know for sure. And I’ve studied this at MIT. I studied earth and atmospheric sciences with some of the best in the world. And I’ve looked at the data myself… I think we should keep looking at it. We have to keep studying it, understand all the impacts, whether they’re to the environment, social, economic, or other factors that might come into play. Is carbon the leading reason why the earth has warmed up pretty much continuously over the last 150 years, I’m not sure. It could be.”

Flirting with RGGI withdrawal

As Governor-elect, Sununu said he would consider withdrawing from the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), a market-based cooperative effort of Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

As a scheduled review of RGGI approached in June of last year, Sununu made other states and environmental groups nervous by refusing to clarify his commitment to staying in RGGI and indicating that he wanted to seek changes in the agreement.

Anti-Renewable Energy history

Sununu’s 10 year energy plan calls for a reorganization of New Hampshire’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, which would devalue certain renewable energy sources such as solar and wind relative to other low-carbon energy sources, particularly nuclear power.

While he was serving on Executive Council, Sununu voted against plans for solar and wind renewable energy projects, calling them “bad deals” and “foolish.”

Commuter Rail

Governor Sununu has been on both sides of the discussion about whether to fund a study on a bringing commuter rail linking New Hampshire to Boston so many times that it’s getting difficult to keep track. While his new 10 year energy plan includes a list of reasons that commuter rail should not be considered, he’s recently been taking credit for the NH House of Representatives passing the 10 year transportation plan with funding for the commuter rail study included.

Confused? Here’s a history of Governor Sununu’s positions on rail:

  • Sununu voted against a commuter rail study as an Executive Council in 2013.
  • During his campaign for Governor, Sununu unequivocally opposed commuter rail, calling it “a boondoggle project.”
  • In his attempt to lure Amazon’s second headquarters to New Hampshire, Sununu changed his position and put commuter rail on the table, saying “Rail has been studied, rail has been proposed, and if Amazon wants to come and we can accelerate those plans then that’s absolutely on the table.”
  • When putting together the 10 year transportation plan, Sununu included funding for a commuter rail study, saying that the state’s Amazon pitch “demonstrated the need to study the potential options.”
  • Amazon announced its finalists for its second headquarters, rejecting New Hampshire’s proposal
  • Asked if he still supports rail despite Amazon’s rejection, Sununu repeatedly refused to answer the question, saying “it’s in the legislature’s hands right now. It’s not really up to me at this point.”
  • New Hampshire businesses formed a coalition, NH Business for Rail Expansion, to advocate for funding the rail study.
  • State Rep. Al Baldassaro said Sununu told Republican lawmakers to “kill” rail and told WMUR that Sununu gave them permission to remove the rail study from the transportation plan.
  • The house overturned the committee’s recommendation against funding the rail study and passed it the 10-year transportation plan. The Concord Monitor noted: “After New Hampshire failed to make the shipping company’s shortlist, Sununu withdrew his support, saying it had been contingent on Amazon’s bid.”
  • Speaking at a Manchester Chamber of Commerce event, Sununu took credit for passing the commuter rail study in the House, saying he “twisted a few arms.”
  • Sununu’s 10 year state energy strategy argued that the state should not invest in commuter rail (page 46).

SB 129 Lie

Last year, SB 129, a bill that created a subsidy benefitting certain classes of renewable energy, passed through the New Hampshire House and Senate. In a move that often indicates opposition, Governor Sununu chose not to sign the bill, which became law without his signature.

Recently, Sununu has been telling audiences that he signed SB 129, saying “I signed the biggest renewable energy subsidy this state has ever seen last year.”