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NH State Reps: "Dear Lame Duck Congress..."

November 12, 2010

CONCORD, N.H. - What is known as the "lame duck" Congress heads back to Washington, D.C., on Monday, which means some members will be finishing the last two months of their term and will not be returning next session. Many see this time as the least productive for outgoing legislators, which is why several New Hampshire state representatives have signed a letter urging retiring Sen. Judd Gregg to take final action on an offshore energy reform bill.

Rep. Susi Nord (D-Dist. 1, Rockingham County) is one of 10 signers who cites the Deepwater Horizon spill as a reason to act now.

"Our off-shore energy program hasn't been updated since the late ‘70s, and yet the technology the industry is using has changed greatly. They're drilling in deeper water, for example. All the different things the industry is doing haven't been caught up with in legislation."

The letter stresses the importance of holding polluters, as opposed to taxpayers, liable. Other points being stressed are protections for coastal resources, including fisheries, and a greater role for NOAA regarding agency response plans to environmental emergencies.

One issue expected to come up for debate next month is the cap on the amount of money energy companies would have to pay as the result of an oil spill. Right now, the amount of liability is set at $75 million, Nord says.

"Unfortunately, if you have a spill of the magnitude that the spill was this year, the damage can be in the billions, tens of billions of dollars."

In an estimate released by Pew Environment Group, the BP Oil spill is projected to have caused a loss of about $22 billion in tourism dollars. Nord says that although New Hampshire escaped damage this time, she would like to see protections in place going forward.

"It's really important that we have some protection for the people of the state, both environmental and safety for the workers, as well as for the businesses that rely on a clean coastline for tourism dollars."

The bill, "The Clean Energy Jobs and Oil Accountability Act," is S. 3663.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - NH