In December, I had the opportunity to speak with Senator David Watters from New Hampshire's 4th district, and I was inspired by his commitment to our beautiful state and to the planet. I asked him if he could please share his environmental platform with our GreenLifeNH readers and he kindly agreed.
Why does New Hampshire’s environment matter to you? How do you enjoy the natural beauty New Hampshire has to offer?
New Hampshire has a beautiful, varied landscape from the mountains to the sea, and it embodies centuries of lives lived and history made in its built landscape. I love to ski, and walk and run along the Cochecho River in Dover. The Great Bay Estuary and the coast are really unique environments I treasure.
What environmental success stories can you share from your time in the New Hampshire Senate? How were these goals reached?
I’ve been able to move forward legislation on planning for storm surge, sea level rise, and extreme precipitation through the Coastal Risk and Hazards Commission. Its report was a model for coastal states around the nation. This, as for all of my bills, required a coalition of bipartisan legislators, state agencies, local officials, and
environmental scientists. I have also led on wildlife legislation, often related to climate change, on wildlife corridors, wildlife trafficking, and marine fisheries.
I’ve worked with legislators and businesses to enact renewable energy legislation, particularly as the lead legislator on offshore wind development, creating the Commission on which I serve as chair. I’m also the lead on electric vehicle infrastructure development. I’ve taken the Senate lead on reducing solid waste and recycling, especially in terms of plastics, and I’ve passed legislation to deal with PFAS pollution. It has been very important to work closely with New Hampshire businesses on these initiatives.
In your opinion, how does New Hampshire compare to our neighboring New England states with regard to environmental policy? How can we learn from - and possibly collaborate with - our neighbors?
New Hampshire can learn from the other New England states who have made major commitments to the clean energy economy which will drive economic development and job growth. It can also look to policies particularly in MA and CT on electric vehicle adoption and infrastructure. Maine has passed first in the nation legislation on solid waste and recycling with its extended producer responsibility program.
New Hampshire lags far behind the region in adopting emission reduction and renewable portfolio standards goals, and at this point in time, due to political reasons, New Hampshire is not doing what it needs to do to address the climate crisis. We are a member of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative, but we do very little to use it as a means of enhancing energy efficiency, as have other states.
What is your vision for New Hampshire’s environmental policy going forward? What obstacles are there to your vision and how do you plan to surmount them?
New Hampshire has an opportunity to transition to a resilient, clean energy economy that will improve the health of the environment and human health. We owe this to the next generations. We should go all-in on offshore wind and solar, but this will require leadership from the governor. We
need to plan for the environmental effects of a warming climate on the recreation economy and on fisheries, especially because the Gulf of Maine is warming faster than almost any ocean area in the world. There is a need for more Federal leadership, but New Hampshire needs a legislature and a governor committed to dealing with the climate crisis.
What can we, as concerned citizens, do to help our elected officials achieve our shared environmental goals?
New Hampshire citizens have the fundamental right and unique opportunities to affect legislative policy. First, of course, is through voting, and then by pushing for policies at the local level and in the state legislature. Municipalities can do great things, especially on community power, recycling, electric vehicles, etc.
New Hampshire youth really are taking the lead in demanding and effecting change. Legislators listen carefully to young people from their districts when they testify. Or who call or write them. Students have the opportunity to become deeply knowledgeable on science, and to develop and advocate for policy. Students can start with their own families, neighborhoods, and schools. The New Hampshire Youth Environmental Education and Conservation Council, if my bill passes, will give students a forum to consider and develop policy, and will guarantee youth access to legislators. I personally look for guidance in envisioning the future New Hampshire and nation young people want to live in, so I welcome advice.
Thank you, Senator Watters, for sharing your green vision with GreenLifeNH!