Rep. Ann Kuster attends Hanover meeting on "Ready for 100" campaign

by Soleil Gaylord | 1/30/20 2:00am

On Monday morning, community members, students and a group of panelists including Rep. Ann Kuster ’78 (D-NH) convened at Hanover’s Town Hall to discuss the town’s “Ready for 100” action campaign. During the event, panelists and community members showed support for the town’s renewable energy plans and discussed the progress of the initiative, while some attendees also voiced criticism of College’s proposed biomass heating plant. 

The town’s plan, which Kuster supports, commits Hanover to 100 percent renewable electricity by 2030, and to 100 percent renewable heating and transportation sources by 2050. The proposal, which was voted upon and approved by Hanover community members in 2017, would make Hanover the first municipality in the United States to enact a renewable energy campaign through popular support. 

Monday’s round-table panel consisted of nine members, who worked for various organizations such as the Appalachian Mountain Club, Clean Energy New Hampshire, the League of Conservation Voters, the Revers Center for Energy, the Sierra Club, the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests, The Nature Conservancy and Vital Communities. Hanover town manager Julia Griffin also participated in the panel discussion. 

Throughout the meeting, Kuster consistently emphasized the urgency of climate change, particularly in the Northeast. Kuster, whose father owned Wildcat Ski Resort, mentioned her personal connection with the changing climate in the state of New Hampshire, where many industries are intimately tied to the environment and outdoor recreation. 

“In New Hampshire, we are living it day-to-day,” Kuster said. 

Kuster noted that New Hampshire is well-versed in environmental action, which she hopes will galvanize action throughout the state.

“These are environmental organizations that have been active in New Hampshire for 100 years and have shown leadership on land conservation, energy conservation and renewable conservation,” Kuster said. “We are not starting from scratch.”

Kuster said New Hampshire can use its base of support to prompt further climate action campaigns.

“I feel very good about this –– I hope there is this kind of local energy and grassroots support in congressional districts around the country,” Kuster said. “I know New Hampshire can lead the way.”  

Sarah Nelson, research director of Appalachian Mountain Club, began the meeting with several statistics about climate changes in Northeastern weather patterns. According to Nelson, New Hampshire has experienced 18 fewer freezing nights per winter and 21 fewer days of snow cover over the past century. She added that winters in the state have become three weeks shorter overall –– all alarming statistics in a state where the ski industry is paramount to economic success. 

“We are calling them winter weather whiplash events,” Nelson said. 

Nelson stressed the importance of long-term monitoring of air, freshwater and forest health, adding that New Hampshire’s trend towards reforestation will play an important future role in carbon sequestration. 

According to April Salas, Hanover sustainability director and director of the Revers Center for Energy at the Tuck School of Business, several communities in New Hampshire have already reached out to Hanover, hoping to emulate the town’s adoption of the “Ready for 100” action proposal. She said Hanover’s implementation of the campaign has involved a three-pronged approach — first, working with residents, then small businesses and eventually with larger entities such as the College.  

“Since the vote, and since Dartmouth’s endorsement, they have installed upwards of 13-plus solar systems on the roofs of buildings across the campus,” Salas said of the College’s commitment to sustainability.  

Some attendants of the meeting criticized the college for its plan to replace its oil-burning energy plant with a biomass plant. Miriam Osofsky, a resident of the Upper Valley who is involved in the Upper Valley Clean Air Committee, mentioned her concern for the College’s heating plans.

“Biomass is a false solution,” Osofsky said in an interview after the event. “I’m concerned about the toxic air pollutants that will be emitted in Hanover if Dartmouth proceeds with its plan to incinerate biomass near my home.” 

Despite these concerns, most panelists and attendees seemed supportive of the College and the town’s progress.  

New Hampshire Sierra Club chapter director Cathy Corkery praised Hanover’s success as a leader in the clean energy movement, particularly as a small community.

“People really are learning from example from what a small town can do with this program, and really dig in,” Corkery said.