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Will Energy Policy Politics (Finally) Heat Up in New Hampshire?

The U.S. government just told American households should expect to see their heating bills jump as much as 54 percent over last winter.

The many Granite Staters who rely on heating oil and propane could wind up spending $500 more to heat their homes this year, it reported.

Here in New Hampshire, a state that already pays the fifth-highest electricity prices in the continental U.S., the New Hampshire Electric Cooperative (NHEC) announced an overall bill increase for most residential members of about 17 percent starting next month.

New Hampshire’s Consumer Advocates Donald M. Kreis says “Your electric and natural gas bills are about to go up, substantially, and you are not going to be happy about it.”

State Rep. Michael Harrington (R-Stafford) a former member of the Public Utility Commission (PUC) agrees. “Regrettably, Don is correct. Rates are going way up this winter,” he told NHJournal.

And that’s on top of a 30 percent surge in the cost of gasoline in the past year, from $2/gallon to around $3.10.

That’s a lot of economic pain, which would traditionally mean an opportunity for political gain. So, why aren’t any New Hampshire politicians talking about energy prices?

It’s not hard to make the case that New Hampshire’s congressional delegation is on the wrong side of the issue. The top reason for rising prices is the lack of access to natural gas, and New Hampshire’s federal legislators are supporting policies to restrict natural gas production.

“In New England, most of our electricity is produced by burning natural gas,” Kreis notes, observing that on a typical day, “56 percent of the electricity in New England was being produced by natural gas generators.  So when the price of natural gas goes up, our electricity rates increase as well.”

That is certainly the case for co-op customers. “Natural gas and electricity prices in New England are closely linked,” said Brian Callnan, NHEC Vice President of Power Resources & Access. “As the price of natural gas has risen over the past several months, so has the cost to purchase electricity to serve our members.”

Natural gas prices are soaring in part because we had a relatively warm summer. Gas that would have been stored for the winter was used to generate electricity for AC. But they’re also rising because global demand is surging, while the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress are discouraging natural gas production and transportation.

Pipeline politics are popular among Democrats. On his first day in office, President Biden issued an executive order canceling the Keystone XL pipeline. In July, Dominion Energy and Duke Energy announced they were canceling the Atlantic Coast pipeline due to “legal uncertainty” in the face of repeated challenges from progressive pipeline opponents. And the plug was pulled on the PennEast pipeline just months after winning a major victory before the Supreme Court for similar reasons.

Then there are the restrictions on production. “Under the Biden administration, no new drilling has been allowed on federal lands,” Harrington says. “Remember, the Bureau of Land Management owns about 10 percent of the land west of the Mississippi River. So over the past eight months, existing wells have closed, as all wells do eventually. But unlike last year, new ones didn’t open. As this continues, prices for natural gas will continue to go up.”

If this looks like a perfect storm of pain for energy customers, the forecast is actually worse. The Build Back Better plan backed by Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen includes huge increases in energy costs for consumers, according to analysts. A big one is the $150 billion “Clean Electricity Performance Program,” which will raise costs on utilities that don’t increase their level of carbon-free electricity each year.

That, in turn, will force Granite State utilities into price competition for that in-demand power and costs are all but certain to rise — thanks to policies pushed by Democrats. Those policies can be defended as part of the fight against climate change, but it’s hard to argue they aren’t adding to consumers’ costs.

If you’re a member of Congress running for re-election, this is not an argument you want to have. And in the past, Reps. Annie Kuster and Chris Pappas, along with Hassan and Shaheen, have largely been able to avoid the most extreme green politics in their party. The “Green New Deal” resolution in the House has more than 1oo cosponsors, but none of them are for New Hampshire. Hassan and Shaheen have repeatedly refused to take a position on the legislation, either.

But if the expensive green policies currently in the Build Back Better reconciliation bill are still there when Democrats pass the bill, the Granite State’s delegation will have no place to hide.

 

Corey Lewandowski to NHGOP Senate Candidates: You Can’t Beat Shaheen

Corey Lewandowski says he’s made his decision about a possible 2020 U.S. Senate race and, while he won’t say what it is, he does have a message for the New Hampshire Republicans already in the field:

Don’t bother. You can’t win.

“If I decide to get into this race, it’s going to send shock waves not just across New Hampshire, but through the country,” Lewandowski said on the John Fredericks radio show Thursday. “I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t think I would be successful.”

He doesn’t have the same confidence in the rest of the GOP field: Retired Gen. Donald Bolduc, attorney Corky Messner and former NH House Speaker Bill O’Brien.

“I hear the other [NHGOP] candidates can’t raise money for a litany of reasons. If I said today ‘I’m out of the US Senate race’… it’s not like they’re going to raise $10 or $20 million tomorrow. Let’s not kid ourselves.

“The only person who potentially can get in this race who has a national profile is Corey Lewandowski. And the only person who’s going to send Jeanne Shaheen home permanently, if I do get in the race, is going to be me.”

“People can argue it,” Lewandowski added, “but that’s just the truth.”

Lewandowski, who says he’s currently advising the Trump/Pence 2020 campaign, told Fredericks he’s discussed his possible candidacy with President Trump, Vice President Pence and Trump campaign manager Brad Parscale.

Lewandowski also predicted that impeachment would make Democratic incumbent Shaheen easier to beat in November. “I’ve weighed my calculation based on what impeachment will mean for a U.S. Senate race and I think Jeanne Shaheen is very vulnerable because I believe she will vote in lockstep with AOC and Speaker Pelosi to remove a duly-elected president.”

When Fredericks said it sounds like Lewandowski’s decided to run, the former Trump campaign manager didn’t disagree.

“Well, I’ve been brushing up on foreign policy,” Lewandowski said. “I’ve spent an enormous amount of time understanding some issues that I wasn’t as well briefed in as an incumbent U.S. Senator would be. If that gives you an indication of what my decision is, I’ll leave it at that.”

Shaheen “Disappointed” by Gay Wedding Cake Ruling, Suggests Baker Would Be Forced to Comply Under N.H. Law

In the wake of today’s 7-2 Supreme Court ruling in favor of a religious business owner who declined to bake a designer wedding cake for a same-sex marriage celebration, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) says she’s “disappointed” by the decision and suggests that under New Hampshire law, there would be a different outcome.

 

 

The Supreme Court ruled that the Colorado state commission that heard the petition from bakery owner Jack Phillips abused his religious liberty by not giving due regard to his claim that participating in a same-sex celebration would violate his religious beliefs. The court also pointed out that the state of Colorado was simultaneously protecting the right of businesses that refused to print anti-same-sex messages with which the business owner did not agree.

Would this case come out differently in New Hampshire? That seems to be Sen. Shaheen’s implication, referencing HB 421 which then-Governor Shaheen signed into law in 1998. That law added “sexual orientation” to the list of groups with special protections against discrimination under New Hampshire state law.

Is Sen. Shaheen saying that people of faith who own New Hampshire businesses– bakers, photographers, calligraphers, etc.– do not have the right to decline to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies?

If the SCOTUS had ruled against Masterpiece Cakeshop, the owner would have been forced out of business for refusing to comply. Sen. Shaheen finds the fact that he wasn’t “disappointing.”

How many Granite Staters agree?

Hassan, Shaheen’s Town Hall Reveals Middle-of-Road Approach to Trump

U.S. Sens. Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen’s town hall-style meeting on Friday with their New Hampshire constituents was mostly a warm welcome back to the state. Unlike many of their Republican colleagues who have dealt with protesters, shouting, and many interruptions in their town halls during Congress’ recess week, Hassan and Shaheen received very few interruptions during their question-and-answer session, receiving mainly applause during the hour-long event.

While the positive feedback from the audience showed general approval of their job so far in the Senate, the town hall also revealed that Hassan and Shaheen aren’t some of President Donald Trump’s biggest opponents in the Democratic Party.

While the two senators have made it clear that they do not approve of many policies and much of the rhetoric coming from the Trump administration, they have been more bipartisan in their approach to Trump than others.

For example, Hassan and Shaheen have both approved of seven of his Cabinet nominations and opposed seven of them. That puts them on the lower end of “no” votes in the Democratic Party, with only five Democrats and one Independent who caucuses with the Democrats having fewer “no” votes.

Senators in states that Trump won or who are expected to face tough reelections have fewer “no” votes, including Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota, Claire McCaskill of Missouri, and Independent Angus King of Maine, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, and Mark Warner of Virginia. Most senators have eight or nine “no” votes for Trump’s nominees, with potential 2020 Democratic-presidential hopefuls disapproving of 12 or 11 of his appointments, including Sens. Kristen Gillibrand of New York, Cory Booker of New Jersey, Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Independent Bernie Sanders of Vermont, who caucuses with Democrats.

While Hassan and Shaheen’s cabinet votes weren’t the main focus of Friday’s town hall, their position on Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch, received the biggest disapproval.

Both Democrats rejected the idea of blocking a hearing for Gorsuch, resulting in audible boos and shouts of “no” from the audience.

“It is not in our interest to deny a hearing to Neil Gorsuch,” Shaheen said. “That’s what’s prescribed under the Constitution. Let me tell you something. I’m not going to go out and say it’s wrong for them and then say that it’s right for us.”

Shaheen was alluding to Republican Senate leadership’s refusal last year to hold a hearing for former President Barack Obama’s nominee, Merrick Garland. Some Senate Democrats have previously stated they want to filibuster or block Trump’s nominee from ever getting a hearing, just like the GOP did to Garland.

Yet, neither senator said they have made a final decision yet on how they will vote for Gorsuch. His confirmation will require 60 votes, so some Democrats will have to cross party lines if he is to get the seat on the bench.

“I think it is absolutely appropriate and right for us to do our constitutional duty and have a hearing,” she said.

Hassan said she plans to meet with Gorsuch this week to discuss “the protection of civil rights for all Americans. In my view that includes the rights of the LGBT community. It includes the rights of women to make their own health care decisions.”

In addition to Hassan and Shaheen’s middle-of-the-road approach to the Supreme Court nominee, they have also not gone to the same extremes as other Senate Democrats when it comes to Trump and Russia.

“I never thought that I’d begin my tenure having to stand up to a president whose conflicts of interest and whose campaign and administration’s involvement with Russia would cause so many questions,” Hassan said. “I also think that it is concerning that a president who is so tough on our allies seems so soft on Russia. I think that raises real questions.”

Hassan and Shaheen have joined several Democrats who have called for an independent commission investigation of possible Trump administration ties to, and communication with, Russian officials, in addition to possible Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Several high-profile Republicans, including Sens. John McCain of Arizona and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, also said they support similar measures.

“The American people need to know what happened here, and then we need to take appropriate action,” Shaheen said.

However, Hassan and Shaheen didn’t go as far as other Democrats who have publicly talked about the possibility of impeaching Trump.

Hassan told WMUR after the town hall that impeachment talk was “premature,” yet restated her support for an independent investigation into Trump’s ties to Russia.

“I think it’s really important that we investigate concerns we’ve heard about connections to Russia in the Trump administration, and I think it’s very important that we have a bipartisan commission for the same reason,” she said.

It makes sense for Hassan and Shaheen to take a more bipartisan approach to Trump given the political climate in New Hampshire.

Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the state over Trump by only three-tenths of a percent — 46.8 to 46.5 percent. Hassan’s victory over former GOP Sen. Kelly Ayotte was even narrower, winning only by 743 votes, and while the Granite State sent an entire Democratic delegation to Congress, the GOP won the majority in the Legislature and took back the corner office for the first time in 12 years. Many people call New Hampshire a “purple” state, since it usually swing back and forth between red and blue every election. Hassan and Shaheen can’t upset their base too much, but they also can’t alienate the independents and moderate Republicans in the state either.

Near the very end of the town hall, Shaheen and Hassan also said they would do what they can to address climate change. Yet, some in the room weren’t happy with what they saw, including one man who shouted that the two women were using plastic water bottles, instead of reusable ones.

Hassan stated she is willing to work with Republican senators, but not at the risk of undoing progress.

“There is a difference between constructive compromise and undermining the progress that we have made,” she said.

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The Complex Stances of NH’s Politicians on Trump’s Immigration Executive Order

After President Donald Trump issued his immigration executive order on Friday, which put a four-month hold on allowing refugees into the United States and temporarily barred travelers from Syria and six other countries, New Hampshire’s congressional delegation was quick to respond.

But for some of the Democratic lawmakers, their statements are at odds with their previous rhetoric and voting records.

Before getting into their statements, it’s important to reiterate what Trump’s executive order entails. You can read guides from USA Today and Reuters. But here’s the quick highlights:

  1. His executive order suspends all refugee entry for 120 days.
  2. It indefinitely suspends entry by Syrian refugees.
  3. The order blocks for 90 days all immigration of citizens of Iraq, Iran, Syria, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, and Yemen, which are Muslim-majority countries.

Since he announced his executive order, Green Card holders and permanent residents of the United States have been detained at airports, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the order, and protests have erupted at airports across the country. Trump’s administration has made it clear that the immigration ban would not apply to Green Card holders.

Sen. Maggie Hassan probably has one of the most unclear records when it comes to immigration and Syrian refugees. Following the November 2015 terrorist attacks in Paris, Hassan became the first Democratic governor in the country to call for a pause in Syrian refugee resettlement.

“The governor has always made clear that we must ensure robust refugee screening to protect American citizens, and the governor believes that the federal government should halt acceptance of refugees from Syria until intelligence and defense officials can assure that the process for vetting all refugees, including those from Syria, is as strong as possible to ensure the safety of the American people,” said Hassan’s spokesman at the time.

And she never wavered from that position throughout the extremely close campaign against Republican Sen. Kelly Ayotte. Ayotte was known for being a foreign policy and immigration hawk.

But now, it seems Hassan is singing a different tune. She called Trump’s executive order “un-American” and her office said that she never supported an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees.

“Senator Hassan believes we can strengthen the vetting process for all entryways into the country while staying true to the values that make America the greatest country on earth. She never has and never will support a policy like what the President has put into place with this executive order, which is a backdoor Muslim ban and religious test that goes against American values. Senator Hassan will work with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to reverse this un-American executive order that will make America less safe,” her office said in a statement to WMUR.

“Senator Hassan strongly opposes this un-American and dangerous executive order which includes an indefinite ban on Syrian refugees, something that the Senator has never supported,” her office added. “The Senator believes that we can strengthen the process for all entryways into the country while remaining true to our values and engaged in addressing this humanitarian crisis.”

So while that statement is technically correct, since she only supported a “temporary halt” in Syrian refugees, not an indefinite ban, some people are wondering where she really stands on the issue. Was she reacting to the Paris attacks with what she thought was the best decision or was she pandering to voters on her right? It’s still unclear.

Rep. Annie Kuster also has an interesting position on Syrian refugees and immigration policies.

Kuster called for a broad expansion of former President Barack Obama’s administration’s program to bring Syrian refugees to the United States before the Paris attacks. She joined other House Democrats in signing a letter to Obama, calling on him to increase the number of refugees to be allowed in the United States to 200,000 by the end of 2016.

But after the terrorist attacks, Kuster didn’t mention anything about bringing in more Syrian refugees. She actually voted with Republicans for a stronger vetting process.

“I am fiercely protective of our national security and believe we must be tough and smart in pursuing policies that protect Americans both at home and abroad,” she said in a statement. “As we work with our allies to defeat ISIS without endangering American lives in another civil war, we must maintain and expand rigorous screening and security checks for any Syrian refugee fleeing terrorism by seeking to enter our country.”

She joined 46 other Democrats and all of the House Republicans to pass the American Security Against Foreign Enemies Act. The bill expanded the screening process for refugees attempting to enter the United States from Iraq or Syria by requiring the Federal Bureau of Investigation to conduct its own background checks in addition to those conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.

In defense of her vote, Kuster told New Hampshire Public Radio that, “it doesn’t pause the program. It doesn’t apply a religious test. It’s a certification that the person does not pose a threat to the security of the United States.”

But Kuster is now the only member of New Hampshire’s congressional delegation that did not release a statement after Trump’s executive order was announced. Instead, she took to Twitter for a very brief statement that didn’t really say if she was for or against the ban.

She followed that tweet up later with another one that said, “Not as Republicans or Democrats, but as Americans, we can balance security & compassion. USA founded on freedom from religious persecution.”

Both Kuster and Hassan have brought up religion in their statements, saying they believe his executive order is a religion test as a way to ban Muslims from coming to the United States. That point is still debateable and up for interpretation. There are many media reports that have former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani saying it is a “Muslim ban” as Trump put it.

But other articles say religion already plays a role in federal asylum and refugee law. David French from the National Review has an extensive piece on it and Politifact rated former Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush’s claim that religion plays a role in refugee screenings as “Mostly True.” Obviously, the law leaves much room for interpretation, so expect several legal experts to weigh in on the subject in the coming weeks.

As for Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Rep. Carol Shea-Porter, they both have been the most consistent in their language when discussing Syrian refugee resettlement and immigration.

Shaheen was supportive of allowing more Syrian refugees to come to America during Obama’s presidency and she hasn’t changed her mind after Trump’s executive order.

“We’re among those members of Congress who think that the United States can and should do more, both to try and take in more of the refugees who have been vetted, but also to support — in every way we can — the humanitarian crisis that has been created,” she said in 2015.

After Trump’s announcement, she said in a statement, “This executive order is un-American and grossly inhumane. We are a nation of immigrants and should remain welcoming to all nations and faiths, particularly those who are fleeing violence and oppression. Refugees, from Syria in particular, are fleeing unspeakable terror and hunger, and it’s unconscionable that the United States will no longer provide any of these refugees a safe haven.”

Shea-Porter said the United States should welcome Syrian refugees, but should also ensure they are properly vetted. She voted with House Democrats against a 2013 Republican amendment that would defund Obama’s executive orders on immigration.

“I think we’re very capable of absorbing a certain number of refugees who are fleeing their country for the same reasons that we would,” she said in 2015. “I think we all need to know exactly what kind of vetting is being done.”

She released a very straightforward statement on Saturday rejecting Trump’s actions.

“Our nation’s founders built this nation on dreams of a better, more tolerant society, and now we must stand together and defend and preserve those ideals,” she said. “I call on President Trump to immediately reverse his actions, and I invite all Granite Staters to join me in letting our refugee and immigrant neighbors know that we stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them as one community.”

 

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