Given before the Senate Environment and Wildlife Committee of the New Hampshire Legislature
Senator Johnson, Senator Gallus and members of the committee, my name is Matt Prindiville and I have traveled from the great state capitol of Maine – where I presently live – to the great state capitol of the Granite state, from dome to dome if you will, to speak with you today on a matter of great importance to our region. I have traveled here today on behalf of the Natural Resources Council of Maine, Maine’s leading statewide conservation advocacy organization and the Alliance for a Clean and Healthy Maine, which is a diverse coalition of Maine organizations with over 40,000 combined members, working to protect our children, our families and our economy by cleaning up pollution and promoting safer alternatives to hazardous chemicals.
The reason that I’ve undertaken this journey to testify in a State House other than my own is because this committee is working on an issue whose constituency spans across the borders of our fair states. Mercury pollution knows no borders, and its victims – most obviously our children, but also wildlife like loons, eagles and otters and finally, our region’s tourist economies – share the costs wherever the pollution falls.
We New Englanders have shared the costs associated with living at the end of our nation’s tailpipe. We have suffered together the increasing asthma rates and ozone days. We’ve read with alarm about the mercury raining into our lakes and rivers, and have wondered if our tourism-based economies will suffer if people are afraid to fish or fear our waters too polluted. Together, we have posted fish consumption advisories on our inland waters, and we’ve wondered if our rising special education costs have anything to do with contaminants like mercury.
We as a region have paid the price for pollution that transcends borders, and we have actively worked together to put pressure on our neighbors in the Midwest to do their part, be good neighbors, and clean up the pollution that affects all of us downwind.
And today, I am here, representing your neighbors to the East and I’m asking you on behalf of the people of Maine to do the same.
As mercury pollution spans the borders of our fair states, it is only by an accident of geography and state borders that the people of New Hampshire will make this decision. In all other ways we’re in this together, both in terms of the costs of mercury pollution to our people, government and economy, but also as users of the electricity produced by PS&H. Because we Mainers are part of the New England power pool, we too would be paying for this, through our electric utility rates from the power we use that is partially generated by PS&H.
Of course, the organizations that I’m here representing are in contact with the portion of the Maine citizenry that’s particularly concerned about the pollution, but in nearly every interaction that I’ve had with Maine citizens and from what I’ve heard from my colleagues, Mainers are willing to pay the relatively small price of cleaning it up.
And we’ve got history on this issue. We’ve been out on this subject consistently for years and intensely over the last year. The organization that I work for, the Natural Resources Council of Maine, collected over 5,000 postcards that were sent to the EPA on this issue. The consistent feedback we got from the public in your neighboring state is that they’re concerned about how this pollution is affecting their kids, special education costs, and tourism and that this is a price that they would be willing to pay to ensure a healthy tomorrow.
Make no mistake about it, we’re Yankees too. We don’t throw our money around easily, but there’s something that we care about more, and that’s having fish that are safe to eat, lakes and rivers that are actually clean and a healthy resource-based tourism economy which provides tens of thousands of jobs across our region. What our governments spend money on is about more than just numbers, tax revenue and expenditures. What we spend our money on is a statement of values, and it should capture the essence of what we as a people care about and what we value enough to spend our money on.
It’s precisely because of that this is such an important issue. All over the country and our region have been cleaning up pollution through a concerted effort. Our lakes and rivers today in Maine by and large are cleaner that they were 30 years ago, but we have this unfortunate, insidious, substantial and extremely toxic pollution undercutting the progress.
We cherish the traditional industries of New England. We want to retain manufacturing, we want to retain the resource-based elements of our region’s economy, but the major part of what’s guaranteeing our future economic viability is the understanding that this is a wild place with recreational value and much of that depends on our continuing to make progress on keeping it clean, healthy and vibrant.
We would urge the committee to deliver a bill that puts our values first, and that would be a bill which cleans up mercury pollution as quickly as possible and to as great an extent as possible, achieving at least a 90% reduction in mercury emissions from the smokestacks. The future of our recreational opportunities, our tourism-based economies and the health of our kids depends on it.
We as your neighbors to the East – who are part of the nation’s tailpipe along with your citizens – have shared in the pollution generated from old, dirty upwind power plants. Now we are asking the good members of the NH State Legislature to help us lead by example. How can we expect our neighbors in the mid-west to clean up their pollution if we not taken the steps to put our own house in order?
As I’ve said before, we Mainers will share the cost of cleaning up the mercury pollution with the good people of New Hampshire. And together, we as a region can put pressure on our neighbors to the West to clean up the far greater share of pollution that comes our way from their region.
Thank you for listening.