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BIA plays defense when bills threaten NH prosperity

BIA plays defense when bills threaten NH prosperity

Playing a lot of defense was expected in the second half of New Hampshire’s legislative session, which saw more than 1,300 bills filed by lawmakers.

The Business & Industry Association’s mission is to champion a competitive business climate and prosperous economic future for New Hampshire. Our mission often requires us to fight bills that may be well intentioned, but ultimately pose a threat to Granite State businesses, residents and the economy.

The following are some of the priority issues our policy team continues to work on as the Legislature moves toward crossover when bills advance from the House to Senate and Senate to House.

Defeating Senate Bill 462 is at the top of our list. The bill, which is opposed by organizations representing all sectors of the state economy, would radically expand the damages that could be awarded in wrongful death lawsuits, on top of what a decedent’s estate already can recover. If enacted, the bill would eliminate caps for wrongful death loss of consortium claims that are currently $150,000 for spouse and $50,000 for children. This is a major policy shift, which could increase claims, litigation, jury verdicts and settlements. To date, proponents of this bill have provided no analysis of potential costs of this legislation, but the potential impact on New Hampshire businesses, consumers and the economy could be significant.

While PFAS contamination is a great concern, it’s also an example of how complicated it can be to pass legislation to address an issue without creating unintended consequences. SB 413, which BIA is opposing, is one example. Under the legislation as introduced, liability for PFAS contamination could be assigned to any facility where PFAS has “otherwise come to be located.” This sweeping language could assign liability to a swath of entities from municipal wastewater treatment plants and wells to grocery stores selling dental floss and many others in between.

SB 413 creates strict liability while lightening the burden for the state to prove a case concerning PFAS contamination. The bill has the potential to increase litigation to impractical levels and it’s unnecessary because these suits can be brought forward under current law.

Senate Judiciary is conducting committee review of SB 413. It is considering an amendment to limit application to facilities where a PFAS release results in concentrations of PFAS compounds of 100 parts per trillion or greater in groundwater or surface water, a threshold recommended by the state Department of Environmental Services. The amendment is a modest improvement, but BIA remains opposed to the bill.

House Bill 1145-FN also threatens unintended consequences. The bill, which BIA opposes, would prohibit private ownership of new landfills in New Hampshire. Proponents say state-owned landfills would accomplish the goal of limiting the acceptance of out-of-state waste without triggering the U.S. Constitution’s commerce clause, which restricts states from impairing interstate commerce. The bill is anti-business nonetheless and could skyrocket waste disposal costs.

State-owned, but privately operated landfills, would create regulatory unpredictability that chills business. The bill has no parameters for how a solid waste company could develop and operate a landfill on state-owned property and doesn’t offer protections for those considering the opportunity. Current landfills are among the most regulated entities by state and federal agencies. Landfills, which are a necessity, are difficult for companies to site, and the willingness of state and local leaders to create publicly owned landfill sites is simply unknown.

BIA is happy to play offense when the opportunity presents, and we remain hopeful a bill to revise membership of the state Site Evaluation Committee for energy facility siting will become law. HB 609-FN, retained from last session, proposes a smaller membership of the three commissioners of the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission, the state Department of Environmental Services commissioner or designee, and one member of the public. The bill doesn’t change the process, requirements or public input opportunities. BIA believes HB 609 will streamline and expedite the siting process and attract more projects that will help lower New Hampshire’s energy costs, which are among the nation’s highest. HB 609 is moving from the House to the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee.

Whether we advocate for or against legislation, BIA will always work on behalf of our 400 members that employ more than 100,000 people, to make New Hampshire the leading state for business, creating economic opportunities and prosperity for all Granite Staters.

Kirsten Koch is vice president of public policy for the BIA. Visit

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