State Rep. from Wilton presents multiple environmental bills this session

  • Chris Balch. Staff photo by Tim Goodwin

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 1/13/2020 8:48:09 PM
Modified: 1/13/2020 8:47:22 PM

Democrat state representative Chris Balch is introducing a slew of environment-based bills before the state legislature this session, including a mandate for climate change education.

The education bill would strengthen existing state standards around climate change education which were adopted by the state as part of its science standards in 2016. In an interview Monday, Balch said those standards adopted in 2016 are “vague” and “unclear” on how much and what should be taught in regards to climate and needed more clarity.

The bill, which was introduced before the legislature Wednesday, lays out specifically how many hours should be devoted to climate change study at the different levels of schooling, with at least 10 hours or a full semester course offered over the course of a high school career.

It also specified some of the content, including anthropogenic, or human-caused climate change, the effects of climate change on New Hampshire, species impacted, changes in weather patterns, impacts locally and globally, fossil fuel alternatives, maximizing energy efficiency, and information about careers in alternative energy sources.

If passed, the bill would take effect on July of 2021.

State legislature mandates of school curriculum are unusual, Balch admitted, but said the issue of climate change needs the backing for several reasons, including the immediacy of the issue, and the pushback from those who deny climate change or on the idea climate change is caused or influenced by human activity.

“Right now, we’re on the brink of a serious climate situation, and the more people that can understand how it works and overcome the resistance that surrounds it, the better chance we have as a species of understanding it and getting through it,” Balch said.

Balch said in most cases, the current system of allowing cooperative development of curriculum by school districts is usually ideal, but said the legislature has stepped in on other controversial issues, such as evolution.

The state’s commissioner of education, Frank Edelblut, stated when he was running for Governor in 2016. publicly stated he was not convinced by arguments of human-caused climate change, though he acknowledged the earth was warming

When contacted, the Department of Education declined to comment on the bill, stating that the DOE allows individual schools to craft a curriculum, and any decision to mandate content would be a decision of the legislature.

Other bills sponsored by Balch this legislative session also address the environment.

HB 1564 looks to ban food-service use of polystyrene, such as the brand-name Styrofoam, containers.

The bill follows on the heels of a bill signed into law in Maine in 2019, which went into effect on Jan. 1, which bans to-go foam containers for food or drinks.

The legislatures in Vermont and Massachusetts plan to consider similar bills this year.

Balch said the justification for banning polystyrene comes from both a health perspective and an environmental perspective. In 2018, the World Health Organization officially upgraded styrene – a chemical building block of polystyrene – from a “possible carcinogen” to a “probable carcinogen.”

Polystyrene also does not biodegrade, and food containers in particular are often the origin of litter from cars, Balch said.

“I participated in Wilton’s roadside clean up last year, and it was a lot of what I found,” Balch said. “It’s a nasty, invasive thing that gets everywhere in our environment.”

Balch said paper containers with a sleeve for drinks may cool drinks faster, but that’s a trade-off he’s willing to make.

Two other related bills backed by Balch deal with the regulation of certain pesticides.

One bill would restrict the use of pesticides on community playgrounds, and require posting notification prior to and during treatment with pesticides.

The second would ban certain pesticides that have been linked to carcinogens.

Balch said the ban would still leave agriculturists “options” but those that are “considerably less harmful” than some of the options available now.

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.


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