Thursday, November 29, 2012
Sustainable planning in question again in Concord
CONCORD – A change in the political winds hasn’t deterred at least one state legislator from fighting against the United Nations’ environmental agenda.
Despite long odds in the new Democratic-controlled House of Representatives, Rep. Lenette Peterson, R-Merrimack, has taken on the charge against Agenda 21, the U.N.’s nonbinding sustainable development platform.
Legislation proposing to ban the implementation of the agenda passed the Republican-led House earlier this year but fell short in the Senate. With a new Democratic majority in the House, a similar bill, introduced by Peterson, isn’t likely to get off the ground, she acknowledged.
Still, the agenda, which promotes sustainable land use planning, demands further scrutiny, as it continues to threaten private property rights, pushing residents to move into cities, Peterson said.
“In the long run, gas will be rationed. … You don’t need as much gas because everybody lives inside of city limits,” she said. “It’s total control of everything. … The public needs to be aware of this.”
Agenda 21, which doesn’t carry the force of law, has drawn criticism from Republican and Libertarian activists since it was adopted.
U.N. representatives adopted the plan in 1992, promoting multifamily dwellings and walkable communities, among other sustainability efforts. In the years since, more than 1,000 communities across 84 countries, including several New Hampshire cities, have supported the effort by joining the International Council on Local Environmental Initiatives, which promotes the adoption of Agenda 21 across the globe.
Nashua has been a member since 2007, paying about $1,200 annually in membership dues to access the council’s network of peers, resources and technical guidance to work on clean energy and environmental projects. City officials and local planners have said the council has had no direct influence on their sustainability efforts, which include a new fleet of hybrid vehicles introduced last year.
“You would hope that our future is sustainable, right? That’s something we’re always thinking about,” Kerrie Diers, executive director of the Nashua Regional Planning Commission, said Wednesday. “That just means understanding what is important to people, what do they value, what do they want to see preserved and figuring out how do we do that.”
The city’s effort have drawn scrutiny, as well.
In March, local members of the conservative John Birch Society demonstrated in front of City Hall, protesting Nashua’s affiliation with the council.
“I don’t like national or international organizations coming to Nashua and telling residents what they can or can’t do with their property,” Nashua resident Leif Parsell said at the time. “There are other ways to solve these problems.”
At the Statehouse, the legislation proposing to ban the implementation of Agenda 21 was dismissed initially in the House, but lawmakers then attached it as an amendment to a Senate bill relating to the management of Cannon Mountain. That proposal earned strong support in the House, passing 207-99. But it stalled in the Senate.
Peterson’s bill, to be taken up in the next Legislative session after the holidays, would bar communities from joining the International Council and from implementing the provisions of Agenda 21.
“We’re really trying to get cities and towns to do their homework. … There’s no such thing as free money,” Peterson said, referring to grants and other federal funding that communities receive to support sustainable projects.
But the proposal has a tough road ahead in the Democratic House. In the recent election, Democrats regained the House by a 221-179 majority, leaving the future of the proposal in doubt.
Party leaders didn’t return calls for comment Wednesday.
“It’s not going to pass. … It might not even get to the floor” of the House for a vote, Peterson said. “But the public still needs to be aware of this. … It affects us all.”