It sounds like the plot of a science fiction movie — state agencies attempting to modify the weather. Still, HB 128, a bill that requires public notice before a state agency attempts to modify the weather, is anything but fiction; in fact, it was just signed into law by Gov. Sununu.

HB 128 amends an existing law — RSA 12-F:1 — which deals with the rules for modifying the weather. (Yes, there is already a law explicitly allowing weather modification experiments by the state.) The existing law states that any department or agency of the state may, with the approval of the governor and executive council, conduct weather modification experiments and cooperate with federal agencies and other organizations to do so. The new law adds a requirement that the public be informed of weather modification projects at least two months prior to the presentation to the governor and executive council. Specifically, notices must be run in at least four New Hampshire newspapers. The group conducting the experiments would have to disclose the chemicals and technologies they planned to use to modify the weather. Public input would also be solicited.

Weather modification and New Hampshire

New Hampshire’s weather modification statute dates back to 1953. It was around that time scientists were exploring the possibility of modifying the weather with experiments like Project Cirrus, a collaboration between GE and the U.S. military to attempt to modify hurricanes.

In New Hampshire there was particular interest in the possibility of “seeding” clouds to cause precipitation during drought conditions. Some supporters in 1953 felt a new law might attract researchers to New Hampshire — this is similar to the thinking behind New Hampshire’s recent flying-car legislation, for example (HB 1182). Still, according to this year’s bill sponsor Rep. Judy Aron (R-South Acworth), New Hampshire agencies say they have no record of ever having used the weather modification statute, nor do they have plans to do so in the future.

Last year, Aron actually introduced a bill to remove the weather modification language from New Hampshire law entirely. However, it was decided that removing it would make New Hampshire law silent on the topic of weather modification, which could lead to future experimentation without approval from the governor and executive council.

Nationally and around the world, there have been recent weather modification proposals to zap clouds with an electric charge using drones to cause rainfall, and even a controversial Harvard study called the Stratospheric Controlled Perturbation Experiment hoping to combat climate change with geoengineering. It is hardly a stretch to imagine this sort of research could someday come to the Granite State.

Important legislation or unnecessary?

Proponents of HB 128 argue that it will keep the public informed if an agency ever plans to try modifying the weather. They also feel that adding a notification requirement is better than deleting the law entirely, since it keeps an approval process in place.

Perhaps since the bill dealt with a statute that has never actually been used, there was little opposition and HB 128 was approved unanimously in both its House and Senate committees. Still, some might argue HB 128 merely added more language to an already unnecessary law. Others might prefer that weather modification be banned outright in New Hampshire.

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