The NH Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA) is extremely disappointed by Governor Chris Sununu's veto of the biomass bill (House Bill 183) that had passed the state legislature with strong bipartisan support. House Bill 183 enacts the state policy (law) and will of the General Court that passed last year but was blocked by an out-of-state organization's legal maneuvers before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and N.H. Public Utilities Commission.
The FERC litigation, governor's veto, and resulting plant shutdowns have hurt the state's timberland owners who are trying to conduct sustainable forestry. The veto also inflicts real damage on New Hampshire's $1.4 billion timber industry, the state's third-largest industry and a direct and indirect provider of thousands of jobs, most of them in rural areas where timber is a major contributor to local economies.
Moreover, the Governor's veto also does not consider any avoided electric costs New Hampshire ratepayers will realize by having more local home-grown power (e.g., reduced transmission/capacity, line losses, etc.), or the new costs for regional replacement capacity the state will incur due to the loss of the biomass power plants.
Similar to last year's Senate Bill 365, which also passed the N.H. House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, HB 183 provides a three-year bridge for New Hampshire's six independent biomass power plants by requiring utilities to purchase baseload renewable generation credits. The bill's costs are similar to those under SB 365. By vetoing these bills, the Governor has put at risk thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity. This veto will harm New Hampshire families that depend on those jobs.
"What is especially upsetting about last year's and now this year's veto of the biomass bills is the lack of recognition of the economic contribution from the state's working forests, biomass power plants, and the thousands of hard working men and women who make their living in our forests and mills," says Jasen Stock, NHTOA executive director.
These economic contributions are real and significant. According to a 2016 Plymouth State University economic study, just the six independent biomass power plants covered in HB 183 support 931 jobs and produce $254.5 million in annual economic activity. Biomass power plants consume more than 40 percent of all the timber harvested each year in New Hampshire. The low-grade markets these power plants support underpin the state's forest products and sustainable forestry economy. In short, without viable markets for low-grade wood, there is no incentive for timberland owners to practice sustainable forest management.
"We thank the thousands of NHTOA members and supporters who helped us override last year's veto of SB 365 and ask that you be ready to weigh in again this year as we work to overturn the Governor's veto of HB 183 when the General Court reconvenes next month," Stock says. "In the meantime, as you meet candidates for all levels of state office, please take the time to impress upon them the importance of these bills to our communities and livelihoods. We look forward to overturning this veto and passing this bipartisan bill into law."
Founded in 1911, the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association is a non-profit statewide coalition of landowners, forest industry professionals, government officials and supporters who work together to promote better forest management, conserve our working forests and ensure a strong forest products industry.