NHTOA News

For additional news check out the NHTOA Facebook page

The NHTOA has prepared a list of talking points for people who plan to attend any of the public hearings the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) has scheduled to hear testimony on NHDES's second draft of wetlands rules. 

The new draft rules contain both good and bad news for landowners, loggers, and foresters. It appears the NHDES heard the NHTOA's concerns earlier this year about the first draft of wetlands rules, and the new draft is an improvement from the January draft. However, sections of the rules are still very confusing to navigate, with multiple cross-references and apparent incorrect cross-references. Moreover, the new draft rules do not improve the current wetland rules (i.e. no crossing dimensions or other standards were modified), and there are several new definitions that appear to extend the regulatory authority of the rules into other areas beyond water quality (e.g. wildlife).

At the public hearings (the schedule appears below), it will be important to emphasize that:

  • The rules need to include a separate forest management section.
  • The rules need to clarify that corduroy is not "fill." 
  • Economic and management impacts need to be quantified.
  • Permit review timelines need to be defined.
  • Administrative burdens should not be shifted on to land managers. 

The full text of the NHTOA talking points is available here

We urge our members to attend one or more of the seven public hearings on the second draft that NHDES has scheduled from Dec. 3rd through the 13th.  Here are dates, times, and locations:

  • Monday, Dec. 3, 2018: NHDES Headquarters, Room 208C, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord, N.H. 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 3, 2018: NHDES Headquarters, Room 208C, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord, N.H. 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018: Keene Parks and Recreation Center, 312 Washington St., Keene, N.H. 6:00 - 8:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018: Laconia City Hall, 45 Beacon St. East, Laconia, N.H. 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018: North Country Resource Center, 629B Main St., Lancaster, N.H. 5:30 - 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018: NHDES Pease Field Office, Room A, 222 International Dr., Suite 175, Portsmouth, N.H. 2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018: NHDES Pease Field Office, Room A, 222 International Dr., Suite 175, Portsmouth, N.H. 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.

 

WASHINGTON (November 1, 2018) – Today, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler, along with U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue and U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry, sent a letter to the House and Senate Committee on Appropriations. The letter describes the agencies’ work to ensure consistent federal policy on forest biomass energy and promote clear policies that encourage the treatment of forest biomass as a carbon-neutral renewable energy solution.

The use of biomass from managed forests can bolster domestic energy production, provide jobs to rural communities, and promote environmental stewardship by improving soil and water quality, reducing wildfire risk, and helping ensure our forests continue to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

The announcement by Administration officials backs up the successful implementation in New Hampshire of Senate Bill 365, which breathed new life into the state's six independent biomass plants. SB 365 is the natural extension, at the state level, of the Administration's biomass policy. 

“This letter codifies EPA’s partnership with USDA and DOE to develop clear and effective policies that treat forest biomass as a carbon-neutral energy source,” said EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Providing clarity and certainty regarding the treatment of forest biomass as carbon neutral will support good-paying jobs in rural communities, protect our nation’s air quality, and remove unnecessary regulatory burdens.”

“Responsibly using the fuels from our forests is both good for the environment and good for struggling rural economies. Multiple studies have found that demand for wood products, including wood for energy, actually serves to promote investment in forest management and helps to maintain or increase the amount of land in forests,” said USDA Secretary Perdue. “A stronger bioenergy market helps America achieve a variety of forest management and sustainability goals, including: reducing wildfire risks, improving forest health, increasing restoration, watershed improvements, creating new wildlife habitat, timber stand improvement, aesthetics, and more.”

“Biomass is a key part of the Administration’s all-of-the-above energy strategy,” said DOE Secretary Perry. “The Department of Energy supports the men and women in the agricultural and forest industries that help provide America with clean, secure, and affordable sources of bioenergy.”

The letter states, in part:

“The interagency approach to biomass energy provided by forests and other lands and sectors will be guided by an appreciation that forests and other lands and sectors are managed to provide multiple environmental, social, and economic benefits to our communities, while simultaneously contributing to U.S. energy independence and job creation.”

Maintaining healthy forests can contribute to U.S. energy independence, stimulate the creation of jobs, and provide multiple environmental and social benefits. The letter describes each agency’s work in this area and their intent to continue to collaborate across the federal government, with industrial partners, states, tribes, local governments, and non-governmental organizations to ensure that biomass plays a key role in addressing the energy needs of the U.S. in an environmentally and economically beneficial way.

Today’s letter ensures the agencies’ actions moving forward will provide certainty to rural communities and the forest industry while supporting economic growth. 

Background

On March 23, 2018, President Trump signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (H.R. 1625), where Congress explicitly directed EPA, USDA, and DOE to establish policies that “reflect the carbon neutrality of forest biomass for energy production, provided the use of biomass for energy does not result in the conversion of forested lands to non-forest use.” It also emphasized the importance of the United States’ forest sector to the energy needs of our country. 

EPA, USDA, and DOE believe the goals of H.R. 1625 are consistent with and complementary to the President’s 2017 Executive Order on Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which emphasizes utilizing domestic sources of energy that are affordable, reliable, safe, secure, and clean.

On April 23, 2018, EPA issued a policy statement making clear that future regulatory actions will treat biomass from managed forests will be treated as carbon neutral when such biomass is used for energy production at stationary sources.  

 

Earlier this month, the New Hampshire Department of Environmental Services (NHDES) issued new draft rules for activities, including logging, in and around wetlands. This is the second set of draft rules, following the first draft issued in January. The first draft was under development for several years, and the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA) was a member of the wetlands rules advisory committee. However, public hearings held after the first draft was issued brought a torrent of criticism, forcing NHDES to go back to the drawing board.

The new draft rules contain both good and bad news for landowners, loggers, and foresters.

The good news:

  • It appears NHDES heard the NHTOA's concerns earlier this year.
  • This draft is an improvement from the January draft, but it still needs more work.

    The bad news:

  • Sections of the rules are still very confusing to navigate, with multiple cross-references and apparent incorrect cross references.
  • These rules do not improve the current wetland rules (i.e. no crossing dimensions or other standards were modified).
  • There are several new definitions that appear to extend the regulatory authority of the rules into other areas beyond water quality (e.g. wildlife).
  • Under the new draft rules, regulating timber management in or adjacent to a prime wetland is still very subjective.
  • Managing timber in floodplains will be more difficult.

New definitions in the new draft rules include:

  • “Floodplain wetland,” which is a wetland located within a 100-year floodplain;
  • “Priority resource area” (PRA), a new jurisdictional area subject to a number of specific conditions. PRAs raise permit review status (i.e. all activities in a PRA automatically require a major project permit);
  • “Temporary impacts,” describing adverse conditions or effects that will be reversed when the authorized work has been completed and pre-construction conditions have been re-established. The term includes but is not limited to ruts caused by heavy machinery that are smoothed when the work is completed and the installation and subsequent removal of swamp mats, construction mats, corduroy roads, geotextile fabric, or other erosion or sediment control practices.

This is a very complex document and the NHTOA is still reviewing it to understand the practical and financial impact these rules would have on forest management. We urge our members interested in this to also look at the summary of the status of the wetlands rulemaking here. And please look for future updates with more details in the NHTOA's magazine, The Timber Crier, and in our e-newsletter, Forest Fax.

But overall, the second draft is a big improvement from the first draft, and the NHTOA thanks the NHDES for hearing our concerns. The NHTOA is ready to work with NHDES on sections of the draft that we think still need some re-drafting.

We urge our members to attend one or more of the seven public hearings on the second draft that NHDES has scheduled from Dec. 3rd through the 13th.  Here are dates, times, and locations:

  • Monday, Dec. 3, 2018: NHDES Headquarters, Room 208C, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord, N.H. 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Monday, Dec. 3, 2018: NHDES Headquarters, Room 208C, 29 Hazen Drive, Concord, N.H. 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018: Keene Parks and Recreation Center, 312 Washington St., Keene, N.H. 6:00 – 8:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 6, 2018: Laconia City Hall, 45 Beacon St. East, Laconia, N.H. 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2018: North Country Resource Center, 629B Main St., Lancaster, N.H. 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018: NHDES Pease Field Office, Room A, 222 International Dr., Suite 175, Portsmouth, N.H. 2:00 – 4:00 p.m.
  • Thursday, Dec. 13, 2018: NHDES Pease Field Office, Room A, 222 International Dr., Suite 175, Portsmouth, N.H. 6:30 – 8:30 p.m.

If you’d like to make comments on the draft rules at any of these public hearings, please emphasize the following two points:

  • The final rules need to be easy to understand. Any landowner, or land manager should be able to read them and know what approvals their project will require. There are sections within these rules that still need considerable clarification.
  • The final rules also must recognize the unique nature of forest management. The rules should recognize the uniqueness (e.g. ephemeral impacts, habitat enhancement, etc.) of forest management projects and that forestry is a beneficial land use for water, wildlife, and forest health. These rules should promote forest management.    

.

SEPTEMBER 13, 2018 – The New Hampshire Legislature performed a notoriously difficult task today by voting to override the Governor’s veto of SB365, a bill to support N.H.’s six independent biomass plants and waste-to-energy facility. The Senate vote was 21-3 for the override, but the House vote was much closer, 226-113. The House overrode Gov. Sununu’s veto by a single vote.

 

Since Sununu’s June vetoes of SB365 and another renewable energy bill, SB446, a concerted effort was launched to correct the misinformed actions.

 

“The Legislature made the right call to override the veto of SB365. When you consider the vast impacts this bill has not only on various sectors of NH’s economy, but also on NH’s established and treasured values, the small cost is vastly outweighed by the benefits,” said Jasen Stock, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association. “In addition, the override successfully protects NH from the long-term $17 million annual cost our state would have to pay to replace lost generation capacity. Our state’s forestry, recreation, tourism, and agricultural industries were on the line, and we thank the legislature for hearing the facts and fixing the Governor’s mistake.”

 

Unfortunately, the Legislature’s affirmative votes did not extend to SB446, another bill championed by broad bipartisan support that would have raised the net metering project cap from 1 MW to 5MW.

 

“SB446 was designed to correct an arbitrary regulatory cap that is restrictive to large businesses and municipalities,” says Madeleine Mineau, Executive Director of the NH Sustainable Energy Association. “One megawatt is not enough to cover the energy needs of a large school or a manufacturing facility. In order to enable these entities to control their own energy costs and provide opportunity for low income individuals to benefit from renewable energy, the project cap needs to be raised so projects can be sized correctly.”

 

Prominent NH businesses including Dartmouth-Hitchcock, FoodState, Worthen Industries, and Wirebelt, as well as many NH cities and towns, were outspoken proponents of SB446. “In a state where many electric costs are out of our control in the regional market, this bill was the best chance NH had to promote freedom of energy choice, competition in the energy market, and more energy independence through diverse, local generation,” continues Mineau. “It is unfortunate that the Legislature did not support a bill important for NH’s energy future.”