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SEPTEMBER 12, 2018 -- Earlier today, representatives from the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA), New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association (NHSEA), and the Granite State Hydropower Association (GHSA) presented the N.H. Speaker of the House and N.H. Senate President with hundreds of petitions containing more than 6,500 signatures from more than 200 towns urging the N.H. House and Senate to override the vetoes by Gov. Chris Sununu of Senate bills 365 and 446. The Legislature will vote on Thursday, September 13, whether to override the vetoes.
The petition drive is one of the largest veto-override petition drives in New Hampshire history. The drive gathered a total 6,508 signatures from N.H. residents in 201 different towns.
“These petitions come from every region in the state and from our smallest rural communities to our largest cities,” said Tom Thomson, Tree Farmer and son of former N.H. Governor Meldrim Thomson. “This is a statewide issue and clearly the people of New Hampshire want these bills, both of which passed the House and Senate with overwhelming bipartisan majorities, to become law so that we can continue to manage healthy forests while expanding renewable energy opportunities for New Hampshire’s businesses and municipalities.”
Both bills focus on renewable energy. SB 365 provides a three-year bridge for New Hampshire’s six independent biomass power plants (who burn woodchip to create electricity). This will allow the Governor’s Office of Strategic Initiatives to complete its legislatively mandated biomass study (per SB 517, passed last year).
SB 446 increases the allowable size of an electric generation project that a business, school, or municipality can use to self-generate power (aka “net meter”) to 5 megawatts and sets the electricity sale and purchase pricing to avoid cost-shifting. This allows more businesses and municipalities to tackle the issue of high electric rates on their own. Self-generation projects may use small hydro, solar, or even biomass. This will help N.H. businesses stay competitive.
“The Governor’s statement that biomass represents ‘a manageable 3.5% dip in revenue’ is untrue and misleading,” Thomson added. “In fact, for many timber harvesting companies biomass represents between 40 and 50 percent of their revenue. And without the market for woodchips that the biomass energy plants provide, for many landowners sustainable forest management is economically impossible.”
Thomson, who owns and manages more than 2,000 acres of woodlands in the Orford, N.H., region, also noted that the petitions have been signed not just by those in the timber industry and landowners, but also by hundreds of people in New Hampshire’s recreation industry, which would be severely impacted if landowners close their property to public recreation as a result of the vetoes.
“We really see SB 446 as a huge opportunity for businesses and municipalities to save on their electric bills. And the investment in small renewables would drive economic activity, support jobs, and increase state and local tax revenues, all while avoiding subsidies and cost-shifting,” said GHSA Co-President Bob King. “I can’t emphasize that last point enough - SB 446 avoids subsidies and cost-shifting, and it appears the Governor failed to appreciate that critical fact. The Legislature got it right the first time with SB 446, and this petition drive shows the strong widespread support for overriding the Governor’s vetoes on both bills.”
SEPTEMBER 6, CONCORD, N.H. -- Hundreds of timberland owners, loggers, foresters, sawmill operators, solar installers, hydro operators and engineers, farmers, and others wanting responsible, renewable energy policy in New Hampshire gathered today on the Plaza in front of the New Hampshire State House to demand that the state legislature overturn Gov. Sununu's misguided and misinformed vetoes of Senate bills 365 and 446.
The bills, which passed both houses of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, will both help support biomass and other renewable energy in the Granite State and thus the market for woodchips, which landowners and loggers depend on to practice sustainable managed forestry.
The legislature will meet next Thursday, Sept. 13, to consider the Sununu vetoes.
At the rally, speakers included State Senators Jeb Bradley, Bob Giuda, and Kevin Avard, who are all strong supporters of SB 365 and SB 446. Others who spoke to the crowd, which numbered around 400, included Executive Councilor Joe Kenney, N.H. House Democratic leader Steve Shurtleff, State Representative Erin Hennessey, Shelagh Connelly and Charley Hanson of RMI (which produces wood ash for agriculture, a byproduct of biomass energy), Medeleine Mineau of the New Hampshire Sustainable Energy Association, Rebecca Crowe of Timberwolf Logging, Tree Farmer and longtime NHTOA member Tom Thomson, and NHTOA Executive Director Jasen Stock.
"This is about people, not about politics," Rep. Hennessey told the crowd. "The ripple effects of these vetoes impact everyone in the North Country." Other speakers emphasized that virtually every part of New Hampshire is negatively impacted by a loss of biomass energy and the market for low-grade woodchips.
"Why would we let 100 megawatts of energy go away?" asked Shelagh Connelly. "Then we'll just have to import it from somewhere else."
"I've got my speech written right here," said Tom Thomson, holding up a bumber sticker reading "Wood Is Good."
At the end of his presentation, Thomson held aloft hundreds of completed petitions demanding the veto override. More than 6,000 signatures have been gathered by petition -- one of the largest veto override petitions in New Hampshire history.
NHTOA members and all others who want responsible energy policy in New Hampshire have six days from today to call their State Senator and Representative and tell them to vote to override the vetoes of SB 365 and SB 446 on Sept. 13. Please make that call!
Several local media outlets produced reports about the big Veto Override Rally held on Sept. 6 on the Plaza at the State House. Media coverage has been fair, with many quotes from Rally speakers and attendees describing why it is necessary, for the future of New Hampshire's forests, the state's timber industry, and its many rural communities, to override Gov. Sununu's vetoes of Senate bills 365 and 446.
The state legislature will convene on Sept. 13 to consider the vetoes. Overriding requires a two-thirds majority of each house of the legislature of all the senators and representatives present for the vote.
To watch WCAX-Channel 3's report, click here.
Here's the Associated Press report.
To read the Union Leader's story on the Rally, go here.
Here's the Conway Daily Sun's coverage.
The Concord Monitor published a story.
So did NHPR.
Also note: "The Exchange," NHPR's local public affairs program, will focus on the vetoes and the Veto Override campaign on Monday, Sept. 10, beginning at 9 a.m.
Longtime New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA) member and Tree Farmer Tom Thomson has recorded two new videos in which he talks about the impact on New Hampshire recreation as well as the timber industry of Gov. Sununu's vetoes of Senate bills 365 and 446.
Watch the videos here:
The New Hampshire legislature will meet on Thursday, Sept. 13, to consider the vetoes. Overriding each veto requires a two-thirds majority of each house of the legislature of the senators and representatives present for the vote.
On Thursday, Sept. 6, the Veto Override Coalition, including the NHTOA, will host a big rally in Concord at the State House plaza, beginning at 10 a.m. Make a plan now to attend -- lunch will be served.