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On Friday, Aug. 24, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire toured timber sales on New Hampshire Audubon Society wildlife preserves in Deering, N.H., and learned of the critical role the woodchip market supported by N.H.'s biomass energy plants plays in wildlife management.
The Deering timber sales would not have happened without the market for woodchips, N.H. Audubon's Doug Bechtel told the Senator. "Without that market, this could be the end of how we do wildlife management," he said.
A viable market for woodchips allows timberland owners, including institutions and organizations such as the N.H. Audubon Society, to clear out low-grade wood on their properties to promote high-quality timber growth and to create openings for wildlife habitat. Don Hardwick Jr., one of the loggers on the Audubon sale in Deering, told Sen. Shaheen that most of the trees felled in the sale were low-grade and had not value for lumber. "This sale would not have happened without biomass," he said.
The woodchip market is under grave threat due to the vetoes by Gov. Chris Sununu of Senate bills 365 and 446. Both bills passed both houses of the New Hampshire legislature by overwhelming bipartisan majorities -- a fact noticed at her office in Washington, D.C., Sen. Shaheen pointed out -- but the governor vetoed both pieces of legislation, mistakenly claiming they would raise electricity prices for New Hampshire ratepayers. In fact, the cost of replacing the energy lost to the New England grid if N.H.'s six independent biomass energy plants close -- a strong likelihood of Sununu's vetoes are not overturned -- is nearly the same as the cost assigned to SB 365. Additionally, there would be costs to the state from the hundreds of jobs lost if the biomass plants close.
The state legislature will meet on Sept. 13 to vote on the vetoes. Overturning the vetoes requires a two-thirds majority of each house of the legislature of all the senators and representatives present for the vote. While she will not be part of the vote as a U.S. Senator, Sen. Shaheen told board members of the New Hampshire Timberland Association who were at the Deering tour that she is optimistic the legislature "will do the right thing" and overturn the vetoes. "It's right for our timber industry, it's right for our forests, and it's right for our state," she said.
N.H. Audubon's Doug Bechtel said that at first he did not understand how the legislative battle over woodchips and biomass would affect the Society's properties. "I asked my forester, Jeremy Turner of Meadowsend, 'Why should we care?' Boy, did I get an earful!," Bechtel said. "Now I realize that without those biomass plants, we won't be able to manage our wildlife reserves the way we want to."
At this point in our campaign to overturn Gov. Sununu's vetoes of SB 365 and SB 446, letters to the editor (LTEs) are very important. The more letters, the more impact the messages will have.
Here are some tips for writing effective LTEs:
* Keep your letter brief and to the point. Try to keep the letter to no more than 200 words, 300 words at the absolute maximum. That's enough words to make one, maybe two good points effectively.
* Do no rant. Do not insult. Do not make the Governor sound stupid. Make your message positive to the greatest extent possible. On the SB 365 and SB 446 vetoes, describe the benefits (economic, recreational, social, etc.) your local community will lose if the vetoes are not overturned.
* Write the letter so it's specific to you and your situation. LTEs that sound mass-produced don't get much attention and persuade no one.
* Send your LTE to your local newspaper and to the Union Leader in Manchester (which is considered a statewide newspaper). Go to your newspaper's website for specific directions on how to submit an LTE; instructions vary from publication to publication. Note whether there's a word limit.
The office of State Senator Kevin Avard (R-District 12) has produced an excellent video on the necessity and importance of overturning Gov. Sununu's vetoes of Senate bills 365 and 446. Watch the video here.
Sen. Avard's district includes Nashua, which has a large hydropower facility. SB 446 in particular would be a great help for hydro, solar, and biomass power. SB 446 and SB 365 would help guarantee that local energy plants have the means to generate local power for New Hampshire residents. The Sununu vetoes of these bills makes the state's energy complex more dependent than ever on natural gas generated by outside companies beyond New Hampshire's control. In addition, the vetoes threaten hundreds of local jobs and hundred of millions of dollars of local economic contribution to the New Hampshire economy.