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The meeting on Thursday evening, July 12, to discuss strategies and plans to overturn Gov. Sununu's irresponsible vetoes of Senate bills 365 and 446 will be held at Michael Sharp Enterprises, 1 Meadow Brook Road, Bridgewater, N.H. Meadow Brook Road is just off of State Highway 3A; Mike's garage and equipment yard abut the highway. The meeting will be held inside the garage from 6 to 8 p.m. 

The meeting's agenda:

SB 365 and SB 446 INFORMATIONAL AND STRATEGY MEETING

July 12th

Michael Sharp Enterprises, Bridgewater, NH

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I.          Welcome & Introductions – Jasen

- Purpose of meeting

- Note any elected officials in the room

 

II.         SB 365 & SB 446 Background

-          What the bills do and how they affect timber/forestry

-          Governor’s veto

-          Impact of Veto

§  Need impact data sent to NHTOA daily (can be kept confidential)

 

III.       SB 365 and SB 446 Veto Override Campaign

-          Objective

-          Timing (veto vote)

 

III.       General Strategy for Override

-          Grassroots – individual contacts & meetings

-          PR – keeping our story in the press

-          Coalition- Building

-          Working with legislative allies on debate for House and Senate vote.

 

IV.       What do we need from you?

-          Grassroots (employees, family members, friends, vendors)

§  Petition drive

§  Calls/contact Legislators

§  Feedback from calls/contact is KEY - what are you hearing?

§  Who is with us in overturning the vetoes

§  Who isn’t with us and why

§  Attend events

§  July 16, 10 am – Tamworth Power Plant tour

§  July 30, 1pm – Springfield Power Plant tour

§  TBD -- Bethlehem Power Plant tour

§  Keep Positive!!

 

V.        Final Words & Q & A   – Tom Thomson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

CONCORD, N.H. — The New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA) is extremely disappointed by Governor Chris Sununu’s veto of two renewable energy bills, Senate bills 365 and 446, that had passed the state legislature with strong bipartisan support. Senate Bill 365 would have allowed the state’s six independent biomass plants to sell power at a 20 percent discount from the rate charged by Eversource to residential customers. SB 446 would have allowed New Hampshire businesses to increase investments to control their energy costs. 

By vetoing these bills, the Governor puts at risk thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of dollars of economic activity.

“What is especially upsetting is the amount of misinformation in the Governor’s veto message,” said Jasen Stock, NHTOA executive director. “If one is going to veto a bill affecting N.H. families and eliminating N.H. jobs, at least do it with an accurate understanding of the bill and the industry affected. For example, the veto message concludes that SB 365 does not guarantee solvency of the biomass plants based on what a landowner receives for wood harvest income. It completely misses the fact that the power plant revenue comes from the sale of power it has nothing to do with the landowner revenue. And to veto a bill in the name of economic prosperity, at least acknowledge the economic contributions timberland owners, the forest products industry, and small-scale renewable power projects make to the state.”

Mr. Stock went on to state that “conspicuously absent from the veto message’s analysis are the economic contributions timberland owners, the forest products industry, and small-scale renewable power projects make to the state, and the negative economic impacts his vetoes will have on thousands of families, hundreds of businesses, and rural economics across the state.”

These economic contributions are real and significant. According to a 2016 Plymouth State University economic study, the six independent biomass power plants covered in Senate Bill 365 support 931 jobs and produce $254.5 million in annual economic activity. Furthermore, the veto of Senate Bill 446 stifles a bipartisan effort by House and Senate lawmakers to spur private investment by municipalities and businesses to expand existing, or install new, small renewable energy projects whether they be hydro, solar, wind, or biomass-fueled cogeneration.  This bill allows  larger electricity users, including sawmills and paper mills to make investments to, reduce their energy costs, become more energy independent, and insulate themselves from electric price volatility and higher transmission costs.  The investment would drive economic activity, support jobs, and increase state and local business tax and property tax revenues, all while avoiding subsidies and cost-shifting. 

Biomass power plants consume more than 40 percent, by volume, 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. Moreover, many landowners and members of the timber industry see these vetoes as a thumb in the eye of the thousands of hardworking men and women who get up each day to work in the mills and forests of the state and the tens of thousands of timberland owners whose land is open for public recreation.

“I have already had landowners contact me stating that if this is how the Governor treats sustainable forestry and timberland owners, perhaps I should veto his Trails Bureau and Fish and Game Department from using my private land to promote their programs,” Stock commented.

Especially perplexing are the comments about the impacts these two bills would have on electricity bills. First, the veto message claims the bills would cause “massive increases” in the cost of electricity — but the N.H. Public Utilities Commission’s fiscal calculations show the opposite to be true. Second, the reference to last year’s “Senate Bill 129 subsidy” is erroneous, because SB 129 provided no “subsidy” at all; prices under the SB 129 program have actually decreased. Third, as noted, the veto message’s connection between power plant solvency and wood supplier revenues makes absolutely no sense. Finally, the Governor’s economic impact calculation 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.

“I want to say thank you to the thousands of NHTOA members and supporters who communicated the importance of these bills to the Governor,” Stock concluded. “Although our comments did not sway him, please be ready to weigh in as we work to overturn these vetoes when the General Court reconvenes this fall. 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 the Governor’s misguided and misinformed vetoes and passing these two important bipartisan bills into law.”

From the June 30, 2018, edition of the Valley News, published in White River Junction, Vt.:

Area Loggers Say the Cost of Sununu’s Veto of Biomass Subsidies Is Hitting Them Hard

 

Lebanon — Eric Cole was at home on Poverty Lane making dinner earlier this month when his phone rang. One of his customers was calling with bad news: A new $390,000 logging skidder that Cole, a heavy equipment salesman, had just delivered would have to be returned.

The customer, an Upper Valley logger whom Cole declined to identify, explained that Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto the day before of a bill that would have required utilities to purchase a portion of their electricity from the state’s wood-burning power plants had dealt a blow to his business. He would no longer be able to afford the $5,000 monthly payments for the piece of machinery that grabs logs, hauls them out of the woods and loads them onto trucks.

Cole, who works for New England heavy equipment distributor Milton Cat, dispatched a crew at 7 a.m. the following Monday to retrieve the skidder. It is now back on the sales lot in Londonderry, N.H.

Within days, two other sales Cole had in the works with loggers to purchase heavy equipment also fell apart.

“I lost about $600,000 worth of deals right off the bat,” Cole said. “The impact is huge.”

Forest industry-related businesses — loggers, chippers, shippers and equipment suppliers — say that ununu’s veto on June 19 of Senate Bill 365 that would have required utilities to purchase electricity generated by New Hampshire’s six non-utility-owned biomass power plans will have a crippling blow on their livelihoods and express bafflement over the governor’s action.

“Chips and biomass is 60 percent of my timber business,” said Stacey Thomson, owner of Thomson Timber Trucking and Harvesting in Orford. “It directly affects us.” He had been delivering an average of about 600 tons of wood chips per week to New Hampshire biomass plants until orders nearly ground to a halt in the wake of the veto, he said.

Thomson is threatening to express his unhappiness by taking punitive measures against the state.

“Unless the governor figures something out, I’m going to close my land down to all snowmobiling, fishing, hunting,” he said. Thomson owns about 800 acres in Orford and surrounding towns and notes that the state receives revenue from the recreational use of private land through the issuance of licenses, permits and fees.

“This is my livelihood,” he said.

The reaction to Sununu’s veto from officials at the biomass plants was no less blunt.

One day after the veto, Pinetree Power, operator of biomass plants in Bethlehem and Tamworth, announced it would stop taking wood deliveries immediately and begin operating in “reserve shut-down status” once the wood currently on site has been consumed, said Carol Churchill, a spokeswoman for ENGIE North America, the Houston-based owner of Pinetree Power.

The two plants buy a total of 550,000 tons of biomass annually — the vast majority of it from New Hampshire suppliers — and spent $13.4 million purchasing wood fuel in 2017, she said. Each of the power plants employs about 20 workers and together contribute $50 million into the local economy through operating expenses, taxes and payroll, according to Churchill.

“Given the outlook for power prices, it’s unlikely the plants will run through to the end of the summer,” Churchill added. “Then in September, the company will evaluate the next steps.”

One of the state’s six independent biomass plants, located in Alexandria, already was idled in April. Indeck Energy Services, its Illinois-based owner, had decided that the weak wholesale price for electricity in the region had made the facility too costly to operate. Biomass suppliers said the biomass plants in Whitefield and Springfield have initiated a “quota” that limits the amount of fuel purchases.

The state’s six independent biomass plants, when running at full throttle, consume about 1.4 million tons of wood fuel annually, according to the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, and produce about 100 megawatt hours of electricity — about one-tenth of the supply generated in the state but close to half of that generated from renewable resources, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

“I’ve lost a third of my income from wood chips right now,” said David Rondeau, an Orford-based forester who has been logging for 30 years. He estimates the veto is costing him $1,600 per week in lost income as a result of trucking four fewer loads of chips to plants.

But Rondeau said his loan payment on his chipper runs $5,200 per month.

A ton of wood chips sells for about $21 to $25 per ton, a price level that has remained flat for at least five years.

“There’s just too many chips in the market right now and not enough places to take them,” Rondeau said. “I’m looking at having to go to a four-day work week.”

Grafton County is normally the No. 1 supplier of whole tree chips among New Hampshire’s 10 counties, according to data compiled by Jonathan Horton, a forest resource analyst with the state’s Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Based on timber tax data collected by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration, Horton estimates that Grafton County’s wood chip yield was 198,000 “green tons” — chips that still contain moisture — in 2015, the most recent year for which data is available.

That accounted for 15 percent of the approximately 1.3 million tons of wood chips produced in New Hampshire that year.

“We think of Grafton County as the wood basket of New Hampshire,” said Karen Bennett, a forest resources specialist and professor with UNH Cooperative Extension. “Because Grafton County is so big, there are large parcels of property where high quality hardwood is available.”

Senate Bill 365, whose sponsors included Sens. Bob Giuda, R-Warren, and Ruth Ward, R-Stoddard — both who represent parts of the Upper Valley — was designed to shore up the state’s biomass plants, all which have been pummeled as cheaper natural gas has reduced the wholesale cost of electricity.

Under the bill, three utilities — Eversource, Unitil and Liberty Utilities — would have been required to buy power from the biomass plants and other renewable sources at above-market prices. In vetoing the bill, Sununu argued that the measure would have meant higher electricity bills for ratepayers and would have accomplished nothing to ensure the financial health of the plants, which face competition from electricity produced by hydro and natural gas.

“New Hampshire is struggling with some of the highest electricity rates in the country,” he said.

“If the Governor had signed this bill, those rates would be considerably higher,” Jared Chicoine, director of the state’s Office of Strategic Initiatives, said in an email. “(The) veto did not take anything away from the biomass industry; it simply didn’t give them $30 million a year in additional subsidies. Good policy must account for the long-term as well as the short-term, and consider the costs for everyone.”

Proponents of the vetoed measure have their own economic data and analysis to marshal on their behalf. A Plymouth State University study commissioned by the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association found that biomass plants “support 931 jobs and produce $254.5 million in annual economic activity” in the state.

Moreover, the biomass plants use more than 40 percent of all the timber harvested annually in New Hampshire, and the industry employs around 1,100 loggers, according to New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association Executive Director Jasen Stock, although the total can fluctuate depending on the season.

“Traditionally, paper mills up and down the Connecticut River consumed a lot of this wood,” Stock said. “When those went away, the vacuum in New Hampshire was filled by biomass.”

Heath Bunnell, a third-generation logger based in Monroe in northern Grafton County, said he had been transporting about 60 tractor-trailer loads of wood chips a week to supply four to five biomass plants. Now, with the quotas in effect, he’s transporting 10 loads a week to two plants.

Bunnell said he employs 13 people, and biomass fuel has accounted for 45 percent of his business.

He recently bought a new $360,000 chipper — it has only 300 hours on it — and said the fall-off in demand for biomass material will have a cascading effect among the vendors and other businesses with whom he deals.

“I pay $160,000 in insurance alone on my business,” he said. “Some weeks I am burning $15,000 to $20,000 in fuel and oil for trucks. It affects the tire guy. I provide health care for my men. This is a real company. There’s probably over 100 companies in New Hampshire that are in the same place I am. The amount of people this is going to impact in the state is drastic.”

By its very nature, the logging industry produces a high degree of waste in search of a market. A typical tree produces only a small quantity of wood that is of sufficient quality for lumber or furniture.

The remainder, consisting of branches and “tops” and categorized as “low quality wood” because of its blemishes, has limited uses such as shipping pallets or biomass fuel.

“When a forest is cut, 90 percent of the value comes from 10 percent of the trees,” said Scott Nichols, owner of Nichols Tree Farm in Lyme and a contractor of imported, high-end wood-burning heating systems for residences and businesses. “Everything else gets chopped. It used to be a lot of these chips went to paper mills. It’s making things tight in the logging and forestry business. The biomass plants were one of the few local markets remaining.”

The biomass bill enjoyed overwhelming support among New Hampshire lawmakers: It passed in the Senate in March, 17-4 and in the House in May, 225–108. Those majorities give proponents hope that there will be the two-thirds majority needed to override when the governor’s vetoes come up for review in September.

“We had more than simple majorities,” the Timberland Association’s Stock said. “We had strong bipartisan support. People are starting to see the fallout from the veto and that will help our chances.”

Giuda said that 16 of the state’s 24 senators already had signed onto a letter to the governor affirming their support for the bill he co-sponsored, which meets the two-thirds threshold required to overide the bill.

“I’m cautiously optimistic we can hold that and even increase the number,” he said, although he is less certain about the chances in the House, which would require 264 votes out of 400.

“I don’t know if there’s a veto-proof number, but we’re going to be working very hard to convince those who voted against it to reconsider,” Giuda said.

The veto had many loggers scratching their heads because Sununu also signed House Bill 557, which extends for three years the above-market rates that the utility Eversource pays for power from the biomass plant in Berlin operated by Burgess BioPower.

The argument advanced in favor of the bill echoed the same one made in favor of loggers and chip suppliers whose businesses are tied to the six other biomass plants in the state: The subsidy would bolster the surrounding economy in Berlin and those who work in the industry.

However, unlike the six independent biomass plants covered in Senate Bill 365, the Berlin biomass facility has a long-term power purchase agreement with Eversource. The other plants generate electricity that is sold on the spot market or through short-term contracts.

Chicoine and Sununu’s press secretary did not respond to a request to explain the reasons why the governor approved the bill to support the Berlin biomass plant while vetoing the bill to support the other six biomass plants.

CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — An invaluable partner of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA) who has helped lead the NHTOA to success with several significant legislative accomplishments, Robert Olson Esq. is this year's NHTOA) President's Award honoree. 

Mr. Olson’s advocacy on behalf of the state’s six independent biomass energy plants was especially important during last year’s long fight to pass Senate Bill 129, which retained the Renewable Portfolio Standard and kept the biomass plants operating, and this year’s battle to pass Senate Bill 365, which is a key follow-up to SB 129.

“Bob’s help on biomass issues has been vital,” says NHTOA executive director Jasen Stock. “Without Bob, we would have struggled to get this important legislation passed. He knows how to work with legislators on both sides of the aisle and how to accommodate the needs of political leadership. He does an excellent job representing the six independent biomass energy plants in New Hampshire, and thus is an important representative for sustainable forest management as well.”

Born in Massachusetts, Bob became a citizen of the world at a young age. His father was a colonel in the U.S. Army, and before he graduated from high school Bob had lived in Germany (Berlin), Hawaii, Washington, D.C., and Kansas. But New England was always home, and he earned his law degree in 1981 from what was then called the Franklin Pierce Law Center at the University of New Hampshire.

His career as an energy attorney began almost immediately upon graduation. He’s been working with the six biomass plants in N.H. — Bridgewater, Tamworth, Bethlehem, Whitefield, Springfield, and Alexandria — “since they were all just pieces of paper on my desk,” going back to the 1980s. “This has been my career,” he says.

“Biomass energy plants are a unique kind of renewable power,” he comments. “When you look at a typical power plant, all it does is generate power. But biomass addresses so many other needs — it helps improve forest management, it helps create better wildlife habitat, it helps produce better sawlogs for sawmills. The byproduct of burning wood chips for power, wood ash, is spread on farmland. All those values aren’t captured in the price of electricity. What I’ve seen over the years is the people have come to appreciate biomass plants.”

That appreciation has helped Bob, in partnership with the NHTOA and others, score wins in the N.H legislature, including SB 129 and SB 365 (the latter of which passed the legislature but still waits for the Governor’s signature).

“It’s a pleasure working with Bob,” says Jasen Stock. “His knowledge of energy issues and regulations is comprehensive, and he understands that the forest products industry and biomass energy do more than just complement each other, they are partners in the effort to guarantee the residents of New England a constant and guaranteed energy supply.”