For additional news check out the NHTOA Facebook page
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
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.”
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.”
CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — Scott Piper, president of Northeast Mill Services Inc., and Rick Grover, with a long career as an expert mechanic for sawmills throughout New England and Europe, were both honored by the New Hampshire Timberland Industry Association (NHTOA) with this year's Outstanding Forest Industry award. The awards were presented at the NHTOA's 107th Annual Meeting, held May 19, 2018, in Chesterfield, N.H.
In Scott's career he has been involved in the new construction of more than 50 sawmills and 400 sawmill improvement projects. His business rode the wave of vast expansion of the grade lumber industry of the 1980s, ‘90s and early 2000s, where automation in lumber handling and optimization (computer based scanning and data collection) were transforming the 200 year-old labor-dependent industry into a technological marvel of efficiency.
Born in Bangor, Me., Rick discovered a love of machines and how they work at a young age. What he enjoys most, he says, is looking at a machine, watching it run, looking and listening for problems, and solving them. “You’ve got to love them,” he says, “love them like the machines are your children. You can feel when they’re running right, you can hear it when the blade is fresh and the carriage is lined up right.”
He’s largely self-taught, though he says he was “fortunate that I came up at the tail-end of when the old guys were still around. I learned a lot from them. They had a real knack and a common-sense way of doing things. They were practical, and they knew machines. It was a great education for me.”
Rick got started installing equipment in a bakery, but by the mid-1970s he had moved into sawmills. He has installed equipment in sawmills all over New England, and he also did some installations in European mills. He connected with Scott Piper in the late 1990s and has worked with him ever since. Rick also has had a long relationship with Allard Lumber in Brattleboro, Vt., helping CEO Cliff Allard devise new, more efficient, more productive ways of moving wood through the mill.
“A good machine will save time, money, and work, and a good machine will give you a good product in the end,” he says. “Good machines have made this industry what it is – good machines and good people. It’s a partnership, and that’s the way I feel when I’m working on a machine and trying to figure something out. A partner.”
A slower pace seems to suit Scott for now. Though he is admittedly winding down a bit in his 70s and stopping a bit more to smell the roses or maybe “go up to camp,” he is still a busy man. “I don’t think I’ll ever really retire,” he says. “I enjoy solving problems and I enjoy the people in this industry. I believe in the people in the lumber businesses and I like working with them.”