U.S. Sen. Jeanne Shaheen spent a warm afternoon on Thursday, July 9, in Berlin, N.H., touring the Burgess Bioenergy plant. Burgess is an important buyer of low-grade wood, which it uses to fuel its electricity-generating operation, and much of the discussion during the tour was about the threats New Hampshire’s loggers and sawmills are under due to a multi-faceted collapse of the woodchip and wood pulp market. Sen. Shaheen has been instrumental in encouraging federal support for the forest-products industry, including low-grade markets.
“Today was an important opportunity to show Sen. Shaheen the direct impact on plants like Burgess, the landowners, loggers, and suppliers that support them, and the communities they operate in that a weak low-grade market has,” said Jasen Stock, executive director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, who co-hosted the tour along with Burgess. “She has always shown interest in the industry, which is the third-largest in New Hampshire, and today she heard about the realities the industry is dealing with in the wake of the closures of several bioenergy plants and paper mills.”
Dammon Frecker, operations manager at Burgess, told the Senator that his biggest concern, which he said is shared by other bioenergy plants as well as sawmills, is where the next load of wood is going to come from. “We buy woodchips from big companies but also from a lot of family loggers, and without good markets for low-grade wood those family operations have a very difficult time making a go of it,” he said. “We need those loggers to stay in business in order for us to have the supply of woodchips we need.”
As part of the tour, Burgess officials presented a check to town officials from the City of Berlin in the amount of $523,000 as part of a revenue sharing agreement. “This is the result of our partnership with this great community, one that we’re proud to operate in,” said Frecker, who then waved toward the distant peaks of the Presidential Range. “Plus, you can’t ask for a more beautiful place for an energy plant.”