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ALC Executive Vice President
Daniel J. Dructor
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P.O. Box 966
Hemphill, TX 75948
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Round Two – NH’s Forests, Industries, Workers and Forest Landowners are at Risk!

By Tom Thomson of the Thomson Family Tree Farm, lives in Orford, New Hampshire.

 

Here we go again. The Governor vetoed HB 183, a bill which sought to finally implement the policy which last year (2018) was overwhelmingly passed by a GOP-led Legislature to protect and support New Hampshire’s green renewable biomass generation. Fast forward this year, a Democratically led Legislature passed HB 183 by a large bipartisan vote. The Legislature continues to understand the bigger picture of how important N.H.’s 3rd largest manufacturing business is to our state’s economy of $1.2 Billion annually; unfortunately the Governor does not.

 

The Legislature understands that biomass energy generation in New Hampshire is local business. It provides local jobs, provides a critical tool in forest management, and helps our agricultural community with its wood ash byproduct, an organic fertilizer to spread on their fields. Biomass generation aligns with state policy that seeks diversity of electricity fuel sources using wood, a fuel source New Hampshire has plenty of as we are the second most forested state in the country. In using this low-grade wood for energy generation, biomass benefits us all – providing public and private landowners a management tool for sustainable forestry and open lands. Good Forestry management benefits our state’s tourism and recreational industries. One example would be Snowmobiling which brings in annually, direct and indirect, over $600 million because forest landowners continue to open and share our forestlands and trails which we’ve built for forestry; 84% of our state’s 7200 mile trail systems are on private forest lands.

 

So who was the Governor listening to when he decided to veto HB 183? My guess is it was an out-of-state group called the New England Ratepayers Association, who has been leading the charge to cripple our forest industry. They are a Massachusetts based lobbying group that doesn’t disclose its membership. By their actions, I would guess they are backed by utility interests and shareholders, but we will never know. They spent unknown amounts of money “robocalling” legislators to vote against HB 183. What I do know is that this lobbying group, that is lobbying for the demise of New Hampshire’s timber industry, doesn’t seem the least concerned about recent filings by Eversource (NH’s largest Utility) for a $70 million increase. They didn’t even intervene in the case. Are they more concerned about the cost of a three-year bridge to help the local biomass plants and the forestry industry instead of a huge increase of $70 million on ratepayer bills? I think most would agree this just doesn’t add up.

 

This is not a partisan debate – look at the votes – support for biomass passed in a Republican-led legislature, just as it has in a Democrat–led legislature. Our legislators are close to their constituents and they understand the chaos that has ensued in the state as this debate continues. They know the claims about biomass greatly driving up electric rates are false. They know local logging companies are laying off employees and cancelling equipment orders. Forest landowners like myself will begin selling forestland for development if HB 183 fails because we can’t manage our land effectively without the biomass markets, and the plant employees continue to worry about the future of their livelihoods and families. They know of the forestry-based jobs in their districts and how hard people are working to keep things afloat. This veto is not what New Hampshire is all about – we help our neighbors. These are hard-working men and women whose work is important to our energy future, but also our tourism and recreation economy, while providing a healthy environment for our state.

 

This is why this veto makes no sense. Supporters of HB 183 include three of the state’s largest landowner organizations, who each have over 100 years of common sense when it comes to managing healthy forest and agriculture lands through-out our state. They are NH Forest Society, NH Timberland Owners Association, and NH Farm Bureau. Many large suppliers like Milton Caterpillar In Londonderry, McDevitt Trucking in Manchester, and many hundreds of other small businesses that work to support and supply the biomass and timber industries also are just as concerned as I am of the uncertainty for the past two years. The Governor often talks about supporting local businesses. Well, in terms of a “return on investment,” just looking at what New Hampshire gains from a thriving biomass industry proves that overriding HB 183 is good business. We need to settle this debate once and for all. The Legislature was right last year when it overrode the Governor’s veto. It is time to do it again.

 

I am encouraging anyone who owns timberland, makes a living in the timber industry, and most importantly, enjoys recreating on private timberlands to call their legislator today and urge them to override the Governor’s Veto on HB 183. To find your legislator go to, http://gencourt.state.nh.us/house/members/default.aspx

 

If we fail, New Hampshire’s Forest Industry, the third largest manufacturing business may be headed in the same direction as the NH Shoe Industry did years ago and that would be a sad day in our state’s “Live Free or Die” history.

Tom Thomson, owner of the “Thomson Family Tree Farm” shows what will happen if HB 183, known as the Biomass bill, fails. Forest landowners would begin selling off their Tree Farms due to the lack of low grade markets. Tom, reminds elected officials that 55% to 65% of all wood cut on a timber harvest is low grade, either pulp wood or biomass and without that market we can’t practice sustainable forestry.

© AMERICAN LOGGERS COUNCIL, 2019