More than 200 people filled the big garage at Michael Sharp Enterprises yesterday evening, July 12, to learn what they can do to encourage their representatives and senators to vote to overturn Gov. Sununu's misguided vetoes of Senate bills 365 and 446. These bills passed the N.H. Senate and House with overwhelming bipartisan support. They are crucial to keeping the market for biomass woodchips viable for New Hampshire's forest products industry and timberland owners and for supporting wood processors looking to self-generate their own power. The six biomass plants negatively affected by the veto support $254 million of annual economic activity state-wide. A vote by both the Senate and House to overturn the vetoes will take place in September.
The Governor’s vetoes are creating devastating impacts to the $1.4 billion timber industry – already leading to cancelled equipment orders, business closures, job losses, less energy generation in N.H., and the collapse of a statewide forest management system which benefits all Granite Staters.
Speakers at the July 12 meeting included:
- NHTOA executive director Jasen Stock, who gave an overview of the situation and among other points, explained the veto message’s incorrect analysis of the electricity rate effects of SB 365 and SB 446;
- Forester and NHTOA president Shaun Lagueux, who stressed the importance of overturning the vetoes;
- Sen. Bob Guida, who is one of the original sponsors of the SB 365 and SB 446 legislation;
- Jeff Eames, who talked about the impact the vetoes are already having on his logging business in Merrimack County and his ability to manage over 30,000 acres of timberland in southern New Hampshire;
- Logger Rocky Bunnell, who talked about the impacts he is seeing in northern New Hampshire and who urged the audience to gather as many signatures as possible on the veto overturn petition;
- Landowner Tom Thomson, who commented, "We can't have sustainable forestry unless we have biomass”; and
- Forester and landowner Robert Berti, who pointed out that while the Governor says he opposes subsidies, the state has been happy to be the beneficiary of recreation subsidized by landowners.
"I've done what I can in the Senate," Sen. Guida told the standing-room-only crowd. "We sent a letter to the Governor urging him to sign 365 and 446 with 16 signatures from senators -- that's two-thirds, enough to overturn his veto. Now it's your fight to take to the House."
Tom Thomson, who has known the Sununu family for decades, said, "What was he thinking when he vetoed these bills? He was very ill-advised."
Jasen Stock emphasized three figures: two-thirds, 40%, and $1.4 billion. Two-thirds of New Hampshire's standing timber is low-grade, he pointed out, suitable only for firewood, wood pulp, or woodchips for biomass. More than 40% of all the timber harvested in New Hampshire annually is chipped -- the loss of the biomass market for those chips would cripple the industry. And the size of the industry, in total, is $1.4 billion. Its disappearance would devastate the New Hampshire economy. The Governor made a significant mistake vetoing SB 365 and 446.
Plans are underway for press events and other activities to encourage members of the House and Senate to overturn the vetoes. Updates on those plans will be sent regularly over the next several weeks in the Forest Fax. Also check the NHTOA website for regular updates and articles. In the meantime, call the NHTOA office to obtain a petition sheet for gathering signatures to encourage representatives and senators to vote to override the vetoes.