In a hearing packed with timberland owners, loggers, foresters, sawmill operators, and others connected with New Hampshire's forest-products industry, members of the House Science, Technology, and Energy Committee heard strong support for Senate Bill 129, the proposed legislation to shore up N.H.'s Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) law and thus help the state's six independent biomass (wood chips) energy plants, which together comprise a critical market for low-grade wood. The hearing's sign-in sheet showed 76 attendees supporting the bill and just three opposed.
During the hearing, committee members heard how the low-grade timber market these power plants provide benefit the state's timberland owners, loggers, foresters, sawmills and others. They also heard how these markets benefit forest health in New Hampshire and provide land managers an important tool for wildlife habitat creation.
"New Hampshire's forest are the healthiest in the nation because of the forestry work I can do with the low-grade timber markets these power plants provide," said Bob Berti, a licensed forester from Rumney (licensed forester #3).
Media coverage focused on issues of importance to the forest-products industry.
New Hampshire Public Radio's (NHPR) report, "Supporters Say Saving N.H. Biomass Would Boost State's Forestry Industry," can be read here.
But the NH Business Review was more critical.
During the hearing, the NHTOA shared the results of a Plymouth State University economic study on these biomass plants that the NHTOA commissioned last year. Jasen Stock, the NHTOA's executive director, referenced in his testimony the economic benefits New Hampshire and its communities get from the six biomass power plants. It is significant: the six plants provide 121 jobs directly and support 583 jobs indirectly and 228 "induced effect" service jobs. The grand total of the direct effect (the six independent biomass electric power plants), indirect effect (supply industries), and induced effect (service sector) economic activities is 932 jobs ($50.9 million in payroll), and the total economic output to the state's economy is $254.5 million each year.
"In this hearing there was a lot of talk about the cost of this bill by the opponents. What they fail to recognize is the economic benefits the state's RPS law provides through the biomass power plants," said Jasen in his testimony. "These plants support our forests, provide jobs, provide tax revenue to our towns and the state, and are connected to one of the largest manufacturing sectors in the state - forest products."
The NHTOA anticipates that members of the House committee will schedule work sessions on this bill over the next two weeks. Look for future updates and calls to action from the NHTOA.
Photo: Ray Berthiaume, forester with Wagner Forest Management, tells the House committee why SB 129 is vital to a healthy forest products industry in New Hampshire. (Photo by Steve Bjerklie.)