On May 23, the Senate approved an amended version of HB 183 designed to support six of the biomass power plants in New Hampshire. As you may remember, last year the Legislature approved another bill, SB 365, which also aimed at supporting these biomass plants. Read the Forest Society’s support letter for HB 183.
Unfortunately, the provisions in SB 365, which required the state’s utilities to negotiate contracts with the wood-fired power plants to purchase their energy, have yet to be implemented. As a result, those plants now stand idle. For private forestland owners, like the Forest Society, the inactive plants mean the market for low-grade wood is essentially frozen. In fact, 74% of the timber the Forest Society harvests is low-grade. Without the markets those power plants offer, our ability to sustainably manage our forests is severely undermined. Read Forest Society President Jane Difley’s op-ed from August 2018 for a further explanation of the direct connection between healthy forests and healthy markets for low-grade wood.
Admittedly, the amended version of HB 183 is complex. However, it is important to remind elected officials that the Legislature in the Findings section of SB 365 stated the plants are “vital to the state’s sawmill and other forest products industries and employment in those industries” and that the plants “are also important to state policies because they provide generating fuel diversity and environmental benefits, which protect the health and safety of the state’s citizens and the physical environment of the state.” HB 183 simply builds on this already established state policy.
Finally, it is also important to make sure legislators are aware the new proposal makes the waste-to-energy plants like the Wheelabrator facility in Penacook ineligible for the assistance called for HB 183.
The New Hampshire House must now agree to the Senate-passed changes to HB 183. We encourage residents to contact their legislator and ask them to support HB 183. The message to the elected representatives is simple and direct: The amended version of HB 183 is good for New Hampshire’s forests and good for New Hampshire’s economy.