Hunter Carbee: Sununu’s veto of biomass bill devastates the forest industry

For the Monitor
Published: 7/26/2018 12:10:16 AM

Did you know the forest products industry is the third largest sector of our New Hampshire manufacturing economy?

Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed Senate Bill 365 last month, a critical bill for six New Hampshire biomass plants that provide a market for our local forest landowners to sustainably manage their lands. It has only been a few weeks and already our state’s $1.4 billion forest economy is reeling from his decision. Since his veto, three biomass plants have terminated purchasing wood fuel for their plants with the remainder soon to follow.

The fallout

Many logging companies, small and large, are already facing drastic layoffs, equipment repossession and bankruptcy. Ongoing forestry operations are near half-production as biomass markets plummet. Prices for biomass and all other low-grade wood products (pulp for paper mills and firewood) are tanking and lowered delivery quotas are in place.

Total forestland real estate values are dropping. (There are more than 100,000 private forest landowners who own 3.2 million acres in New Hampshire.)

Other industries connected to the forest industry, such as fuel companies, tire companies, heavy equipment dealers and wood ash for farmers’ fields are already experiencing millions of dollars in lost production and sales. (Equipment dealers lost more than $5 million in sales the day after the veto.)

Statewide, towns will lose thousands of dollars of yield tax revenues from timber harvesting operations and foregone truck registrations. Moreover, current use tax rates will fall in the ensuing years, causing further budget constraints for property tax burdened towns.

Salvage operations for tornadoes, wind and ice storms, insects and disease are now near impossible and will impose extremely high costs for state and local communities.

Fire danger will increase because woodlands will not be properly thinned and more slash fuel will be left in the woods.

Unemployment enrollment will spike and social costs to society will increase.

Electricity rates will actually increase as 100 megawatts of locally produced renewable energy will now have to be transmitted at higher cost from outside sources.

Gov. Sununu claims SB 365 will raise rates. The truth? The biomass industry sector alone contributes $234 million per year to the New Hampshire economy. The fact that SB 365 passed by more than a two-thirds bipartisan majority in both the Senate and the House exemplifies that this is not a free “subsidy” from the government. Rather, it is an incentive that really works.

That is what common-sense policymakers on both sides of the aisle in our great state of New Hampshire voted on. And that is why the governor’s misinformed veto of SB 365 needs to be overturned.

(Hunter Carbee of Greenfield is a licensed forester and wood energy representative for the N.H. Timber Harvesting Council.)

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