Keep the Momentum Going!

Great turnout at the meeting last night. Special thank you to Senator Sanborn for making the time to attend as well. Keep the letters going – we need to keep up the momentum!

Penacook, NH (March 31, 2011) More than 140 people attended a public information meeting hosted by the New Hampshire Timber Harvesting Council to discuss the negative economic consequences if the state’s existing biomass power plants were forced to close because they could not secure energy contracts.  The meeting entitled, “Biomass in Crisis: Jobs, Clean Energy, and the Economy at Risk”, took place Thursday evening March 31 at Merrimack Valley High School in Penacook. The event attracted many people from the timber, biomass, recreation, farming industries and general public who are concerned about the negative consequences posed by the plant potentially imminent closings, including the loss of than 400 – 500 jobs and more than $45 million in local economic activity.

Recent market conditions have resulted in an uncertain future for the six independent biomass-burning power plants in New Hampshire that collectively provide up to 100 MW of renewable electricity- enough to power 100,000 homes – to the New England electric power grid. These plants directly employ more than 100 employees and pay nearly $1.1 million dollars in state and local taxes. In addition, their suppliers and subcontractors employ more than 400 workers in the form of chip producers, truckers, mechanics and maintenance sub-contractors.

The state of New Hampshire will lose over $45 million dollars annually in economic activity if the four biomass plants with expiring contracts – Bethlehem, Tamworth, Bridgewater, and Alexandria – do not get renewed. These plants, and the jobs that are created, are a critical part of the New Hampshire economy, and a source of well paying rural jobs.

Speaking at the meeting were New Hampshire State Senator Andy Sanborn; Eric Johnson, Program Director of NH Timberland Owners Association; Mike O’Leary, Plant Operator of Bridgewater Power; Dennis McKenney, Board Member of New England Forestry Consultants; Ed Witt, Procurement Forester, Madison Lumber Mill; Jasen Stock, Executive Director of NH Timberland Owners Association; and Marlo Herrick, Chief Financial Officer of Hopkinton Forestry and Land Clearing; Shelagh Connelly, President and Charlie Hanson, Sales Executive of Resource Management, Inc.; and Charlie Niebling, Merrimack Valley High School.

Attendees at the event were asked to take action by contacting their elected representatives to alert them to this problem.

 “The time to act is now!” stated Marlo Herrick, Chief Financial Officer of Hopkinton Forestry and Land Clearing. “Governor Lynch and your state senators, representatives, and executive councilmen need to hear from you. Let them know how important these facilities are to you and your community.”

 Jasen Stock, Executive Director for the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, commented on the need to preserve the state’s biomass industry. “New Hampshire’s wood power plants play a key role in [New Hampshire’s] economic well being across many industries,” said Stock. “Timberland owners, loggers, ash recyclers, farmers, and truckers depend on the plants for their survival.”

“As a plant operator I see the writing on the wall,” said Mike O’Leary, Plant Operator for the Bridgewater Power biomass plant. “Without a short-term contract to keep us operational, I, along with the other plant managers here today, will have no choice but to close our doors. In this economy, the state can’t afford to lose one more job.”

“I don’t want to be forced to lay off staff,” said Madison Lumber Mill owner Ed Witt. “If the plants shut down and we lose the income from our wood chip sales, my only choice will be to let people go. There is a solution available and hopefully new contracts will arise to help keep our plants going.”

The meeting included an update on regional energy markets, the results of a survey of the economic impacts of both the power plants and biomass chip producers, and a panel discussion on the future of biomass.

For more information, please contact Eric Johnson at The New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association at (603) 224-9699or Amelia Chasse at Novus Public Affairs at (603) 570-9063.

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