Black Fly Breakfast Recap

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE        May 7, 2011

13th Annual Black Fly Breakfast Highlights NH Biomass Plants in Crisis

Representatives from biomass plants and timberland owners detail imminent closures, layoffs facing industry Henniker, NH (May 7, 2011)

A series of speakers representing New Hampshire’s biomass energy, forestry, and logging industries highlighted the growing challenges facing the state’s wood-burning biomass plants at the 13th Annual Black Fly Breakfast on Friday. Hosted by the University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension, the Black Fly Breakfast is held annually as an educational opportunity for members of the forestry and logging industries.

Speaking at the event were Bridgewater Power General Manager Mike O’Leary, New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association (NHTOA) Executive Director Jasen Stock, and Sarah Smith of the UNH Cooperative Extension.

Members of the forestry, logging, and related industries are increasingly concerned about the negative consequences posed by the potentially imminent closings of several of New Hampshire’s biomass plants, including the loss of 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, and many NH farmers use the wood ash from these plants to fertilize their fields.

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

Jasen Stock, Executive Director of the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association, spoke to the multi-industry consequences of the plants’ potential closure, and the negative impact on the state’s energy policy as a whole. Citing the results of a study performed by the NHTOA and UNH Cooperative Extension, Stock cautioned that the plant closures could put over a thousand jobs across related industries at risk. “The loss of these plants would hurt our state’s economy and have disastrous consequences across the forestry and logging industries,” said Stock.

Stock also pointed to directives in New Hampshire’s energy policy calling for the development of fuel diversity as a buffer against global instability, stating that biomass plants are an essential component of that effort. “These biomass plants play a crucial role in our state’s energy ‘big picture’,” said Stock, “With energy costs rising nationwide, its more important now than ever that New Hampshire has options.”

Mike O’Leary, General Manager of Bridgewater Power, detailed the current market conditions facing the biomass plants, and touted the wide-ranging economic benefits of the industry. “Biomass plants like Bridgewater Power provide good, permanent, full-time jobs in a part of that state where the job market is particularly challenging. Without a short-term contract to keep us operational, we will have no choice but to close our doors and layoff our workers. In this tough economy, New Hampshire simply can’t afford to lose any more jobs.” For more information, please contact Amelia Chasse at Novus Public Affairs at (603) 570-9063 Ext. 708.

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