In the News

7/7/2011: NH Public Radio, By Chris Jensen


Berlin Biomass Construction Site Being Dismantled

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7/7/2011: The Laconia Citizen: By Victoria Guay

Investors abandon Berlin project

Click Here for Article

7/7/2011:  Union Leader: By Sara Young-Knox

Berlin Station: ‘Door is open,’ PSNH says

Fingerpointing:
But two sides are still at odds.

BERLIN — The future of Berlin Station, the proposed 75-megawatt wood-to-energy plant, remains unknown as both sides try to figure out what happens next, if anything, after negotiations ended last week.
Cate Street Capital said the talks were critical to their efforts to secure the necessary funding, and a spokesman for the developeraccused a group of smaller, independent biomass plants of making “insane” demands that contributed to the stalemate.
“One plant asked for $13 million payment over and above the power-purchase agreement. Another asked for $6 million over two years,” said Scott Tranchemontagne, the Cate Street Capital spokesman. A manager of one of the competing plants rebutted the charge. “We never asked for any cash payments of any sort,” said Michael O’Leary, manager of the Bridgewater Power Plant in Bristol. He confirmed that they had been close to a deal. “We just want a PPA (power purchase agreement) to sell our output.”
The smaller biomass plants, the so-called wood-fired “Independent Power Producers,” fought the proposed $275 million plant in Berlin on the grounds that it would have a competitive advantage.
They appealed a state regulatory decision in Laidlaw Berlin BioPower’s favor, as well as a 20-year agreement for Public Service Company of New Hampshire to buy the plant’s power. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission rejected that appeal, but there was another appeal of the PUC order to the state Supreme Court.
The plants are Bridgewater Power Company L.P., Pinetree Power Inc., Pinetree Power- Tamworth, Inc., Springfield Power LLC, Whitefield Power & Light Company, and Indeck Energy-Alexandra.
Supporters of Berlin Station have criticized their challenge, as well as the outof- state and overseas ownership of the IPPs. Bridgewater is owned by Public Service Enterprise Group of New Jersey.
The Pinetree plants are owned by GDF Suez of Paris, France. Whitefield and Springfield Power are owned by Korea East-West Power Company of Korea. Indeck Alexandria is owned by Indeck Energy, Inc. of Illinois.
According to Tranchemontagne, it was Korea East-West and Indeck that made what he called unreasonable demands.
“If they truly cared about New Hampshire as a whole, they’d drop the appeal,” Tranchemontagne said.
Cate Street, PSNH, and state officials were working with the smaller biomass plants to reach a deal that would get them to drop their appeal of the power-purchase agreement between Berlin Station and PSNH.
Colin Manning, a spokesman for Gov. John Lynch, said a compromise was elusive.
“The governor and state of­ficials worked very hard with PSNH, the owners of Berlin Power, and the independent power producers to forge an agreement that would benefit the people of the North Country and the state of New Hampshire,” he said. “But these are private companies, with private interests, and not all of the independent power producers who came to the table were willing to work toward a compromise that would have secured their continued operation and allowed the Berlin Power project to go forward at this time.” Gorham Selectman Paul Robitaille said he was concerned the stalled project might affect the future of the Gorham paper mill, which he said had planned on using hot water piped down from the biomass plant to reduce its energy costs.
“This could lead to even more destruction of our local economy,” he said Monday.
PSNH spokesman Martin Murray would not comment on the numbers brought to the table during negotiations. “From our perspective the door is open,” Murray said. “We were certainly in agreement to moving ahead.”
He said all participants worked to find a way to keep the smaller biomass plants open. Tranchemontagne said the lack of a deal would cost the North Country $25 million annually in revenue for loggers, foresters, and chippers. He said it would ultimately lead to job losses at the existing biomass plants.
It’s really hard to understand why they chose that tack,” he said.
O’Leary said the independent power producers are still seeking a power-purchase agreement.
“We definitely want to continue to advance our deal, and we think the industry is good for the state,” he said.
For now, there are 20 workers at the proposed Berlin Station plant, the former Fraser Papers site, dismantling equipment in the next few weeks before the site is shut down.
A crane on the site will be removed, and only a couple of caretakers will remain to keep an eye on things.

“We definitely want to continue to advance our deal, and we think the industry is good for the state.”
MICHAEL O’LEARY, Manager of theBridgewater Power Plant

7/3/2011: Union Leader: By GARRY RAYNO

Foes kill plan for Berlin power plant

BERLIN — Developers oBerlin Station: ‘Door is open,’ PSNH says Fingerpointing: But two sides are still at odds. By SARA YOUNG-KNOX Union Leader Correspondent BERLIN — The future of Berlin Station, the proposed 75-megawatt wood-to-energy plant, remains unknown as both sides try to figure out what happens next, if anything, after negotiations ended last week. Cate Street Capital said the talks were critical to their efforts to secure the necessary funding, and a spokesman for the developeraccused a group of smaller, independent biomass plants of making “insane” demands that contributed to the stalemate. “One plant asked for $13 million payment over and above the power-purchase agreement. Another asked for $6 million over two years,” said Scott Tranchemontagne, the Cate Street Capital spokesman. A manager of one of the competing plants rebutted the charge. “We never asked for any cash payments of any sort,” said Michael O’Leary, manager of the Bridgewater Power Plant in Bristol. He confirmed that they had been close to a deal. “We just want a PPA (power purchase agreement) to sell our output.” The smaller biomass plants, the so-called wood-fired “Independent Power Producers,” fought the proposed $275 million plant in Berlin on the grounds that it would have a competitive advantage. They appealed a state regulatory decision in Laidlaw Berlin BioPower’s favor, as well as a 20-year agreement for Public Service Company of New Hampshire to buy the plant’s power. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission rejected that appeal, but there was another appeal of the PUC order to the state Supreme Court. The plants are Bridgewater Power Company L.P., Pinetree Power Inc., Pinetree Power- Tamworth, Inc., Springfield Power LLC, Whitefield Power & Light Company, and Indeck Energy-Alexandra. Supporters of Berlin Station have criticized their challenge, as well as the outof- state and overseas ownership of the IPPs. Bridgewater is owned by Public Service Enterprise Group of New Jersey. The Pinetree plants are owned by GDF Suez of Paris, France. Whitefield and Springfield Power are owned by Korea East-West Power Company of Korea. Indeck Alexandria is owned by Indeck Energy, Inc. of Illinois. According to Tranchemontagne, it was Korea East-West and Indeck that made what he called unreasonable demands. “If they truly cared about New Hampshire as a whole, they’d drop the appeal,” Tranchemontagne said. Cate Street, PSNH, and state officials were working with the smaller biomass plants to reach a deal that would get them to drop their appeal of the power-purchase agreement between Berlin Station and PSNH. Colin Manning, a spokesman for Gov. John Lynch, said a compromise was elusive. “The governor and state of¬ficials worked very hard with PSNH, the owners of Berlin Power, and the independent power producers to forge an agreement that would benefit the people of the North Country and the state of New Hampshire,” he said. “But these are private companies, with private interests, and not all of the independent power producers who came to the table were willing to work toward a compromise that would have secured their continued operation and allowed the Berlin Power project to go forward at this time.” Gorham Selectman Paul Robitaille said he was concerned the stalled project might affect the future of the Gorham paper mill, which he said had planned on using hot water piped down from the biomass plant to reduce its energy costs. “This could lead to even more destruction of our local economy,” he said Monday. PSNH spokesman Martin Murray would not comment on the numbers brought to the table during negotiations. “From our perspective the door is open,” Murray said. “We were certainly in agreement to moving ahead.” He said all participants worked to find a way to keep the smaller biomass plants open. Tranchemontagne said the lack of a deal would cost the North Country $25 million annually in revenue for loggers, foresters, and chippers. He said it would ultimately lead to job losses at the existing biomass plants. It’s really hard to understand why they chose that tack,” he said. O’Leary said the independent power producers are still seeking a power-purchase agreement. “We definitely want to continue to advance our deal, and we think the industry is good for the state,” he said. For now, there are 20 workers at the proposed Berlin Station plant, the former Fraser Papers site, dismantling equipment in the next few weeks before the site is shut down. A crane on the site will be removed, and only a couple of caretakers will remain to keep an eye on things. ________________________________________ We definitely want to continue to advance our deal, and we think the industry is good for the state.” MICHAEL O’LEARY Manager of the Bridgewater Power Plant f a proposed wood-burning power plant in Berlin say financial uncertainty created by opponents has killed the project.
Berlin Station would have been Berlin’s largest property taxpayer.
State Sen. John Gallus, R-Berlin, said, “This is a terrible, terrible blow to the North Country and the city of Berlin. We’ve been planning on this and hoping it would come to fruition.”
Hampered by legal wrangling, the developers could not secure financing to continue the project, said Scott Tranchemontagne, spokesman for Cate Street Capital, the investment firm developing the 75-megawatt plant at the former Fraser Paper Mill site.
He said negotiations among the pertinent parties — Public Service of New Hampshire, which has an agreement to purchase Berlin Station’s power; the governor’s office; the Public Utilities Commission; the Department of Resources and Economic Development; and small wood-burning power plants — failed to result in an agreement by the June 30 deadline.
“Sometimes in negotiations a deadline is real,” Tranchemontagne said.
The small wood-burning plants, or independent power producers (IPP), appealed to the Supreme Court a PUC order approving the power-purchasing agreement between Berlin Station and PSNH.
The PUC had rejected the IPP request to rehear its original order granting conditional approval to the purchasing agreement. But the IPP appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, Tranchemontagne said.
Repeated attempts to reach representatives of the small wood-burning plants were unsuccessful Saturday.
Tranchemontagne said the project was ready to go and about 20 workers were on site preparing for full construction.
“The breakdown in negotiations has serious ramifications not only for Berlin Station, but for the entire North Country,” Tranchemontagne said. “This project would have injected about $25 million annually into the North Country’s economy for the foresters, loggers and wood chippers beyond the biomass plant’s construction.”
The IPP challenged the power-purchasing agreement between what was known as Laidlaw Berlin BioPower and PSNH, claiming the 20-year deal threatened their existence and would harm ratepayers.
They claimed ratepayers would have to pay for the renewable energy well beyond 2025, which was at odds with the state’s renewable energy law.
The smaller companies opposing the deal were Bridgewater Power Company L.P., Pinetree Power Inc., Pinetree Power-Tamworth Inc., Springfield Power LLC, Whitefield Power & Light Company and Indeck Energy-Alexandria, LLC.
The Office of Consumer Advocate also objected to the agreement, which was approved by a 2-1 PUC vote.
“It really is a shame for New Hampshire and the North Country in particularly,” Tranchemontagne said. “The decisions were made not so much by the local people at the IPPs but by the suits from out of state and out of country.”
Many people in the construction industry turned down jobs in other areas because they thought they could stay home and work, Gallus said, adding the project was set to begin July 15.
Another project was going on the same site and would take power and heat from the biomass plant, Gallus said. “We keep taking one little step forward and then losing ground. We need help.”
The $275 million project would have created 40 permanent jobs once it was finished and up to 400 construction jobs over the next two years.
Halting the project also affects Isaacson Steel, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last week, Gallus said.

http://www.unionleader.com/article/20110703/NEWS02/707039975

 

7/2/2011:  Boston.com

Backers say NH biomass project hits wall

BERLIN, N.H.—A proposal to open a biomass plant in Berlin, N.H., has hit a dead end.
Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for an investment firm backing the project, tells New Hampshire Public Radio that the project is dead. The investment firm, Cate Street Capital, had been negotiating with state officials and six small wood-fired biomass plants that objected to the state’s decision to allow Public Service Company of New Hampshire to buy electricity from the Berlin plant.
State Sen. John Gallas, who represents the North Country, says those talks were supposed to resolve everything by June 30, but that didn’t happen.
The plant had been seen as a providing a large economic boost to the region.

http://www.boston.com/news/local/new_hampshire/articles/2011/07/02/backers_say_nh_biomass_project_hits_wall/

7/1/2011:   NH Public Radio: By Chris Jensen

Backers Say Berlin Biomass Project is Dead

The Berlin biomass project which would have provided a huge boost to the North Country is apparently dead. NHPR’s Chris Jensen reports.“As we speak today the Berlin station project is indeed dead.”That’s Scott Tranchemontagne, a spokesman for Cate Street Capital.

Cate Street has been backing the Berlin biomass project.
Tranchemontagne said the problem is that negotiations involving state officials, Cate Street and six, small wood-fired biomass plants fell apart.
The wood-fired plants have objected to the Public Utility Commission’s recent approval of a deal that would allow Public Service of New Hampshire to buy electricity from the Berlin plant.
Negotiations were underway to try and keep them from making an appeal to the Supreme Court. That could delay the project for a year.
 Sen. John Gallus, who represents the North Country, was involved in those talks.
“Talks, were, we were supposed to resolve everything by the 30th and that basically didn’t happen.”
The Berlin plant was seen as providing a huge economic boost to an area that needs help.
 For NHPR News, this is Chris Jensen

http://www.nhpr.org/backers-say-berlin-biomass-project-dead

6/20/2011: Featured on NHPR’s The Exchange this morning.

The Morass over Biomass  ~  By Laura Knoy on Monday, June 20, 2011

6/4/2011:  Featured in Laconia Citizen ~ By Victoria Guay

 Bridgewater manager explains stance on biomass agreement

6/3/2011:  Featured in New Hampshire Business Review ~ By Kathleen Callahan

Four N.H. wood-burning plants warn they’ll shut down without purchase deal

6/1/2011:  Featured in today’s print and online editions:

Biomass owners say they provide jobs now

http://www.berlindailysun.com/featured/story/biomass-owners-say-they-provide-jobs-now

5/29/2011:     This AP article popped up over the weekend and ran in Sunday’s Concord Monitor.

Debate over biomass plant heats up

Regulators suspend order for approval

The debate over a proposed biomass plant in northern New Hampshire has intensified.

State regulators this week suspended an order giving conditional approval to a 20-year purchase power agreement for the Berlin plant after other wood-power plants filed objections, including one with the state Supreme Court. Meanwhile, the head of a steel company, a steelworkers union and a group representing construction workers have taken out large newspaper ads in New Hampshire telling the plants to withdraw their opposition.

Supporters of the proposed plant in economically depressed Berlin say the plant, expected to go online in 2014, will create 40 permanent jobs, plus many temporary construction jobs and help the forest industry – loggers, haulers and foresters who help bring fuel to the plant. Opponents say the power agreement with Public Service of New Hampshire violates a provision in the state’s renewable energy law and isn’t in the public interest.

Berlin and Coos County officials have had high hopes for the plant to be built on the site of a former pulp mill. The 100-year-old mill closed in 2006, leaving many people out of work and Berlin without a main industry. The city hopes jobs and a boost to the local economy would be created with the opening of a newly built federal prison, but budget debates in Congress have left the project without funds this fiscal year.

Steve Griffin, president of Isaacson Structural Steel Inc. in Berlin, put out a full-page ad with a letter urging that plans for the biomass plant move ahead.

“It’s time for you to withdraw your motions for a rehearing at the PUC (Public Utility Commission) so this project can move forward and create good jobs and true economic activity for Berlin, Coos County and all surrounding communities,” he wrote to the four companies that filed objections.

Mike O’Leary, plant manager of Bridgewater Power Company in Bristol, said he was surprised by the ads, but “they’re certainly not going to intimidate the plants to withdraw,” he said Friday.

Bridgewater and the other wood power plants – Pinetree Power-Tamworth, Whitefield Power & Light Company and Indeck Energy-Alexandria have been operating on their own. Their power contracts have expired and their future is uncertain.

“The power markets are very depressed because right now, not only is the economy down, so demand for energy is down,” O’Leary said. “That has driven down natural gas prices, and natural gas prices can set the price of electricity in New England.”

O’Leary said the proposed plant would basically replace all four of the existing plants. Each employs about 20 people and supports about another 100 in the forest products community.

“We’re in trouble,” he said. “Clearly, we support jobs and we’re not trying to jeopardize jobs. We’re terribly concerned about our own jobs and jobs that are on the ground today, not jobs that are going to come two and three years from now. And so, we’re trying to get short-term bridges for our plants to keep our businesses viable.”

He said the plants are talking with state official and PSNH about options.

The plants have asked for a rehearing on the purchase power agreement before the Public Utilities Commission.

Objections to the plants’ request have been filed by the city of Berlin, a Berlin property manager and PSNH.

3/23/2011:    As seen in the NH Union Leader Print Edition, March 23, 2011

NH biomass plants offer affordable fuel for PSNH 

As a NH licensed professional forester, I am very familiar with New Hampshire’s independently owned biomass facilities and the many economic and environmental benefits they provide the forest industry and the state as a whole. My firm is responsible for procuring wood for some of the NH biomass plants. 

Therefore, I am pleased to respond to some misconceptions highlighted in your editorial regarding biomass energy facilities.    

New Hampshire’s six independently owned biomass facilities represent a significant economic base for some of the state’s most economically-challenged communities. Some 570 to 670 people receive good wages, benefits and pensions from these facilities directly or indirectly, which are located in areas with higher unemployment levels than most of the rest of the state. The facilities contribute a combined $55 million each year into the state economy. These facilities service landowners, along with the forestry, recreational, and farming industries. All of these benefits to the state are in jeopardy. This concerns me particularly since biomass energy provides significant in-state benefits and is an affordable renewable energy. PSNH can solve this problem. 

 Despite PSNH’s claims, biomass power from the independent facilities is very affordable. Let’s begin with the obvious. Today, none of the six operating biomass plants receives any mandated energy or capacity rate. In fact, none of them have power sales contracts with PSNH so they are not contributing negatively to PSNH electric rates. The biomass facilities are looking for reasonable contract rates; in fact, they are much lower than the rate PSNH just contracted with the New York City-based Laidlaw Energy Group for its Berlin biomass facility. The New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission staff testimony estimates that PSNH agreed to pay Laidlaw $565 million more than market rates. In stark contrast, the contract rates the other biomass plants are looking for are less than PSNH’s own default rate, the blended rate it charges its customers for electricity.    

I would ask PSNH this question – if they can pay these above-market rates to Laidlaw, why not pay lower, reasonable rates to these smaller independently owned biomass plants and preserve their jobs and instate economic activity. I would hope past feelings are not clouding the positive benefits the biomass plants provide to the overall economy of NH. All parties need to set aside past differences as too much is at stake for the forest industry and the rest of the state. In these difficult times, we can’t afford to lose hundreds of jobs and tens of millions in economic activity. The independent biomass facilities need power sales contracts with PSNH to survive. I urge PSNH to reconsider their position against negotiating a reasonable contract with these biomass facilities. There are considerable positive benefits to the state by entering into such agreements. 

 Robert J. Berti is a licensed forester, president of North country Procurement, Inc. based in Rumney.

  3/21/2011:   Mike O’Leary of Bridwater Power and Bob Berti from North Country Procurement interview on WTPL-FM with Brian Bulldog Tilton yesterday.

                                        Part 1        Part 2  

3/18/2011:   Click here to listen as Mike O’Leary shares with Charlie Sherman of WGIR-AM more thoughtson the current situation affecting NH’s Biomass Industry

3/17/2011:   Click here to listen to WNTK radio interview with Mike O’Leary, plant manager at Bridgewater Power Company. Hear the real NH story about real NH jobs!

2/24/2011:  As Seen in the Berlin Reporter ~ Four NH Biomass Plants in Jeopardy ~ By Edith Tucker

2/18/2011:  As Seen on NHPR ~ Biomass Plants On The Brink ~ By Chris Jensen

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