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Lawmakers push for override on biomass plant veto

by Tara Giles
Sports reporter - Coos County Democrat and Berlin Reporter
August 14, 2019
CONCORD — On Aug. 5, Gov. Chris Sununu vetoed a bill that sought to support the six biomass plants in the state. HB 183 passed this spring, with support from both sides of the aisle in the both the House and the Senate.

In 2018, SB 365, which would require electric companies to buy energy from biomass plants with three year contracts, was also passed; however, Sununu vetoed the bill in June. In September, lawmakers overrode the veto. Currently SB 365 is on hold pending a legal fight. In order to protect the biomass industry, lawmakers drew up an amendment, HB 183 that would create a base load renewable energy credit to benefit the industry and get the plants up and running again.

State Representatives Troy Merner and Erin Hennessey are both pushing for an override.

Merner said, "Basically, we have an awful lot of people working for this override to go through. We have quite a contingency of people opposing the veto. The bottom line, is there is a cost involved in renewable energy credits, but it is very, very, low."

Further, Merner said, "If this goes through, we will have a $250 million return to our economy plus 900 jobs. This is not about politics; it's strictly a North Country issue."

Merner highlighted how the industry has a domino effect, saying "This not only affects those employed by the biomass plants, but the truckers who haul the logs, I can go on and on about the amount of people involved if he sustains the veto."

A two thirds majority is needed to override the veto.

Lawmakers were successful in overriding the previous veto in September; however, Merner said the Governor has a new regime.

"He's got a new group of Republicans, and a lot of them have pledged to stand by his veto," Merner said. "We need enough of them to break from that. The bonus, is that the entire senate supports the override."

The only North Country representative to side with the Governor is Kevin Craig who represents Coös 4.

The New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association released a statement, noting their disappointment, which reads "The FERC litigation, governor's veto, and resulting plant shutdowns have hurt the state's timberland owners who are trying to conduct sustainable forestry. The veto also inflicts real damage on New Hampshire's $1.4 billion timber industry, the state's third-largest industry and a direct and indirect provider of thousands of jobs, most of them in rural areas where timber is a major contributor to local economies." The statement went on to read, "Moreover, the Governor's veto also does not consider any avoided electric costs New Hampshire ratepayers will realize by having more local home-grown power (e.g., reduced transmission/capacity, line losses, etc.), or the new costs for regional replacement capacity the state will incur due to the loss of the biomass power plants."

The statement called out a lack of recognition the industry provides economically to the state.

Varney Smith
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