Another View - Geoffery Jones: Override Sununu's biomass veto
#NH's Democrats & Republicans supported the forced closure of Concord Steam biofuel plant, pushed to convert the State House, state buildings, City of Concord and Concord School District to #frackedgas, then patted themselves on the back as #climate heroes saying they're in line with the Paris Climate Accord & #RF100. Closing more biofuel plants means fewer NH forestry jobs and legislators supporting more of Liberty Utilities' gas pipelines.
Stand on any hilltop or mountain in New Hampshire and what do you see in every direction you look? Trees, we have millions of trees that make up our New Hampshire’s landscape, 70 percent of which is privately owned.
As a forester with 40 years of field experience, I can tell you that two out of every three trees you see will never make a sawlog tree. Their best and highest economic use is as firewood, pulp, or biomass. They have been allowed to accumulate in our forests because there has not been a consistent and readily available market for low-grade wood until now.
In the mid-1980s the steadily rising cost of foreign oil, the advent of mechanized harvesting equipment, and proactive policies allowed several small (about 20 megawatts) wood-fired power plants to spring up around the state.
Finally, landowners had a steady market to get rid of “junk wood” and harvest summaries showed that 80 percent or more of the volume harvested was low-grade wood. Biomass markets are also critical in addressing massive damage caused by ice storms, microbursts, and insect outbreaks.
As we try to transition off of fossil fuels, keep in mind, all forms of energy have some sort of negative environmental impacts. One can debate the volatile pros and cons of each energy source with little consensus. However, I believe, lost in the discussion is one very important and irrefutable fact: the energy source with the smallest negative footprint and the most societal benefits, when practiced intelligently and responsibly, is biomass.
As low-grade trees are removed from our forests they increase the proportion of high-quality, high-value sawlog trees that increase profits to landowners, towns through increased timber tax revenue, and help loggers with weekly cash flow to meet payroll and bank payments. Revenue from timber harvesting helps to stabilize forestland ownership, preventing the suburbanization of our woods.
Coal mines, oil fields, hydro, solar, and wind farms degrade land with open pits and toxic materials or fragment forests with development. On the contrary, forests that provide us 20 percent or more of our energy needs from renewable biomass material also provide us with, the best drinking water possible, help purify the atmosphere of pollutants, add oxygen to the atmosphere, absorb and store carbon dioxide, prevent soil erosion, cool local areas through evapotranspiration, and provide wildlife habitat, places to recreate, and a backdrop for the tourist industry.
Biomass energy markets, when carefully planned and managed, are a way to have your cake and eat it too. But it would all come to a crashing halt if the six biomass plants in New Hampshire are forced to close because our governor vetoed SB 365.
With your help, we can get our representatives in the Legislature to override this veto on Sept. 13. Please call or write your representatives.
Geoffrey Jones lives in Stoddard.