timber

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

For the past few decades, New Hampshire's logging industry has been selling its wood scraps to be burned for energy. But now, after two years of failed subsidies, the state’s small biomass power plants are shutting down

It's left the forest products sector with few in-state markets for a lot of low-grade timber -- even as innovative new uses for that wood take root elsewhere in the region.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

State senators heard three hours of testimony Tuesday from dozens in the New Hampshire forest products industry who support a plan to resurrect biomass energy subsidies.

The plan, proposed in an amendment on an unrelated bill, is a version of a law passed last year that's since stalled in a legal challenge before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

woodfin / Flickr CC

New research suggests New Hampshire forests could help store more climate-warming carbon dioxide while growing higher-value trees.

The study, from Clark University and the Nature Conservancy, says better land management – especially reforestation – could store up to a fifth of America’s climate-warming carbon emissions. 

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

Hundreds of people from the timber and renewable energy industries crowded the New Hampshire State House lawn Thursday, rallying for legislators to overturn two vetoes they say could put them out of business.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

A group of New Hampshire timber land owners and renewable energy advocates are rallying for an override of two controversial vetoes by Governor Chris Sununu.

Annie Ropeik / NHPR

New Hampshire’s timber sector is rallying around a plan to sustain the biomass industry that Governor Chris Sununu vetoed last month.

They filled a warehouse in Bristol Thursday night for a strategy session with legislators on overturning that veto and passing the bill – which would require utilities to buy more woodchip-fired biomass energy.

In rejecting the bill, Sununu argued it would cost ratepayers too much. But loggers, landowners and suppliers say the benefits would far outweigh the costs.

New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association

Governor Chris Sununu is standing by his veto of a bill to boost the biomass industry – even as more of the wood-burning plants say they may shut down as a result.

A wood buyer for Bridgewater Biomass confirmed Tuesday that the plant took the veto as a signal about the industry's future, and stopped buying new wood in late June.

The Pinetree Power plants in Tamworth and Bethlehem did the same, according to spokeswoman Carol Churchill of their parent company, ENGIE North America.

Allegra Boverman for NHPR

 

New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen and Maine Sen. Susan Collins have introduced a bill that would help timber markets in New England.

The bill would reauthorize the Community Wood Energy program, which expires at the end of this year. It encourages the use of biomass-fueled energy for heating and power.

Shaheen, a Democrat, said the bill would help jumpstart markets for low-value wood, invest in rural energy needs and create in jobs in the state's forest-dependent communities.

EPA Twitter

The Environmental Protection Agency says it will treat wood fuels from managed forests as carbon-neutral. It could give New Hampshire's timber industry some long-term certainty.

Charlie Niebling has worked around the Granite State's forest products industry for decades. He says scientists have never agreed on if biomass fuels, like wood chips, offset more carbon than they produce. 

 

Niebling thinks biomass can have a net carbon benefit if it's harvested from a well-managed forest and burned efficiently. 

 

EPA on Twitter

During his New Hampshire visit Tuesday, Environmental Protection Agency administrator Scott Pruitt signaled plans for new federal energy policies that could bolster a struggling regional industry – biomass.

In a letter to Gov. Chris Sununu, Pruitt suggests the agency plans to add biomass, including wood and other plant-based fuels, to its “‘all of the above’ energy portfolio.” (Read the full letter below.)