A war over wood in New Hampshire

ORFORD, N.H. (WCAX) Tom Thomson, son of former New Hampshire Gov. Meldrim Thomson, owns 2,600 acres in Orford, New Hampshire. He makes a living off sustainable forestry.

New Hampshire is the second most forested state in the country.

"Maine is number one, Vermont is number three. So you can see there is a huge natural resource growing in our backyard with those three states and biomass should be one of the energy issues that should be on the table," Thomson said.

A good percentage of the low-grade logs harvested here are turned into chips and sold to biomass plants, which use the wood to make energy. But Thomson says a recent veto by Gov. Chris Sununu put the plants in peril.

"I'm going to compliment the governor when he does a good job and I am going to tell him when he's made a mistake. And he made a mistake on this veto," Thomson said.

Bill 365 requires New Hampshire utilities to buy energy at above-market rates from New Hampshire's six independent biomass plants in Whitefield, Bethlehem, Tamworth, Bridgewater, Alexandria and Springfield. And while Sununu signed a similar measure for the biomass plant in Berlin, he vetoed SB.365.

"We have subsidized biomass to the point to $2 billion in the last 30 years," said Sununu, R-New Hampshire.

Sununu says that the veto was among the most important ones he's issued since becoming governor. He says subsidizing the plants simply shifts that cost onto the consumer.

"To ask the taxpayers, the ratepayers, the low-income families, the elderly that are on fixed incomes to keep paying more and more and more for what we already have-- the highest energy rates in the country-- is just not fair," the governor said.

And Sununu says it's not just individual homeowners who are affected. He also took into account companies, which he says are also forced to play more.

"You have to look at manufacturing, you have to look at how it affects all the other jobs in the state, hundreds of thousands of jobs in this state," Sununu said.

But Thomson disagrees, saying the veto immediately puts 900 jobs in jeopardy. It's a $1.4 billion industry.

"Here you have the oldest continuous manufacturing businesses in the state, which is the third largest in the state, and you are cutting the legs right out from under them," Thomson said.

He says it puts the future of the forest at risk, as well.

"We will have no place to send our low-grade wood and we can't practice sustainable forestry," Thomson said.

There is a rally this Thursday at 10 a.m. in Concord. It comes ahead of a vote to possibly override the governor's veto, which takes place Sept. 13.

Sununu also vetoed a bill to expand net-metering in New Hampshire, saying it would hurt ratepayers who don't generate their own power. Vermont has net-metering. The law requires Vermont utilities to buy renewable energy from their own customers at above market rates.