Sununu vetoes bill to provide support to biomass plants

By Erin Voegele | June 20, 2018

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu has vetoed a bill that aimed to require electric distribution companies to purchase energy from the state’s biomass and waste-to-energy facilities.

The bill, S.B. 365, was passed by the state legislature in May. Sununu vetoed the legislation on June 19.

Within the text of the bill, the authors cited a need for fuel diversity, noting that the electricity supply of New Hampshire and New England is heavily dependent on natural gas-fired generation. The bill, officially titled “An Act Relative to the Use of Renewable Generation to Provide Fuel Diversity,” aimed to help lessen the fuel-security risk of the region.

“The effect of natural gas pricing volatility on energy prices can be the closure of New Hampshire renewable generators and the loss of jobs and other statewide economic benefits, as well as the loss of fuel diversity derived from using indigenous renewable fuels,” the bill states. The legislation also notes that the continued operation of the state’s six independent biomass-fired electric generating plans and the state’s single renewable waste-to-energy generating plant are at risk due to energy pricing volatility.

Within the bill, the authors stress that these plants are important to the state’s economy and jobs. The six biomass-fired facilities are also vital to the state’s sawmill and forest products industries. In addition, the plants are important to the state because they provide generating fuel diversity and environmental benefits. “The general court finds that it is in the public interest to promote the continued operation of, and the preservation of employment and environmental benefits associated with these sources of indigenous-fueled renewables, and thereby promote fuel diversity as part of the state’s overall energy policy,” the bill states.

In his veto message, Sununu said S.B. 365 “creates another immense subsidy for New Hampshire’s six independent biomass plants.” According to Sununu, the bill would cost ratepayers approximately $25 million per year over the next three years, but would not guarantee solvency of these facilities. He also said that those who supply wood products have confirmed that the maximum impact to their revenue would be 3.5 percent. “It harms our most vulnerable ratepayers and our job creators for the benefit of a select few,” he continued.

A full copy of the bill is available on the New Hampshire General Court website.