190405-news-biomass

The DG Whitefield biomass plant in Whitefield.

CONCORD — The State Senate endorsed legislation aimed at delivering three years of subsidies for six wood-burning plants that have shut down or become idle since a 2018 law meant to grant the same relief was tied up before federal regulators.

Lawmakers last year overrode the veto of Gov. Chris Sununu to grant this relief but a petition from the New England Ratepayers Association to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission had blocked it.

NERA is the same organization that has lobbied for Northern Pass and new gas pipelines.

Senate Majority Leader Dan Feltes, D-Concord, said this alternative plan (HB 183) for these subsidies was crafted along the lines of what lawmakers have done for renewable energy projects in New York and Illinois that have withstood federal court challenges.

“This amendment creates a ‘baseload renewable energy credit’ to be sold to existing utilities, thus creating a mechanism that avoids the issues that gave rise to the ill-advised litigation,” Feltes said.

Sen. Jeb Bradley, R-Wolfeboro, said this measure would allow the plants to reopen, save those jobs and hundreds more in the logging industry that supply wood to them.

“Without this new legislation, biomass plants would be forced to close and workers across the state would lose their jobs. The biomass industry protects the health of the forests while preserving open space for ATV and snowmobile riders to take advantage of our vast trail system,” Bradley said.

“It is critical that we keep the biomass plants open and our timber industry thriving to provide a diverse energy market with stable rates for years to come.”