Loggers say there will be a ‘huge effect” if Fort Drum’s biomass plant closes

ReEnergy is scheduled to close in March 2023 if the state doesn’t support their petition to stay open
Published: Jan. 23, 2023 at 5:18 PM EST
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FORT DRUM, New York (WWNY) - You don’t normally think about where the wood goes when Bill Elliott & Sons Tree Service cuts down a tree. A large amount of the wood waste is sent to Fort Drum and its Biomass plant. A plant that is set to shutdown.

“Huge effect. Right now, we generate about 60,000 yards a year of wood waste. About 45,000 of that goes to ReEnergy,” said Justin Elliott, Co-Owner of Bill Elliott & Sons Tree Service.

The biomass plant provides Fort Drum with all of its power, not needing power from National Grid.

ReEnergy CEO Larry Richardson says more than 300 jobs could be lost if the plant does closes in March.

“It will affect probably two employees at our place; a guy in the yard, and a truck driver,” said Elliott.

The issue is what’s now considered as renewable energy. Those that are, like hydro and wind, are eligible for state tax incentives. Those that aren’t, like biomass, do not.

Richardson says “Although we enjoy strong local support, including our local state legislators, we were unable to secure the support we needed from the State Legislature or Public Service Commission.”

ReEnergy needs support from the state by month’s end or else the company says it’ll start the process of closing.

Without it, one logger says it’ll affect both the area’s economy and environment.

“Quite a major effect, because now we have to find different avenues for the low waste material that is produced from a logging site. For the stuff we do it takes and makes the woods dirtier in my eyes. You’re going to have now the tree waste in the woods rather than it be a nice clean forest floor,” said Kirk Kleiboer, Foreman for K&E Logging.

“We’re going to have to look at different avenues to get rid of it. I’m not sure what those avenues are yet,” said Elliot.

In a statement sent to 7 News, the Public Service Commission tells us the ReEnergy petition is currently under review. The Commission, however has already held it’s January session, with the ReEnergy petition not being brought up.