Stefanik touts biomass as potential growth sector for north country
LOWVILLE — Rep. Elise M. Stefanik, R-Willsboro, toured Lewis County on Wednesday, touting job creation and economic development and hailing the biomass industry as a potential growth sector for the north country.
Ms. Stefanik toured ReEnergy, a biopower facility in Lyons Falls, before meeting with community members at a “Coffee with your Congresswoman” event in Lowville. She also was scheduled to visit Double Play Community Center, Lowville, and tour RBI Bats, New Bremen.
At the ReEnergy site, a 22-megawatt facility that generates 162,000 megawatt hours per year, Ms. Stefanik said she sees biomass as a potential economic boon to the north country.
“ReEnergy is a great example of clean energy,” Ms. Stefanik said. “I think ReEnergy is a step in the right direction.”
The broader economic impact, she said, is that it has 22 direct employees and more than 100 indirect employees, which include truck drivers and loggers.
“It is specifically good for the north country economy,” Ms. Stefanik said. “Another facility that ReEnergy owns is at Fort Drum and it is the only facility of its kind. ... But that is a model for other military installations around the country.”
D. Bruce Proven, facility manager at the Lyons Falls site, said having Ms. Stefanik at the facility was important to get the word out about what the facility does.
“The biomass industry as a whole, we need to do better to educate and opportunities like this are a terrific opportunity.”
Sarah M. Boggess, director of communications and government affairs, said there are some issues with tax inequities in the federal code with respect to renewable energies.
“That is something she is keeping an eye on for us, if Congress decides to enact any tax reform,” Ms. Boggess said. “She is truly a champion of the forest products industry; she gets it. We are so thrilled to be hosting her today.”
Larry D. Richardson, CEO of ReEnergy, said Ms. Stefanik is engaged, interested and supportive.
“That is important for us. We have invested a lot of money in the north country and we support a lot of jobs in the north country,” Mr. Richardson said. “It has been a good relationship.”
Ms. Stefanik continued her trip to Lowville to meet with community members at the Lowville Municipal Building.
“It was great to see many familiar faces and some of the local officials,” she said. “I am focusing on job creation and economic development.”
When it comes to economic development, Fort Drum is an important aspect of it, she said. She has been focused on protecting and strengthening Fort Drum.
“I think the community did an exceptional job turning out in support of Fort Drum in March when we had the listening session,” Ms. Stefanik said. “I am continuing to fight for Fort Drum on the House Armed Services Committee.”
Ms. Stefanik said the committee has been working on the National Defense Authorization Act. She was able to get $19 million for the Noncommissioned Officer Academy at Fort Drum.
Her amendment, called the Stefanik Amendment for East Coast missile defense site, was passed; Fort Drum is one of four sites under consideration.
“It is important not only for our national security, but important for our local economy,” Ms. Stefanik said. “The broader impact is not just Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties; it is actually New York-wide and particularly Northern New York.”
Ms. Stefanik said it was great to answer questions from local residents about what she can do to increase economic development and give better opportunities to students.
“Why I have these coffees is to have that direct opportunity to communicate with my constituents to hear their concerns,” she said.
Lowville Town Supervisor Randall A. Schell said he thought Ms. Stefanik was very forthright and did not dodge any questions from her constituents.
“I know we are just appreciative of the fact that she called up and asked if she could hold this forum here,” Mr. Schell said. “We are always happy to see her in the town of Lowville and in Lewis County.”
Legislator Craig P. Brennan, R-Deer River, said in his lifetime, he has not seen any other politician show such deep appreciation and concern for her constituents.
“I applaud her for educating herself on the needs at the grass-roots level,” Mr. Brennan said. “I walk away with very positive feelings that we will be well represented by this congresswoman.”