Between 2010 and 2014, Enviva has opened five wood pellet facilities in the Southeastern United States— a region whose forests have fallen prey to the booming wood pellet industry. Rather than using leftovers from other timber-clearing activities, Enviva has been charged with cutting down entire trees to feed its wood pellet operations. After imposing environmental damage in states including North Carolina, Virginia, Florida, and Mississippi, the world’s leading wood pellet producer exports its product to fuel the growing European biomass energy market.
Calling on Governor Cooper and NCDEQ
Clean Air Carolina joined environmental allies this week, including Dogwood Alliance and Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, to hold a press conference regarding the permitting of an Enviva wood pellet facility (permit number 10365R02) for Hamlet, North Carolina. The groups called on Governor Roy Cooper to revoke the Richmond County Enviva permit. After the press conference, a petition with 10,000 signatures and a letter signed by over 50 environmental organizations were delivered to the Governor and North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality.
Problems with the Enviva Permit
Richmond County residents have been obstructed from participation in the Enviva permitting process since its inception. The initial permit was issued without listing the exact location of the proposed facility and created confusion by listing the wrong zip code. Public comments on the pending permit by concerned citizens were then rejected, violating their rights under North Carolina Air Quality Rules. During a press conference speech, Terry Lansdell of Clean Air Carolina stated, “…we cannot make Richmond County the epicenter of pollution, and we must impact the permitting process to improve health in Richmond County, and across all counties in North Carolina.”
Health Effects of Wood Pellet Manufacturing
The construction of a wood pellet facility in Hamlet would increase toxic air emissions in the region and threaten health. Residents of Richmond County are already disproportionately and adversely exposed to environmental toxics by local polluters including a coal plant, Duke natural gas turbine, CSX rail station, coal ash transportation, and several concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). The construction and operation of a wood pellet facility in this region would represent yet another environmental injustice. In an area where asthma hospitalization rates are already 128% higher than the state average, the projected 100% increase in 24-hour particulate matter concentrations will have disastrous effects on the cardiopulmonary health of residents.
Governor Cooper should go further than revoking the Enviva permit for Richmond County. He should divest the state from biomass production and, instead, invest in aggressive development of clean energy resources such as solar and wind power. Not only do these industries represent job growth for North Carolinians, but they also promise a healthier and cleaner future for public health and environment across the state of North Carolina.