Release: New Investigation Shows Continued Forest Destruction for Wood Pellets

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – June 18, 2019, 9 am

Contact: Scot Quaranda, [email protected], 828-242-3596

 Photo credits: Dogwood Alliance

As North Carolina Sets Ambitious Climate Goals, Biomass Has No Place in the State’s Clean Energy Future

ASHEVILLE (June 18, 2019) – A new investigation exposes how valuable forests, wetlands, and habitats in North Carolina continue to face devastation from overseas demand for “biomass” energy.

The recent photographic evidence gathered by Dogwood Alliance, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Southern Environmental Law Center documents the ecological destruction of biomass sourced from clearcut forests to supply Enviva, the world’s largest wood-pellet producer. Millions of tons of Enviva’s pellets from North Carolina are shipped across the ocean and burned in power plants – primarily in the UK, other countries in Europe, and, increasingly, Japan.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper has publicly acknowledged concern over the impact of the wood pellet industry on the state’s forests and communities, as well as pledged to make climate action a top priority for his administration through Executive Order 80. To address the negative impacts of Enviva’s operations on North Carolinians’ environment and natural resources, the state now needs to take decisive action that will immediately halt the industry’s rapid growth or mitigate its impacts.

Over the last 5 years, North Carolina has become the largest wood pellet producing state led by Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer.

Enviva’s pellets are exported to countries that continue to erroneously treat biomass as a low-carbon fuel and prop up Enviva’s customers with billions in subsidies and other policy incentives.The industry has mostly been given a free pass to expand, despite the fact that leading science shows burning wood for electricity accelerates climate change, destroys forests and increases emissions of dangerous air pollutants.

“The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has just issued draft permits for Enviva to expand its Sampson County facility despite mounting evidence that this is the wrong direction for our state,” said Danna Smith, Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance. “Now is the time for our Governor to pull the brakes on the wood pellet industry in the state and declare a moratorium on any further expansion of the industry until the full impacts to our forests, communities, climate and economy can be assessed and policies to change the industry are in place.”

Enviva, long at the heart of controversy in the state, continues to talk about itself as a leading green company.

Yet, Enviva and the State were brought to court by environmental and public health organizations, Clean Air Carolina, the Southern Environmental Law Center, and the Environmental Integrity Project, for failing to protect local communities health at its Richmond county facility from high levels of air pollution. A settlement in that case required Enviva to install new pollution controls at its facility. Enviva also reached a similar legal agreement with the state for its facility in Sampson County.

“The Hamlet settlement will reduce harmful air pollutants from the facility by at least 95 percent, allowing Richmond County families to breathe easier,” said Heather Hillaker, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “As the wood pellet industry continues to expand operations throughout the state, the threat remains for many North Carolinians to the air we breathe and the wetlands that buffer us from storms and floods.”

The company’s wood pellet mills are located in areas that already endure some of the highest logging rates in the world, with surrounding communities suffering high poverty rates and facing the threat of flooding from climate change. Despite promises, Enviva has yet to jumpstart the local economies where they have facilities in NC, where county-level poverty rates have increased or remained stagnant since Enviva came to town.

Hurricane season started on June 1st, and over the last three years North Carolina and residents of the state have seen just how deadly they can be to coastal communities. Many people are still struggling to rebuild from Matthew and Florence. Forests and wetlands play a vital role in coastal resilience and keeping people safe from the worst impacts of flooding and storm surge.

“Burning trees for electricity is worse for our climate than burning coal and has no place in a clean energy future,” said Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “North Carolinians deserve genuinely clean alternatives, such as energy efficiency, solar and wind, not dirty and destructive biomass.”

This photographic evidence demonstrates the destruction necessary to supply Enviva’s operations, a reality the company failed to mention while unveiling a new “responsible sourcing policy” earlier this month.

“Our forests are our best defense against the climate crisis and our Governor needs to take decisive action to protect them,” said Rita Frost, campaigns director at Dogwood Alliance. “No one can look at these horrific images and conclude that slashing forests and burning the wood for electricity is a viable solution to our climate crisis.”

For further information, the full investigation booklet can be found here.

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Dogwood Alliance is a nonprofit environmental organization based in the Southern United States that mobilizes diverse voices to protect Southern forests and communities from destructive industrial logging. The group’s Our Forests Aren’t Fuel campaign is part of an international coalition opposing industrial-scale forest biomass energy. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter @DogwoodAlliance.

The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world’s natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.


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