Impacted Communities Mobilize to Demand Governor Cooper Stop the Expansion of the Wood Pellet Industry
NC DEQ Holds Public Hearing on Proposed Expansion of Enviva’s Wood Pellet Plant in Ahoskie
Ahoskie, North Carolina – On August 16th, North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality held a public hearing on the draft Title V air permit renewal for Enviva Pellets, LLC’s wood pellet manufacturing plant in Ahoskie. Enviva is requesting permission to increase production of wood pellets at their facility from 481,800 tons to 630,000 tons per year.
This massive increase means more forest destruction, more dangerous truck traffic on rural roads, and more dust pollution.
“I pass the facility every morning on my way to work, and I see the thick clouds of smoke on my way home from work in the afternoons,” said Dr. Ruby A. Bell, an educator from the University of Mount Olive, at the hearing. She recalled visiting a member of the community for about 20 minutes earlier in the month who lives nearby the plant. “The next morning, I woke up with lots of mucus in my throat, coughing, burning eyes, and a runny nose.”
The day before the hearing, the Impacted Communities Against Wood Pellets — a coalition of NC residents impacted by the wood pellet industry — held a press briefing to discuss their concerns.
“We are not anti-development, and we are not anti-investment,” said Dogwood Alliance Director of Community Engagement Emily Zucchino during the briefing. “What we are pushing for is investment in clean jobs that don’t make people choose between their health, their environment, and their livelihood.”
At the meeting, the coalition explained that the state exports more wood pellets than any other in the nation.
Enviva alone clearcuts 60,000 acres of forests in the state per year, which comes out to 164 acres every day.
Also, the company has received nearly $10 million in subsidies from the government, and Governor Roy Cooper’s administration has continued to approve permits as well as the funding for the industry.
Due to a lawsuit that impacted residents filed in 2019, Enviva is also expected to install air pollution controls that will lower many harmful pollutants. However, not dust. Wood dust pollution has been linked to respiratory illness, heart disease, and cancer. Even with these controls, which should have been installed a decade ago, there is no safe level of these air pollutants.
Enviva has been operating without pollution controls since 2011.
By operating without controls, Enviva has pocketed at least $100 million at the expense of the local communities across all four of their plants in North Carolina.
Enviva already operates three other plants in North Carolina: in Richmond, Sampson, and Northampton counties. Also, they have a facility just across the border in Southeastern Virginia in Southampton county.
(The public comment period for the proposed expansion ends on August 19th, 2022.)
# # #
Dogwood Alliance is a non-profit that advances environmental justice and climate action by mobilizing diverse voices to protect Southern forests and communities from industrial logging. Learn more at www.dogwoodalliance.org