NCDEQ Has Granted Enviva a Permit to Expand in Ahoskie
What is the purpose of an Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board (EJEAB) if their recommendations go ignored? North Carolina’s Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) organized the EJEAB in 2018. The EJEAB advises the state (NCDEQ) on matters of environmental justice and equity.
In November 2022, they held a special meeting to consider the impacts of the wood pellet industry. Afterwards, the EJEAB expressed deep concerns about the impacts on nearby communities. In a letter, they described environmental injustices near all four Enviva plants in NC. They also outlined several steps that NCDEQ could take to reduce harm.
Instead, NCDEQ enables these injustices time and time again. They continue to give permits to these plants to build and expand. If NCDEQ implemented the changes suggested by the EJEAB, it would improve the lives of people nearby.
In response to the EJEAB special meeting and letter, NCDEQ delayed the release of the permit. Despite reviewing the evidence, NCDEQ ultimately issued the permit with few changes. This most recent permit is for the expansion of Enviva’s facility in Ahoskie (Hertford County). NCDEQ has completely failed to address the concerns and recommendations of the EJEAB.
The new Title V permit:
- allows Enviva to increase their production from 481,000 oven-dried tons to 630,000 yearly
- requires the plant to install new air pollution control devices. This will reduce emissions of volatile organic compounds and hazardous air pollutants
Air pollution control is good, but increasing production by almost a third is not. This Enviva facility will release even more dust pollution and toxic pollutants, like acrolein. These pollutants can cause respiratory illnesses and cancer.
The EJEAB believes that NCDEQ has failed to consider disproportionate impacts. This is a violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Nor do they pay attention to monitoring fugitive dust and its health impacts. There’s inadequate air monitoring within harmed communities. NCDEQ also doesn’t consider the cumulative impacts when several polluters are nearby.
Concentrating noxious facilities in communities is an environmental injustice.
It is remarkable that NCDEQ did not heed the advice of their own advisory board. Instead, they showed preference to a company with a long history of violations. In their response, NCDEQ lists several voluntary actions that Enviva can put in place. Voluntary actions have no place in conversations about environmental justice. Enviva has agreed to only one of their recommendations.
EJEAB’s recommendations were strong. They were based in the best available science. Yet NCDEQ ignored them. Governor Cooper and the NCDEQ give only lip service to environmental justice.
Our recommendation? Follow the advice of their own advisory board.
For more information on Enviva’s recent transgressions:
- Blue Orca Capital’s recent report said: the company is “greenwashing its wood procurement.”
- Mongabay published an article with a former plant manager interview. He disputed the company’s “green image” with stories of unsustainable practices.
- A class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of Enviva’s investors. Subsequently, the Netherlands approved a motion to stop paying subsidies to wood pellet companies.