Drax Wood Pellet Mill Pollutes Residents While Mississippi State Covers It Up
Impacted community leaders and environmental justice organizations call on Biden Administration. The president must take immediate action to protect community health from Drax and the wood pellet industry.
Gloster, Mississippi – UK-based power company and wood pellet manufacturer, Drax, has been polluting the town of Gloster, Mississippi since it opened operations in 2015. The company was fined $2.5 million in 2021 for exceeding air permit limits. The Environmental Integrity Project made a Freedom of Information (FOIA) request. They uncovered that Drax is still emitting pollution beyond the legal limits for hazardous air pollutants during the years since that fine.
Janice Lyons, President of the Amite County NAACP chapter, said:
“Drax claims to be a good neighbor and to care about the environment. But they have been dumping toxics on us and making us sick since day one. This facility harms the development of our children, our economy, and our environment. Our community is tired of being treated as a dumping ground.”
Gloster, Mississippi is an environmental justice-designated community.
On May 9th, more than 200 Gloster residents turned out for a community forum and site visit. US EPA, USDA, and MDEQ organized this to discuss concerns with the pollution linked to the Drax plant. This visit stemmed from the 2021 $2.5 million fine. This was an extraordinary turnout from such a small community. It’s a testament to how strongly residents feel about the environmental justice crisis in Amite County. Drax declined to attend.
While MDEQ was at the community forum, they knew the Drax facility was exceeding its air toxics and Hazardous Air Pollution limits. They knew it had been happening for at least two years. None of the agencies at the community forum mentioned this air pollution violation.
MDEQ sent Drax a notice of violation months before the public forum.
But they failed to disclose the violation with the public. It took the FOIA request to uncover the truth.
Kathy Egland of EEECHO and NAACP said:
“We are appalled that MDEQ did not share this information with the community immediately. To say nothing of failing to disclose it during a community forum dedicated to the topic of Drax’s impact on local air quality. It is disingenuous for MDEQ to not inform the people they’ve been entrusted to protect that they have been exposed to illegal levels of toxic pollution. This shows just whose interests they represent.”
Based on its history, the community does not expect justice or fairness.
This will be the second time the Drax Amite plant violated the Clean Air Act. The second time MDEQ has not been public about the information. Now Drax is applying for a permit simply to allow for this degree of air pollution.
MDEQ is not the only one withholding information. Dr. Krystal Martin and Kathy Egland traveled from Mississippi to London earlier this month. They delivered their community’s concerns directly to Drax. They spoke at the Annual General Meeting of the company. They sat down with Drax CEO Will Gardiner after the meeting.
The Drax CEO and the board of directors never came clean about polluting Gloster.
They didn’t say a word despite receiving a violation two months earlier. The Yorkshire Post covered the visit. Drax representatives told them, “Drax is committed to being a good neighbor and the safety of our people and the communities where we operate is our priority.”
Dr. Krystal Martin of Ladybug Outreach in Gloster, MS said:
“The CEO of one of the largest power companies in the world told me that they invested $10 million in pollution control equipment as required by the state and was pretty sure that we are compliant now. So, Will Gardiner lied to us. He along with his board members continue to lie to the world about how burning forests and polluting Black, rural, and underserved communities is good for the planet.”
The Gloster community is another example of the wood pellet industry’s environmental injustices.
There is noise and air pollution in North Carolina. There are air quality violations in Georgia and Louisiana. This is proof that this industry must stop its expansion.
Dr. Treva Gear of Dogwood Alliance said:
“Drax and the wood pellet industry consistently fail pollution limits. State agencies across the South continually fail to stop them. With President Biden’s Executive Order on Environmental Justice, it is long past time for the EPA to take responsibility for regulating these industrial wood pellet facilities. Not just in Amite County, but across the US South.”
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