Last week I continued the
Our Forest Aren’t Fuel campaign’s investigation with a trip up to Ahoskie, NC to gather more evidence at Enviva’s flagship wood pellet mill. Enviva, the largest producer and exporter of wood pellets in the US South, is systematically selling off our forests to the highest bidder to be burned for electricity in the false name of renewable energy. I wanted to get a better look at their operations and document as best I could the daily truck loads of whole trees that roll onto their lot, destined to be ground into sawdust and turned into pellets.
Sure not to trespass, I stayed on the outside of Enviva’s fence. My aim was to get close enough to capture a very clear view of the towering piles of hardwood tree trunks some of which measured over 50’ in length!
Very soon after I began to take pictures, an Enviva employee in a black late model Toyota Tundra drove up to the other side of the fence to ask who I was and what I was doing. I told him that I was following up on all the recent media coverage in the
Wall Street Journal, Raleigh News and Observer and the Charlotte News and Observer and that I had come to check out their operations myself. After another attempt to find out who I was, he informed me that they had a “right to commerce” and that I was interrupting that right. If that was the case, apparently all it would take to stop the clear cutting of our native forests for European electricity would be a few people like myself standing outside their fences with cameras in hand…if only that were true!
The most concerning part of this interaction was the employee’s choice of language: “Right to Commerce.” You may not be aware of the model legislation originally written by the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC, titled
“Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act”, but it popped up all over the US this year in a few different versions and under different names, including North Carolina as SB 648 where it was presented as the NC Commerce Protection Act of 2013. These “Ag-Gag” laws, as they have come to be known, are now enforceable in Utah and Iowa and are still pending in several other states, like Pennsylvania, where they have been expanded to encompass documentation of Fracking operations on “agricultural” land. In North Carolina where Enviva’s flagship pellet mill is located, the law could prevent employees from documenting illegal behavior and actions and prevent whistleblowers. In many other versions of the law, it would criminalize the documentation of anyone, like myself, of a broad interpretation of “agricultural” operations even if that documentation occurred on public property. After this intimidation, I eventually walked away, leaving a newly positioned Enviva employee standing guard in front of their company sign and main entrance. I wondered i f Enviva has nothing to hide, then why didn’t they invite me in, show me around and set the record straight? Enviva keeps insisting in the media that they’re only sourcing from approved trees. If that’s true, why not take this opportunity to show us?
A few hours later, as I was driving by the Ahoskie facility, that same employee in his black Toyota Tacoma, pulled up behind me and began to follow me through the town. Pulling into shopping centers, driving down back streets, zigging and sagging, he was relentless in his pursuit. Eventually I got out in front of him and successfully pulled behind a bank as he drove past my hiding spot. Again, the goal was clearly to intimidate anyone who would dare to stand up to them and their shortsighted destructive business plan. Intimidation of this kind is an all too familiar tactic of those within the fossil fuel industry and unfortunately is not at all surprising coming from a “leader” within a biomass energy industry that has been scientifically proven to increase carbon emissions even more than the environmentally destructive process of burning coal.
The bottom line? Truly green companies out to make the world a better place while generating profits have nothing to hide. Closing the door of transparency is an old strategy used by dirty businesses with everything to lose if the truth comes out. Enviva’s response to my visit was yet another piece of evidence that Enviva is trying to insulate itself in a big cloud of green smoke.
Don’t worry, I’m not deterred, despite their best attempts to pressure us. Regardless of Enviva’s petty tactics, the investigation was a success, and we now have an even better understanding of how Enviva is doing business. I’ll be sure to share that information along with some of the photos and video I collected in my next update.
Dogwood will continue to expose the truth behind the biomass industry.
Our Forests Aren’t Fuel!