Conservation Groups Convene to Combat the Exploding Wood Pellet Export Industry in the South

Dr. Anna Stephenson surveys a clearcut wetland forest.

As you probably already know, Dr. Anna Stephenson from the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change paid North Carolina and Dogwood Alliance a visit as part of her two week investigation of the forest and climate impacts associated with the UK’s increasing reliance on imported wood pellets as a fuel source for generating electricity. We took her on a kayaking trip through intact bottomland hardwood forests.

After feeling the awe and majesty of those wetlands, we took her to see an Enviva clearcut to show her the devastation that wood pellet production to meet European electricity demand wreaks on the landscape.

In addition to getting out in the woods, we also convened a meeting for Dr. Stephenson with a number of conservation groups concerned about the exploding wood pellet export industry in the South and the impacts on forests, climate and our rural coastal communities. The National Wildlife Federation presented key highlights from its recently released a study: Rising Demand of Southeast Trees Puts Wildlife, Biodiversity at Risk. This report documents major concerns about the growth of the wood pellet industry’s impacts on wildlife across the Southern US, including specifically the impacts of Enviva’s sourcing from wetland hardwood forests. Dr. Stephenson also heard from the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) about the findings of a recent scientific study which shows burning trees from Southern forests actually results in more carbon released in the atmosphere over 35-50 years when compared to burning coal. SELC brought data compiled by the US Forest Service showing that logging of bottomland wetland forests exceeded growth rates by 300% as recently as 2007 in the counties surrounding Enviva’s North Carolina operations.

North Carolina Coastal Federation talked about the local concerns related to two port expansions planned to accommodate the wood pellet export industry in Moorehead City and Wilmington. North Carolina Sierra Club told her about how concerns raised by local chapters across the state have elevated the issue as a priority issue within Sierra Club.

Despite the claims of wood pellet manufacturers and European utility companies that they’re practices are “sustainable”, the Our Forests Aren’t Fuelcampaign is exposing these claims for the greenwashing they are. Concerned citizens and the UK government can’t afford to ignore the mounting evidence of the dangers of relying on forests as a fuel source for electricity generation. Together, we must continue to change the minds of European government officials, showing them that burning trees to generate electricity is not a solution to climate change. Time is short. Our future depends on turning the tide of biomass.

Floating in kayaks along the Blackwater River

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