The forests of the world play a critical role in each breath we take, Each cup of water we drink, our history and our future.
In closing out 2015, world leaders came together to negotiate a climate deal and signal an end to the era of fossil fuels in Paris. Even more, dozens of countries and more than 60 heads of state emphasized their commitment to forest conservation. And yet, the United States’ Environmental Protection Agency has failed to protect its own forests. In the federal Clean Power Plan, the EPA misses the forests for the trees. They recognize “the critical role that America’s forests play in addressing carbon pollution in the US,” while, on the other hand, they give states and companies a free pass to burn at will with little to no oversight or guidance. In other words, sustainability standards for “qualified biomass” to be burned as a form of “clean energy” has been punted to the states to decide for themselves.
Why is our Clean Power Plan issuing a free pass to clearcut and burn American forests?
We are at a pivotal moment when we need to increase protection and conservation of forests to store and sequester more carbon and yet our Environmental Protection Agency is turning its back on sound science.
If the federal government won’t set regulations with teeth to protect our forests, our communities and activists will rise up and demand strong state policy that implements the Clean Power Plan without incentivizing the incineration of forests for fuel. The Clean Power Plan allows states to be in the driver’s seat for determining their energy future. Each state must conduct community outreach and involvement in the formulation of their legislation, especially with vulnerable communities, and this provides activists, groups and stakeholders a critical role in stopping the authorization of burning forests to achieve “carbon emission reductions” when we know that is scientifically false.
In the Southeast, North Carolina was the first state to submit its plan for meeting emission reductions and a strong coalition of environmental, public health and justice organizations rose up to demand stronger action and keep forests from being burned. Nearly 15,000 comments have been submitted thus far, and the two-month comment period ends on January 15th. Three public hearings have also been held in Charlotte, Raleigh and Wilmington. We attended the Charlotte public hearing and rallied with a group of 100 people beforehand.
Except for three rogue individuals, the entire set of speakers were unanimous in calling for the NC administration to leverage the state’s booming solar industry, to include low-income communities in the planning process of drafting the next plan and to focus on renewable energy and energy efficiency.
The people of North Carolina do not want their forests to be cut down and burned for electricity. The people of North Carolina want to protect their treasured forests and to harness the power of wind and solar energy.
Burning forests for fuel is bad for our environment, communities, economy and health. Max Stone, a recent college graduate from UNC Asheville, testified in Charlotte:
“North Carolina forests are a place where I hike, hunt, fish, camp and enjoy the outdoors. These forests I enjoy protect me from massive storms and prevent flooding. The federal implementation plan from the EPA proposes burning these very forests to achieve CO2 emission reductions when, in reality, burning forests for fuel can be up to 2x as CO2 intense as coal. The largest utility for our state, Duke Energy, has even rejected biomass as a viable alternative form of energy. I urge North Carolina to exclude biomass from the state’s plan for a clean energy future.”
Coming together, whether it’s for COP21, the Clean Power Plan in the United States, or individual public hearings like the one in Charlotte is the best way to search for solutions to crises such as deforestation. The only way to achieve climate justice is with social justice and that means being part of the process. For the movement to win, we need everybody there. This is why we will continue to stand up for forests and the communities most impacted by the dirty biomass industry. #SOSForests
This is why we will continue to beat the drum and show up at public hearings to testify and gather public comments.
Our power is through our voice; agencies, corporations, governments, and society will only be impacted if we are willing to speak up.
The Clean Power Plan will be rolling out over the next few years and decade. Dogwood Alliance will continue to dig into proposals to provide substantive feedback. We will stay fully engaged with the EPA throughout public comment periods, and we will include our members and allies to ensure protection for forests. If we truly want a CLEAN Power Plan in the United States, biomass must be excluded.