On September 26th, representatives from the North Carolina Legislative Black Caucus attended a Listening Panel in Dobbins Heights to hear comments on the proposed Enviva Wood Pellet Facility. Representative Garland Pierce (District 48), Representative Kelly Alexander (District 107), and Legislative Aide Michael Wilson (Representative Chaz Beasley, District 92) attended the Listening Panel.
Rep. Garland Pierce, whose constituents in Dobbins Heights will be directly affected by the wood pellet facility, said:
“The voices of citizens in rural counties, like in my district, need to be listened to locally and on the state level.”
When facilitator and Climate Justice Activist Nakisa Glover asked the room of approximately 50 people how many were from Dobbins Heights, nearly all of the room raised their hand. When asked how many had suffered from or knew someone who suffered from cancer or asthma, once more, nearly all in the room raised their hand.
Next, the room was asked how many were landowners that were going to benefit from the Enviva wood pellet facility. Not one hand in the room went up.
In the one hour period that was given for public comment, 10 Richmond County residents gave comment, and 8 comments came from outside of the community. Of those comments, 12 were in opposition to Enviva, and 5 were in favor, which included 4 comments from Enviva representatives.
Most comments alluded to the health concerns people have with the plant coming in. Brenda David, a Richmond County resident and mother, delivered a letter to be read to the Commissioners:
“I have a lot of family here in Dobbins Heights, my children play at the park as well as play in their grandmother’s yard. The health issues from this industry can cause big concerns for me, not only for my kids and family but for anyone who has to breath in this pollution.”
Others spoke to the systemic forms of oppression that contribute to industry building in rural areas and discourage people from speaking out.
Richmond County resident Tavares Bostic said:
“When big companies come in, they don’t see the people, they don’t see us. They see dollars and cents.”
Perhaps the biggest concern of local residents was the fact that their community was never given a public hearing. In 2015, under the McCrory Administration, NC DEQ issued an air quality permit for Enviva without giving public notice, resulting in a lawsuit by Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Concerned Citizens or Richmond County.
“We deserve a chance to know,” said Dobbins Heights Resident Debra David.