On November 8th, nearly 200 people attended a public hearing in Richmond County to learn more about and weigh in on Enviva’s plans to expand production at their Hamlet facility. Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer, cuts down our Southern US forests, turns them into pellets, and ships them to Europe to be burned for electricity. Now Enviva is gearing up for a string of expansions at their North Carolina and Virginia facilities. Together, these expansions could equal 400,000 additional tons of wood pellets each year – requiring 9,600 additional acres of forests to be cut down per year.
In Hamlet, NC, Dogwood Alliance joined local concerned residents and environmental justice advocates from across the state to voice support for clean air and increased forest protection. The hearing represented the first time North Carolinians had meaningful involvement in the permitting process, as the community was denied an opportunity to have a public hearing on the initial permitting decision.
Our message to the NC Department of Environmental Quality was clear: It’s time to pump the brakes on the wood pellet industry. Enviva must halt expansion and install the air quality controls the community deserves.
Local residents, environmental justice advocates, air quality experts, and attorneys expressed concern that Enviva’s expansion will create harmful air pollution, exacerbate environmental injustices, hinder forests’ ability to protect communities against the flooding and high winds of natural disasters, and take us backwards, not forwards, on climate change. The comments given at the hearing were bolstered by a letter signed by 40 organizations representing well over 1.5 million North Carolinians, calling on DEQ to deny Enviva’s expansion and halt any future permitting until they complete a study of the cumulative impacts of the wood pellet industry.
North Carolina’s forests are part of what makes our state so special.
They provide us with clean air and water, protection from flooding and storms like Hurricane Florence, and habitat for unique plants and animals. Forests also draw enormous amounts of carbon out of the atmosphere and store it in trees and soil.
“Where are the trees going? Where are the forests going? From the outside, this just looks like greed.” – Fati Brown, Richmond County resident
The urgency of the climate crisis demands that we dramatically scale up forest protection. North Carolina cannot afford the increased logging and degradation of our forests.
Now more than ever, we need standing, diverse, healthy forests. Any expansion of the wood pellet industry will drive increases in logging and conversion of natural forests to tree plantations.
In response to the latest UN IPCC Report that pressed governments around the world to take “rapid, far-reaching and unprecedented changes” to fight climate change, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper issued an executive order on climate action, pledging to reduce the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 40% by 2025.
North Carolina residents speaking at the hearing emphasized that allowing Enviva to expand their operations in Hamlet or any other facility sharply contradicts the Governor’s commitment on climate action. The only way to avoid climate disaster is to dramatically scale up forest protection at the same time as we transition to truly clean, carbon-free energy.
Cutting our forests down, shipping them overseas, and burning them for electricity threatens our climate and health at every step of the process.
North Carolina’s lax oversight in the past has resulted in the unchecked expansion of the wood pellet industry without proper analysis of the industry’s impacts on forests, climate, and communities. Any expansion of Enviva’s facilities will worsen the already dangerous impact of this industry on public health, forests, and the climate. At the November 8th hearing, North Carolinians said: enough is enough. We want healthy forests, clean air, and strong local economies. We won’t stand for any expansion of the wood pellet industry, starting with this Hamlet permit modification.