This morning, North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper testified on Capitol Hill before the House Committee on Natural Resources. Dogwood Alliance continues to be encouraged by the growing national attention on the urgency of the climate crisis, as well as the elevation of North Carolinians’ experiences facing harsh climate impacts from storms like Hurricane Matthew and Florence. However, we are disappointed by the sharp contrast between Governor Cooper’s positive rhetoric on climate action versus the continuous approval of destructive projects in North Carolina that take our state backward and not forward on climate change, like the further expansion of wood pellet production.
In his testimony, Governor Cooper responded to a question on the wood pellet industry in North Carolina from Representative Westerman (AR-4) that “there’s a concern about the increase of the use of wood pellets in North Carolina.” Additionally, in his written statement, he highlighted that we do need “federal legislation and regulations that promote emission reductions and the preservation of forests” and other natural infrastructure like wetlands. His words underscored the need to pump the brakes on the destructive wood pellet biomass industry in our state. Now, real climate leadership and action is needed from Cooper’s administration to protect the forests and communities who are threatened by the wood pellet industry, led by Enviva, the world’s largest wood pellet producer.
“While we recognize the steps that Governor Cooper has taken to address climate change through Executive Order 80, his administration continues to back some of the most destructive and carbon-emitting projects in the nation,” stated Danna Smith, Executive Director of Dogwood Alliance. “North Carolina is now a world leader — if not the world leader — in the production and export of wood pellets, one of the greatest climate scams to threaten our planet’s health.”
Every year, tens of thousands of acres of North Carolina’s forests from the coastal plain are cut down, turned into wood pellets, and shipped overseas to be burned for electricity. Wood pellet biomass facilities in the state are projected to consume over 4 million tons of wood in 2019 and plans for further expansion are underway. That is equivalent to clearcutting an area greater than the size of Washington, DC — 45,840 acres of forests every year — all for a product that will be exported and burned. Scientists have made it abundantly clear that using forests for energy is not a solution to the climate crisis. Each step of the process harms North Carolina’s forests and communities, releasing carbon into the atmosphere that would otherwise be stored and further degrading the natural flood control for communities experiencing the serious impacts of extreme flooding due to climate change.
Governor Cooper has had multiple opportunities to pump the brakes on the wood pellet industry in North Carolina since he took office in 2017, and each time his administration has failed to take the necessary action. Despite his welcomed acknowledgement at today’s hearing of growing concern from North Carolina residents, scientists, and organizations, the actions of his administration continue to roll out the red carpet for Enviva, having approved another expansion just last month. These actions simply don’t match his rhetoric when it comes to committing to greenhouse gas emissions reductions or protecting forests in his own state.
North Carolina — and the planet — need more than just lip service when it comes to addressing the climate crisis. Dogwood Alliance stands in solidarity with our partners calling for a just transition to a truly clean energy economy, and we are united in our opposition to false solutions that put more greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere, threaten the health and quality of life of surrounding communities, and place the burden of clean up on residents. We would be proud to stand behind Governor Cooper taking necessary action to halt the further expansion of the wood pellet industry in the state for the benefit of all North Carolinians.