If you’re like me, the endless expansion of Enviva — the world’s largest wood pellet producer — gives you a sense of deja vu, the eerie feeling that we’ve all been here before.
That’s because Enviva is waging a relentless attack on our forests, communities, and our climate.
When there’s a threat to forests and communities, Dogwood Alliance, community members, and environmental justice advocates show up. This month, we showed up to speak truth to power in Southampton, Virginia, where Enviva is attempting to expand their polluting wood pellet mill. In August, we joined with a powerful coalition in Northampton County, North Carolina, just four weeks after a hearing in Sampson County, NC — both times to oppose Enviva’s expansion in North Carolina. It was the third hearing in a ten month period in North Carolina and just a few months after a hearing about Enviva’s massive proposed mill in Lucedale, Mississippi.
Count it. That’s five times in under a year that advocates, scientists, health professionals, and concerned residents will have gathered together to say: the wood pellet industry is devastating our forests, climate, and communities. We have had enough.
One thing has become crystal clear in the face of Enviva’s proposed expansion: our movement is powerful, and we are united. We are a movement fighting for climate justice, forest protection, and clean air and water for all. We are a movement that believes nobody should have to choose between a good job and a livable planet, or their health, or the health of their environment.
We are a movement that is growing and not going away.
As our movement’s calls for an end to the wood pellet industry’s expansion have grown louder, the silence of North Carolina Governor Cooper and his administration has grown louder, too. Governor Cooper’s administration continues to green-light Enviva’s rapid growth, and meanwhile, that support of the destructive wood pellet industry stands in direct conflict with his commitment on climate action.
In wake of Hurricane Florence last year, North Carolina’s Governor Cooper signed an Executive Order on climate action, with the goal of slashing our state’s greenhouse gas emissions and transitioning to a clean energy economy. And last month, Governor Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) released their draft Clean Energy Plan, which sets ambitious, necessary decarbonization goals for the state but continues to allow the wood pellet industry to escape scrutiny from the administration.
Unless Governor Cooper addresses the serious climate threats posed by Enviva and other dirty industries, our state will continue down the status quo path of forest destruction and environmental injustices.
Now more than ever, we need to protect our forests — not cut them down and burn them for electricity. Forests store enormous amounts of carbon in trees and soil. They buffer communities from climate impacts like extreme weather and flooding.
When our forests are destroyed, degraded, and turned into wood pellets to be burned, their climate and community benefits all go up in smoke.
We anticipate that the NC Department of Environmental Quality will make decisions about Enviva’s proposed expansions at its Sampson and Northampton facilities any day now. Governor Cooper can step up and pull the brakes on this industry, but time is running out. If these expansions go through, there will be thousands more acres of forests destroyed under his administration’s watch. Governor Cooper needs to do the right thing for our forests, communities, and climate, and pave the way for neighboring states to follow his lead.