Days after Governor Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality released the Clean Energy Plan delivering harsh criticism of the wood pellet biomass industry, NC DEQ issued permits for Enviva, the world’s largest pellet producer, to massively expand its Sampson County facility
Last week, Governor Cooper accepted his NC Department of Environmental Quality’s (DEQ) Clean Energy Plan, which delivered harsh criticism of wood pellet biomass and recognized its harmful climate impacts. Just days later, the agency contradicted its stance on biomass by approving yet another massive expansion of the wood pellet export industry led by Enviva. Despite statewide public opposition to any expansion of Enviva and increased calls for a moratorium on the expansion of the industry, NC DEQ issued a permit for increased production capacity at the company’s Sampson County mill, effectively locking in increased carbon emissions and forest destruction for years to come.
At a time when our forests are more important than ever to store and sequester carbon and protect communities from extreme weather and flooding — particularly in areas still recovering from storms like Hurricane Florence — the expansion at Enviva Sampson will require nearly 3,000 additional acres of forests to be logged each year. This expansion will bring the total carbon emissions for the Sampson County facility to over 1.2 million tons per year — equivalent to 231,822 additional cars on the road per year.
Over 1,200 people submitted comments in opposition to Enviva’s expansion, representing an overwhelming majority of those who weighed in on the draft permit. At the July public hearing, a diverse statewide coalition made of local impacted community members, clean air and environmental justice advocates, health professionals, scientists, and students spoke in opposition to Enviva and called on the Cooper administration to halt the expansion of the industry. Thousands of North Carolinians have signed a petition to Governor Cooper, calling for a moratorium on issuing permits for expanded production until the cumulative impacts of the industry can be assessed.
The Cooper administration has explicitly recognized that wood pellet biomass should have no place in North Carolina’s clean energy future, but the current system is set up to allow this industry to expand — despite its impacts on our state that continue to go unaccounted for. The contradiction between the stance on biomass in North Carolina’s Clean Energy Plan and the approval of Enviva’s continued expansion illustrate that, now more than ever, the Cooper administration must pull the brakes on the wood pellet industry. With another permit for Enviva’s proposed expansion still under consideration by DEQ, the Cooper administration must now turn their statements into real, immediate action, rather than allowing the permits to continue to be reviewed and issued in a silo at the expense of our forests, communities, and climate.