Governor Cooper’s Clean Energy Plan delivers harsh criticism of wood pellet biomass; definitive leadership to stop expanded forest destruction remains to be seen
After a long silence on the issue of the wood pellet industry, Governor Cooper’s administration has finally responded to the groundswell of public opposition and the growing body of scientific evidence that says burning forests for electricity is worsening the climate crisis. In the newly released Clean Energy Plan, Dogwood Alliance is pleased to see that Governor Cooper’s Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) rejected the combustion of biomass for electricity as a future clean energy source and explicitly recognized the current harmful climate impacts of the wood pellet industry in North Carolina.
For the past several years NGOs, scientists, health professionals, frontline community members, and tens of thousands of North Carolinians have repeatedly called on the administration to address the threats posed by the wood pellet industry to our forests, communities, and climate. We now urge Governor Cooper and NC DEQ to turn statements in the Clean Energy Plan into real, immediate action by denying Enviva’s proposed expansion of wood pellet production in North Carolina, which is currently under review by the agency.
Dogwood Alliance celebrates that the Clean Energy Plan asserts that our forests should not be used for electricity generation in North Carolina in the future, advocates that the large-scale use of North Carolina’s forests in foreign markets should be “challenged at the national and international level,” and explicitly recognizes that the wood pellet industry increases carbon emissions in the state via logging, processing, and transportation.
Yet while Governor Cooper delivers harsh criticism of the wood pellet industry for North Carolina’s energy sector, his administration has continuously approved the expansion of this industry for export markets. With two permits currently under review for Enviva’s proposed expansion at its Sampson and Northampton facilities, the implications of Governor Cooper’s administration’s stance on biomass and the wood pellet industry are playing out in real time. If Enviva is allowed to expand, an additional 8,700 acres of North Carolina’s forests will be destroyed each year to meet foreign markets’ demands for biomass and the state will become the largest exporter of dirty wood pellets in the nation. We urge the Cooper administration to place a moratorium on issuing permits for expanded production until the cumulative impacts of the industry can be assessed.
As implied by the Clean Energy Plan, the best path forward for our forests is to keep them intact, allowing them to do what they do best: store and sequester carbon. But forest destruction is on the rise — our latest research finds that industrial logging is the third largest source of greenhouse gas emissions in the state. We look forward to pending executive actions like the NC Climate Risk Assessment and Resilience plan to scale up forest protection and restoration, rapidly expand our state’s carbon sinks, and protect communities from extreme weather and flooding. Dogwood Alliance thanks the Department of Environmental Quality and Cooper administration staff for their work on creating this plan, and looks forward to continuing to be an active participant and stakeholder on behalf of our forests, communities, and climate.
Read the full section on biomass on pg. 25-6 of the Clean Energy Plan: https://files.nc.gov/governor/documents/files/NC_Clean_Energy_Plan_OCT_2019_.pdf