NC DEQ’s approval of Enviva’s Northampton facility expansion is the latest contradiction between the Cooper administration’s stance critiquing biomass and its continued inaction to address the threats the industry poses to our forests, communities, and climate
Yesterday, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) approved yet another massive expansion of the wood pellet export industry led by Enviva — this time at its dirty Northampton County facility. This approval represents another contradiction between the Cooper administration’s stance critiquing biomass in the state’s Clean Energy Plan and the agency’s continued greenlighting of the industry’s expansion. With this additional production capacity, North Carolina will now become the world’s largest wood pellet exporter.
The permit allows Enviva to increase its annual production to over 780,000 tons of wood pellets, which requires an equivalent of 18,750 acres of North Carolina’s forests to be clearcut each year. At a time when standing forests are more important than ever to store and sequester carbon and protect communities from flooding, the company’s four wood pellet facilities in the state will require over 60,000 acres of forests each year to be cut down to meet its 2.6 million ton production capacity.
The wood pellet industry has garnered statewide opposition from impacted community members, environmental justice advocates, health professionals, scientists, and other residents. During the public comment period, hundreds submitted comments opposing the permit — and thousands more have signed petitions to Governor Cooper urging his administration to place a moratorium on the expansion of the wood pellet industry until a statewide cumulative impact assessment is completed.
Despite a mounting body of scientific evidence warning governments against the large-scale use of bioenergy — such as the IPCC’s latest special report on Climate Change and Land1 — the Cooper administration has allowed this industry to expand without proper scrutiny, ignoring calls for a state cumulative impact study. As the permitting process has failed to account for the industry’s dangerous threats to forests, climate, and communities, it remains as urgent as ever for the Cooper administration to take a closer look at this industry and protect North Carolinians from the impacts of its expansion.
1“The production and use of biomass for bioenergy can have co-benefits, adverse side
effects, and risks for land degradation, food insecurity, GHG emissions and other environmental and sustainable development goals (high confidence).” (SRCCL for Policymakers, B 3.3)