The Coronavirus global pandemic has altered almost every aspect of our lives, and ground many things to a halt. Seemingly overnight our priorities have shifted, and our attention turned to pressing matters of our health, our finances, and our families. We are looking to our leaders to support us right now. The last thing we need during this crisis is more pollution triggering respiratory illness, more logging and more carbon emissions, and more corporate profit at the expense of vulnerable populations.
The wood pellet industry already destroys more than 50 acres of forests every day in North Carolina alone. When our forests are destroyed, their climate, health, and community benefits disappear.
And now another wood pellet manufacturer, Active Energy Group, is taking aim yet again at forests and communities.
Active Energy Group, a publicly traded British company, is applying for an air permit to operate a black wood pellet production facility in Lumberton, NC, Robeson County.
This facility will have an enormous impact on the residents of Robeson County, including increased air pollution and the loss of forests to absorb flood water.
Impacted stakeholders are being denied a meaningful opportunity for public input.
NC Department of Environmental Quality (NC DEQ) recently canceled the public meeting and information session due to concerns about COVID-19. We commend NC DEQ for prioritizing the health of the community. However, we are concerned and disappointed that NC DEQ has not rescheduled this public meeting and has not made appropriate adjustments to the public comment period.
The Coronavirus has forced people to shift their daily routine and priorities to focus on more immediate concerns. The situation makes it impossible for stakeholders across the state to adequately respond within the current permitting process. It is unreasonable to expect people to be able to actively participate in the public comment period while they are having to turn their attention to their health and safety, financial difficulties, and childcare needs.
Business is not usual right now, and NC DEQ should not be doing business as usual when it comes to matters which may further compromise people’s health within the very communities that are most vulnerable to this pandemic.
Similar to other wood pellet production facilities in North Carolina, which are all located in environmental justice-designated communities, Robeson County’s population is 38% American Indian and 25% African-American, and this county is already ranked worst in the state for health outcomes. According to NC DEQ’s own Community Mapping Tool, there are at least a dozen pollution sources already in Robeson County. Other impacts include the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline and a related compressor station as well as a proposed liquefied natural gas plant operated by Piedmont Natural Gas. Robeson County is also one of the most frequently flooded counties in NC.
NC DEQ should not allow Robeson County to be a testing ground for untested and dangerous technology.
The production of black wood pellets has not been proven to be effective, and existing research on the similar process of torrefication shows it to be expensive and dangerous.
We call on Governor Cooper and NC DEQ to use the recently declared state of emergency and suspend all permitting processes and public comment periods until the Coronavirus emergency declaration has been lifted.
While climate action is a top priority of the Cooper Administration, dirty industries continue to expand and protections for forests fall short.
Active Energy Group is applying for a permit to produce 40,000 tons of wood pellets per year. However, they have indicated plans to increase production to 400,000 tons per year. If Active Energy Group is permitted and their intended expansion goes through, this facility will increase logging by 9,600 acres per year and emit 73,2782 tons per year of CO2e, the equivalence of over 155,580 extra cars on the road. The continual permitting process of industries that are scientifically proven to be carbon polluting impedes North Carolina’s executive order to reach a 40% emissions reduction goal by 2025.
Local residents are urging NC DEQ to grant a 90 day extension to the public comment period of Registration Number 10636R00 to allow NC DEQ, local officials, and impacted residents time to fully research and understand the currently unknown impacts of this technology on air quality, carbon emissions, and local pollution.
Take Action: Say NO to wood pellet production in North Carolina, and urge the Administration to suspend all permitting processes and public comment periods: submit a unique, personalized public comment!
Now more than ever, we need standing, diverse, healthy forests to store carbon, protect us from flooding and storms, and provide us with clean air and water. And we need real, bold leadership to make that vision a reality.
Tell the NC DEQ and Governor Cooper: Climate champions don’t stand for forest-destroying biomass. This is your climate legacy. We must say NO to the wood pellet industry in NC!