The biomass industry is expanding pollution in the South under the greenwashed banner of clean, green, and renewable energy. In this time of an international pandemic and climate change, it is immoral, unjust, and irresponsible to let this industry keep expanding.
In the South, the national pandemics of COVID-19, climate change, and institutional racism relentlessly affect the daily lives of local residents who are fighting to stop wood pellet facilities.
For example, similar to other wood pellet production facilities in North and South Carolina, the Enviva Greenwood SC plant is located in an environmental justice-designated community. Within a 2 mile radius around this Enviva plant, approximately 2,200 residents are already ranked above the 75th percentile for exposure to particulate matter (PM2.5), ozone, diesel, air toxins, cancer risk, respiratory hazards, Superfunds, and hazardous waste. Increasing production at the plant would further heighten the risk of exposure to many of these common pollutants, especially the PM2.5 and respiratory hazards risks.
The COVID-19 crisis is affecting predominantly BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) communities across the South.
Yet the wood pellet industry wants to expand their biomass production in South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi in these targeted BIPOC communities.
The sourcing radius of wood pellet plants is typically 75 miles, which means it often crosses state lines. This harms communities not just in the state where the plant is located but in neighboring states as well.
Enviva Greenwood SC’s sourcing radius extends into Georgia, and Enviva Hamlet NC extends into South Carolina. Enviva North Hampton NC and Enviva Ashokie NC extend into Virginia. Enviva Southampton VA extends into North Carolina, and The Renewable Biomass Group’s proposed facility in Adel, GA would extend into Florida.
All across this country and around the world, essential services and products have been limited in order to ensure the safety of people.
There is currently no market for Enviva’s products in the United States.
Its biomass wood pellets are burned along with coal to produce electricity in Europe and Asia.
If schools, businesses, governments, and the lives of everyday citizens can be reduced, restricted, or shut down because of COVID-19, then the wood pellet industry, including Enviva, should do the same.
Wood pellets are nonessential both to our economy and to the citizens of South Carolina, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, and Mississippi.
Wood pellet production reduces the biodiversity of harvested areas. Making wood pellets uses a lot of land. This means that fake forests, plantations made up of one type of pine tree planted all in a row, will continue to increase.
Change in land use due to logging is a major cause of wildlife loss. Deforestation also makes us more susceptible to pandemics.
Even the IPCC, the world’s climate change authority, says that we will lose wildlife by using more wood pellets and other biofuels. Since burning wood pellets releases greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, they actually make climate change worse despite industry claims that biomass wood pellets are a climate solution. This, in turn, increases the frequency and severity of hurricanes and natural disasters.
More than ever we need to be united and work together to stop the wood pellet industry from continuing their environmental injustices and their devastation of our communities and forests.
Together we must be a united front of communities, environmental organizations, science, and policy that speaks with one voice. We are all fighting for the same goal: to unveil the truth about this dirty industry. Logging forests, shipping them overseas, and burning them for fuel to meet other countries’ needs while we get all the negative side effects is a ludicrous model.
It is unacceptable that the US South faces more flooding, expensive recovery efforts after hurricanes, community pollution, and intensifying environmental racism all for the benefit of greedy corporations.
If the wood pellet industry continues to expand, it will have disastrous impacts on the health of local residents, the ability of natural ecosystems to support greater resiliency to storms and hurricanes, and contribute to global carbon emissions at a time when community health and safety rely on reducing those emissions.