Dear South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster,
COVID-19 has now killed more than 200,000 people in the US, and over a quarter of those deaths are Black Americans, in part due to racism, social inequity, and environmental injustices that have purposefully robbed the Black community of health and well-being. As you know, Enviva, a biomass wood pellet company, recently requested a permit from South Carolina DHEC to expand its production at its Greenwood, SC plant.
During the recent virtual public hearing on Enviva’s expansion request, community members and organizations asked that the company’s air quality permit be denied or postponed during the pandemic.
And now we are asking you to use your executive power to postpone all permitting procedures until the coronavirus emergency declaration has been lifted.
All across this country and around the world, essential services and production have been limited in order to ensure the safety of people. If schools, businesses, governments, and the lives of everyday citizens can be slowed, restricted, or shut down because of COVID-19, then the wood pellet industry, including Enviva, should do the same. 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.
Enviva’s product is non-essential both to the citizens of Greenwood, SC and to our economy.
It is a well-known scientific fact that people with preexisting conditions have disproportionate health impacts and our senior citizens are more susceptible to contracting COVID-19 and becoming ill or dying. Greenwood, like many other communities throughout the states, has BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) and low-income citizens who suffer disproportionately from preexisting conditions like respiratory illnesses.
Wood pellet facilities release toxic pollutants such as fine particulates and volatile organic compounds that have been shown to cause cancer, lung diseases, and asthma.
Within a 2-mile radius of the Enviva plant in Greenwood, SC, the approximate 2,200 residents are already ranked above the 75th percentile for exposure to PM2.5, ozone, diesel, air toxins, cancer, respiratory hazards, Superfunds, and hazardous waste. Increasing production at the plant would further heighten the risk of exposure to many of these common pollutants, but most especially the PM2.5 and respiratory hazards risks.
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 it will contribute to global carbon emissions at a time when community health and safety rely on reducing those emissions.
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.
Logging our 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.
Affected communities and residents deserve to be safe, and it is the duty of the state to inform local residents of the consequences of the wood pellet industry in their community and protect them from this pollution. We reiterate our ask to postpone all permitting procedures until the coronavirus emergency declaration has been lifted.
Reverend Leo Woodberry – Kingdom Living Temple & New Alpha Community Development Corporation
Danna Smith – Dogwood Alliance
Foothills Group of the SC Sierra Club
Lakelands Citizens For Clean Air, LLC
Upstate SC Chapter of Climate Reality Project
Southeast Faith Leaders Network (SFLN),
Southeast Climate and Energy Network (SCEN)-JEDI Fellow – Rev. Dallas Conyers
Whitney M Slater Foundation