Despite overwhelming public opposition from local residents, professors, scientists, and environmental advocacy groups, the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (SCDHEC) has permitted Enviva to expand production at their Greenwood, SC facility to 660,000 tons of wood pellets per year. That translates to logging 15,840 acres per year.
That’s 43 acres of beautiful, critical South Carolina forests logged every single day.
The Enviva plant would then emit 1.4 million tons of carbon per year, or the equivalent of over 273,900 additional cars on the road.
During the virtual public hearing in August, community members and organizations asked SCDHEC to deny any expansion of the wood pellet industry in South Carolina and to immediately address the environmental justice implications of this facility. Several organizations and community members sent a letter to Governor McMaster asking him to use his executive power to postpone all permitting procedures until the coronavirus emergency declaration has been lifted. In addition, community members and activists organized a caravan to the state capitol in Columbia to protest Enviva’s expansion. But the voices of the community, professors, scientists, and organizations committed to a cleaner and healthier South Carolina were ignored.
Yet again, greed won over the wellbeing of the communities that live near the plant.
Enviva has been the subject of a lawsuit for violating the Clean Air Act. Enviva should not expand production and increase pollution in communities, especially communities that are already vulnerable to respiratory illnesses like COVID-19.
Wood pellet manufacturing releases large amounts of dust into the air as well as fine particulate matter (PM2.5) and volatile organic compounds (VOC), both of which have been shown to have serious impacts on human health. Fine particulate matter, specifically PM2.5, is not visible to the human eye and is particularly dangerous since it can lodge deep into the lungs and pass into other organs and the bloodstream. This can result in serious health risks such as respiratory illness, heart disease, and cancer.
Within a 2-mile radius of Enviva’s Greenwood plant, approximately 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 Greenwood plant would further heighten the risk of exposure to many of these common pollutants, especially PM2.5 and respiratory hazard risks.
If the state and agencies like SCDHEC continue to allow the wood pellet industry to expand, it will have disastrous impacts on the health of residents and the ability of natural ecosystems to support greater resiliency to storms and hurricanes.
It will contribute to global carbon emissions at a time when community health and safety rely on reducing those emissions.
Logging our forests, shipping them overseas, and burning them for fuel to meet other countries’ needs while we get all the adverse side effects is a ludicrous model.
Residents deserve to be safe and informed of the negative consequences of having a wood pellet plant in their community. Unfortunately, Enviva has not been transparent in Greenwood, SC. It is the state’s duty and the obligation of agencies like SCDHEC to hold Eviva accountable to tell both sides of the story.
Unity makes us stronger. Let’s keep working together.
Sign our Stand4Forests pledge to join the movement of individuals just like you who support sustainable economic development, value standing forests, and vow to defend clean air and water to ensure the health of our communities.