Where’s Governor Cooper on Forests and Environmental Justice?
Frontline Community Leaders and Environmental Groups Hold Press Conference and Rally at the Legislature; Call on Governor Cooper to Halt the Further Expansion of the Wood Pellet Industry in the State Because it Harms Our Forests, Climate, and Communities
Raleigh (May 26, 2021) – Where does Governor Roy Cooper stand on protecting our forests and rural communities from destructive industrial forestry practices? That was the question of the day in the North Carolina state capitol. Yesterday afternoon leaders from communities that have wood pellet mills operating in their towns were joined by environmental organizations for a press conference and rally at the NC Legislature in Raleigh demanding the Governor halt the further expansion of the wood pellet industry.
North Carolina exports more wood pellets overseas to be burned for energy than any other state in the nation. The state has 4 active wood pellet production facilities operated by Enviva in Northampton County, Hertford County, Sampson County, and Richmond County. Active Energy Renewable Power has plans to operate a 5th new facility in Robeson County. And European power stations burn 2.5 million tons of North Carolina wood pellets per year.
Belinda Joyner of Northampton County said,
“I am from Northampton County. We are home to four facilities that have permits from DEQ – hog farms, landfills, and of course Enviva. Everything our communities don’t want is there – air pollution, noise pollution, and health problems. Where does Governor Cooper stand in protecting my community?”
The NC Clean Energy Plan states: “Currently, the wood pellet industry does not contribute to NC’s energy generation portfolio and does not advance NC’s clean energy economy.” In spite of this cautious and critical view, the state has provided over $7 million in subsidies to support and expand this industry. The Enviva wood pellet facilities clearcut over 60,000 acres per year and are all sited in low-income (Tier 1) communities of color. The rapid expansion of the controversial wood pellet industry has occurred in the state without any meaningful public or policy discourse.
Donna Chavis of Friends of the Earth and a lifelong resident of Robeson County said:
“We’re here today to call on Governor Cooper to preserve our greatest natural resource, our forests. If we are to believe the sentiments of his clean energy plan, there needs to be action. We are concerned about businesses that degrade the quality of life of our communities. And, unfortunately, he has continued to allow the wood biomass industry to log our forests to provide wood pellets globally.”
Reverend Mac Legerton of the Robeson County Center for Cooperative Development followed that up by pointing out the toxic impacts of the industry:
“In public discourse about this issue in North Carolina what is most missed is the toxic releases from this industry that lead to diseases like respiratory problems, heart attacks, and cancer. Why are these wood pellet mills in Tier 1 communities that are already overburdened with pollution? The social and environmental damage far outweighs the economic benefits.”
Following the press conference, the groups held a spirited rally and then marched to the Governor’s residence to deliver a petition signed by thousands of North Carolinians with the following demands:
- Direct the NC Department of Commerce and all other state agencies to halt all future subsidies, grants, and incentives for proposed industrial energy projects that are not a part of the NC Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) Clean Energy Plan and Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 on Climate Change.
- Direct the NC DEQ to deny all future permits for proposed industrial energy projects that are not a part of NC DEQ’s Clean Energy Plan and Governor Cooper’s Executive Order 80 on Climate Change.
- Direct the NC DEQ to review the impacts of intensive forest harvesting activities for the production of wood pellets and complete a report on the forest, climate, and community impacts of the wood pellet industry in North Carolina to be completed by Nov. 1, 2021.
- Direct the NC DEQ to acknowledge and measure the greenhouse gas emissions of industrial logging in North Carolina by: (a) updating the carbon accounting methodology of the land use and forestry sector in the state’s greenhouse gas emissions inventory; and (b) cataloging the emissions of the forestry industry separately from any net-growth benefits.
Emily Zucchino of Dogwood Alliance said:
“Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that this industry is taking us backwards, not forwards, on climate change, North Carolina has advanced this industry without any public or policy discourse. Governor Cooper and his Administration cannot follow through on their promises on climate change and environmental justice while continuing to support this industry.”
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Read the full petition here.
View the new website for this campaign launched by the organizations involved that also has a mobile billboard moving around the capitol for the next two weeks here.