Environmental Justice Leaders Call on the EPA to Protect Communities from the Impacts of the Dirty Biomass Industry
Press Event at Region 4 Headquarters in Atlanta is Part of the International Day of Action to Stop Big Biomass
Atlanta, GA, USA – Today dozens of impacted community members, environmental justice leaders, and grassroots activists gathered at the EPA Region 4 Headquarters in Atlanta to call for federal oversight of the rapidly expanding wood pellet biomass industry. The press event they held was in response to the unchecked, rapid expansion of the wood pellet biomass industry in the Southern United States. The biomass industry disproportionately impacts low wealth, communities of color across the region and thus far the EPA has failed to acknowledge or address the environmental justice concerns associated with the industry.
Reverend Leo Woodberry, pastor of Kingdom Living Temple and Executive Director of New Alpha CDC in Florence, SC said:
“For far too long now our communities have suffered the injustices of air pollution and forest destruction at the hands of the wood pellet biomass industry, and our government has failed to take action. We gather here today in solidarity with people across the South who face these burdens and call on the Environmental Protection Agency to take action.”
The communities will officially launch a nationwide petition asking the EPA to:
- Commit to a tour of frontline communities in all the Southeastern states impacted by biomass facilities, industrial logging, and environmental injustice.
- Denounce biomass as a clean, renewable energy source and publicly acknowledge the environmentally unjust impacts to frontline communities.
- Convene an interagency roundtable and lead an effort to establish an interagency working group, advised by frontline community members, on industrial scale biomass production in the US.
- End “sacrifice zones” and direct state agencies through the new environmental justice department to comply with their responsibility under the Civil Rights Act to consider disproportionate impacts to environmental justice communities.
The wood pellet export industry has grown rapidly over the last decade as European utilities transitioned from coal to burning wood or “biomass” as “renewable energy.” This is in direct conflict with scientific warnings that burning wood is worse for the climate than coal. Wood pellet mills across the South are disproportionately sited in low wealth, Black, rural communities. These facilities emit toxic air pollution known to cause health problems. They devour surrounding forests that are vital for natural flood control. There is little to no government oversight.
Dr. Treva Gear, a member of Concerned Citizens of Cook County and Georgia State Manager for Dogwood Alliance said:
“My small community of Adel in South Georgia faces not one, but two wood pellet production facilities, which is an injustice that we have been fighting for the past two years. Permitting two wood pellet plants in our town that is already overburdened by polluting industries is a direct assault on the health of our residents. Clean air is a human right! We do not want the dirty air, flooding, and destroyed forests that this industry brings. We want a healthy thriving community!”
The event featured community members from North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia. All acted in solidarity and read statements from communities in Mississippi and Alabama who were unable to attend. It was the primary event today in the largest wood pellet exporting region on the planet as part of the International Day of Action Against Biomass happening around the globe. This global campaign is calling for long-term solutions that embrace the people, the planet, and the future. Communities are calling on EPA to act now to mitigate the damage and prevent the further growth of this industry.
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For additional statements from community partners in Mississippi, Alabama and North Carolina, please visit here.