The State Environmental Department Fined Jasper Pellets for Air Pollution
Ridgeland, SC – Danish company CM Biomass purchased Jasper Pellets of Ridgeland, South Carolina. The pellet mill has been idle since November 2021, and the company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in May 2022. In September 2022, The Charleston Post & Courier reported that Jasper Pellets was looking for a buyer before its October 31 bankruptcy deadline.
CM Biomass agreed to buy the company and assume its outstanding debt through its wholly owned subsidiary Ridgeland Pellets, LLC. In 2018, Jasper Pellets borrowed $12.5 million in private bonds through the South Carolina Jobs-Economic Development Authority to expand its facility. Despite the promises of Jasper Pellets, CM Biomass did not receive any wood pellets following the expansion.
CM Biomass incorporated in South Carolina in 2018. They already own and operate several plants in the state. In addition to the facility in Ridgeland, the company has planned renovations at all their facilities. Wood pellet production is expected to triple following the completion of the project.
For most of its history, this biomass facility has been the subject of community concern.
In November 2019, Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) and Environmental Integrity Project submitted public comments to the South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC). These comments opposed Jasper Pellets’ proposal to double production from 105,000 tons per year to 210,000 tons per year. DHEC issued the permit in April 2020, but they limited the company’s production to a smaller amount per year in acknowledgment of the issues raised.
In September 2020, SELC wrote to Jasper Pellets about the harmful air pollutants it was emitting that violate the Clean Air Act.
These facilities “process raw wood materials into compressed pellets that are then often shipped overseas to be burned for electricity in power plants.” Hundreds of tons of harmful pollutants are emitted each year, including volatile organic compounds, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, hazardous air pollutants, and fine particulate matter. There are regulations in place under state and federal law because of the negative impacts on the health of the public.
Volatile organic compounds in particular “create smog and ground-level ozone, contribute to secondary fine particulate matter pollution, and contain numerous individual hazardous air pollutants that are known to be carcinogenic or highly toxic even in low amounts.”
As a result of the letter, DHEC issued a $15,000 fine in January 2021 for Clean Air Act violations and for constructing new polluting equipment at the site without a permit. Additionally, Jasper Pellets agreed to conduct additional tests of the facility’s emissions.
In February 2021, Bluffton Today reported that the town of Ridgeland was working with the company to reduce the noise that the plant causes because it was not compliant with town regulations. At a Town Council meeting, the local administration said that many residents were calling to complain.
SELC attorney Heather Hillaker said,
“The Ridgeland community deserves neighbors that put their safety first. We will continue to monitor Jasper Pellets to ensure the facility and its new owners comply with air pollution laws and make decisions that protect communities and public health.”
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Dogwood Alliance is a nonprofit that advances environmental justice and climate action by mobilizing diverse voices to protect Southern forests and communities from industrial logging. Learn more at www.dogwoodalliance.org.