Throughout the month of May, Dogwood Alliance and partners hosted multiple free virtual community forums. These biomass webinars showcased the impacts of biomass energy on communities in the US South.
We recorded these incredible sessions so that even if you couldn’t be there live, you can still benefit from the recorded videos. This series is your opportunity to learn more about the on-the-ground effects of biomass energy. You’ll hear directly from environmental justice leaders and the community members who are suffering the health and economic impacts of the wood pellet biomass industry.
Scroll to learn more about our webinar series: get a description of each session, get speaker information, and watch the videos.
And if these recordings speak to you, be sure to check out our Justice in June webinar series.
May 5th – What is Biomass?
The biomass energy industry is an emerging renewable energy industry that creates wood pellets from whole trees. Producing and burning biomass energy has serious impacts on nearby communities. Wood pellet production also releases greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere which can worsen climate change. Rural communities near forest land in the US South are impacted by hazardous air pollutants, constant truck traffic and noise, and dust from nearby plants that produce wood pellets and other products. Unfortunately, demand from foreign countries for wood pellets – to use instead of burning coal – is at an all time high. With a lot of forests, the US is seen as important biomass supply. This is turning our forests from carbon sinks to carbon sources, increasing the carbon footprint of the US South. This webinar presents the environmental impacts of biomass on local communities.
On May 5th, Kathy Egland, the Chair of the NAACP Board Environmental and Climate Justice Committee, hosted a conversation with impacted community members to help educate the public on biomass. Our guest speakers included Erniko Brown and Belinda Joyner. Erniko is the Director of Organizing and Partnership Engagement at Dogwood Alliance, and she lives in the impacted community of Greenwood, SC. She is also the founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit OURS (Organized Uplifting Resources & Strategies). Belinda is the founder of Concerned Citizens of Northampton County, and she lives in the impacted community of Garyburg, NC. Both women have first-hand testimony of what it’s like to live near an Enviva biomass wood pellet facility.
May 12th – Gloster, MS Community Forum
Biomass energy is rampant throughout the US South. This is, in part, because of foreign demand for something to replace fossil fuels. In the last few decades, international treaties have specified that biomass used to generate energy (electricity) would be considered carbon neutral, regardless of where it came from or how it was harvested. This was also true for biomass heat. As a result, on paper, there are NO carbon emissions on paper whenever European countries burn wood pellets. But in practice, burning biomass for energy is inefficient and creates many more carbon emissions at the smokestack than fossil fuels.
There are other renewable energy sources that don’t pollute nearby communities. There’s simply no way to keep a clean supply chain for biomass. Hear firsthand what it’s like to live near a biomass production plant.
On May 12th, Erniko Brown, the Director of Organizing and Partnership Engagement at Dogwood Alliance, hosted a conversation with impacted community members to help educate the public on biomass energy. They also screened a short news film from Brut Media called Fighting for the Right to Breathe and then heard from the community. Our guest speakers included Gloster, MS community members: Carmella Causey and Jimmy Brown.
May 19th – Bond, MS Community Forum
Gloster is not the only Mississippi community struggling with the international demand for biomass energy to substitute for fossil fuels. Bond, Mississippi is another place where a biomass project (wood pellets) has greatly impacted the residents. Residents wonder about air quality, water quality, and the safety of nearby plants.
On May 19th, Ruth Story, Executive Director of the Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO), hosted a conversation to educate the public on biomass energy. They screened a short news film from CNN called Green Energy Loophole has Devastating Impact on Community.
Our guest speakers included Bond, MS community members Rev. Anton McBride and Rev. Robert James as well as Adel, GA community member Dr. Treva Gear. Rev. James is the President of the Mississippi NAACP State Conference, and Dr. Gear founded the Concerned Citizens of Cook County. The communities in Bond, MS and Adel, GA are both fighting to stop new polluting wood pellet plants in their neighborhoods.
June 2nd – Environmental Racism and Climate Justice
The biomass energy is not only a quality of life issue – it is also an environmental justice issue. Facilities that produce wood pellets for biomass energy are twice as likely to be located in low-income communities of color. The wood pellet industry extracts biomass resources from these communities without compensating them for changes in their quality of life. While countries may be meeting their sustainability goals, they are also playing a key role in impacting these communities.
On June 2nd, Robert Gudea will host a conversation on Environmental Racism and Climate Justice. Robert is a PhD student in the Geography Department at the University of South Carolina. Our guest speakers include Kathy Egland, Rev. Michael Malcom, and Erniko Brown. Kathy is the Chair of the NAACP Board Environmental and Climate Justice Committee. She is also the founder of Education, Economics, Environmental, Climate and Health Organization (EEECHO). Rev. Malcom is the Founder and Executive Director of The People’s Justice Council and Alabama Interfaith Power and Light and a licensed and ordained United Church of Christ Minister. He is an environmental justice advocate, fighting against environmental racism and injustice. Erniko is the Director of Organizing and Partnership Engagement at Dogwood Alliance. She’s also the Environmental and Climate Justice Chair for the South Carolina NAACP State Conference. Additionally, she is the founder and Executive Director of the nonprofit OURS (Organized Uplifting Resources & Strategies).
Thank you to our partners!
Justice in June: Connecting Impacted Communities
Did you benefit from the May Day! series? If so, be sure to check out our upcoming webinars, the Justice in June webinar series.
Want to make a difference?
You can always take action: Demand Biden enact stronger federal protections for forests and communities.