Proposed Enviva Wood Pellet Plant Raises Concerns of Increasing Carbon Emissions

Conservation Organizations Say Permit Authorizing Use of Wood Biomass for Energy Violates Clean Air Regulations

Chapel Hill, N.C. –A proposed Enviva facility that would burn wood biomass to manufacture wood pellets for export to Europe violates air quality regulations by failing to minimize harmful carbon pollution, according to a letter submitted today to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality by the Southern Environmental Law Center on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Dogwood Alliance, Partnership for Public Integrity, and Clean Air Carolina. The proposed Enviva mill would be located in Richmond County near Hamlet, N.C., along the North Carolina-South Carolina state line and is expected to source wood for manufacturing pellets from forests in both states. 

The letter points out fundamental flaws in the air permit proposed by the department for the Enviva mill. “The proposed permit is fundamentally flawed and must be withdrawn because it fails to account for the increased carbon dioxide emissions from burning wood biomass,” stated Myra Blake, staff attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center.

“The emerging science is clear that burning wood biomass from whole trees and forests for energy increases carbon pollution,” said Derb Carter, a senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center which has been investigating the sourcing of wood pellets in the Carolinas and Virginia.  “We need investment in true renewable, clean energy sources like wind and solar to build a stable economic base while cutting pollution.”

Based on findings from a recent analysis, using wood pellets made from hardwood trees cut down in eastern North Carolina and Virginia forests as currently practiced by Enviva, a U.S. supplier for UK power company Drax, will produce 2 1/2 times more carbon pollution than continuing to burn coal for 40 years and more than three times coal’s carbon over 100 years.  Ironically, the increasing demand for the wood pellets that Enviva makes from U.S. forests stems from UK policies intended to lower the carbon pollution responsible for climate change.

Despite claims to the contrary when existing pellet mills began operation, Enviva now concedes that it uses “roundwood” or tree trunks to manufacture wood pellets at its plants. Inspection of its log yards at its pellet mills by US and UK media revealed this in 2013. 

In submissions relating to compliance with the EU Timber Regulation, Enviva disclosed that each of its existing plants in North Carolina and Virginia rely on approximately 80 percent or more hardwood input. Its three plants in southeast Virginia and northeast North Carolina produce 1.38 million metric tons of pellets annually, and provide a large portion of Enviva’s supply for Drax.  Enviva has provided one million metric tons of pellets to Drax annually since April 2014.

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About Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of over 60 legal experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use. www.SouthernEnvironment.org

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