News | May 10, 2022

Abandoned biomass plans makes one less problem

Active Energy sells Lumberton facility and cancels plan for controversial wood pellet facility
Environmental justice advocates in Robeson County and Lumberton, North Carolina, are celebrating abandoned plans for a new biomass facility in their community. (©Julia Rendleman)

There’s more work to be done to ensure a healthy and safe environment for the folks living near Lumberton, North Carolina, but a recent win has sparked new hope for local environmental justice advocates. 

In March, while facing ongoing problems and legal action against unpermitted pollution at the site of its planned pellet mill in Lumberton, Active Energy Group announced an agreement to sell the site, ending plans to build a controversial wood pellet facility. 

“I am glad that the concerns of the local community have been heard,” says Jefferson Currie II, Lumber Riverkeeper and member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, referencing the abandoned biomass plans. 

He adds, “[Active Energy Renewable Power’s] sale of the site will ensure that the Lumber River and our local communities will not have to suffer from the added pollution from the company manufacturing experimental wood pellets in Lumberton. We have a long way to go to protect the Lumber River from industrial pollution, but the end of plans for a pellet mill in Lumberton is one less thing to worry about.” 

A man leans off a dock holding a water sample he just collected from the Lumber River.
Lumber Riverkeeper Jeff Currie II collects water samples to check for pollution. (©Julia Rendleman)

For the past two years, Active Energy had pursued plans to build a biomass plant that would have exported wood pellets to Europe and Asia while increasing water and air pollution at the site. In addition, the site has ongoing pollution concerns from previous industrial operations. SELC and the Winyah Rivers Alliance are still working to address those pollution sources. 

Active Energy agreed to sell the site for $4.65 million to Phoenix Investors LLC, a commercial real estate firm focused on the revitalization of former manufacturing facilities. 

The riverkeeper expressed hope that the company “ works with DEQ to address the issues of contamination already on the site,” adding that it takes years to restore harmed ecosystems.  

Attorneys Heather Hillaker and Elizabeth Rasheed (right) connect with SELC’s partners at Winyah Rivers Alliance and concerned community members. (©Julia Rendleman)

Attorney Heather Hillaker says the Southern Environmental Law Center will work with new owners to address the existing contamination.  

“A new wood pellet facility would have meant more water and air pollution for the community already burdened by the site,” she says. “This decision is a good step forward for the Lumber River and the many people in Lumberton and Robeson County who depend on it.” 

Last year, Currie and other local environmental justice advocates shared their concerns with SELC about the facility. The full story can be found here

“The ultimate goal is that the Lumber River is safe for everyone, and people who want to fish, swim in the river, and use it as a place of enjoyment are able to do that safely,” says Currie.