Press Release | September 19, 2017

Statement From the Southern Environmental Law Center on the UK’s Coal Phase-Out

Charlottesville VA – An announcement from Prime Minister Theresa May that the United Kingdom will phase out coal as a power-plant fuel by 2025 is welcome news as long as clean energy, not polluting wood pellets, is used as a replacement.

In recent years, forests in the Southern United States have been put under stress by the UK’s appetite for wood pellets to burn in former coal plants.

“A reduction in global coal burning would benefit the environment, but not if coal is swapped for wood pellets,” said David Carr, General Counsel at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Burning wood pellets still produces vast amounts of carbon pollution and threatens our Southern forests.”

In fact, recent studies show burning wood pellets increases the amounts of carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere, countering claims that wood pellets reduce heat-trapping greenhouse gases.

Traditionally, wood pellets were produced from sources like sawdust and mill residues. However, the UK’s exploding demand for wood pellets has caused U.S. exporters to harvest standing trees.

Forests in Southeastern Virginia, Eastern North Carolina and Georgia have supplied much of the exports.

Drax, a major power supplier in the UK, is a main importer of U.S. wood pellets which are sometimes called “biomass.” Enviva, a U.S. biomass exporter, uses facilities in Virginia and North Carolina to send at least 1 million metric tons of pellets to the UK annually. Most of Drax’s wood-pellet imports are generated in the Southeastern United States.

Investigations of Enviva’s facilities including aerial photographs — and now the company’s own admissions — show an increasing reliance on standing timber as a wood-pellet source. Please contact us for copies of these materials.


About The Southern Environmental Law Center:

The Southern Environmental Law Center is celebrating its 30th anniversary this year. With nine offices across the region (Charlottesville, VA; Chapel Hill, NC; Atlanta, GA; Charleston, SC; Washington, DC; Birmingham, AL; Nashville, TN; Asheville, NC; and Richmond, VA), SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and a regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect the South’s natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.

Are you a reporter and would like more information? Please visit our press contact page for a full list of SELC’s press contacts.