Conservation groups call for public hearing, further environmental review of proposed wood pellet export project by Enviva at Port of Wilmington, North Carolina; opponents voice concern about impact of wood pellet industry on state's forests and wetlands
May 22, 2014
– In comments submitted to North Carolina this week, conservation groups called for a public hearing and further environmental review of a proposed wood pellet export project at the Port of Wilmington, N.C. The Southern Environmental Law Center submitted comments joined by Natural Resources Defense Council, Dogwood Alliance, Audubon North Carolina, Sierra Club, Friends of the Earth US, Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and North Carolina Coastal Federation.
Across the Carolinas, over 4500 people also requested a public hearing and further review of this controversial project.
The proposed project involves the lease of state land at the state port to a wood pellet manufacturer, Enviva LP, for the development of a wood pellet export facility. The wood pellets would be produced at three new wood pellet plants that would use wood from southeastern North Carolina and South Carolina forests. The pellets would be shipped to Europe, where they would be burned to generate electricity. Demand for wood pellets in Europe is being driven by misguided policies that incorrectly categorize burning wood as a non-carbon polluting fuel source.
Investigations by media and conservation groups have revealed that Enviva uses whole trees, including trees from North Carolina’s wetland forests, to make wood pellets. Wetland forests are some of the most ecologically-important ecosystems in the Southeast, providing habitat for threatened species and important ecosystem services, including provisioning of clean water, flood control, and nursery habitat for fisheries. In addition, harvesting for wood pellet manufacturing may lead to forest loss of all types.
No current regulations in North Carolina require the replanting of forests after harvest.
Despite these concerns about the wood pellet industry, the Ports Authority has not held a public hearing to receive public input on the wood pellet export project and the major expansion of the wood pellet industry.
Comments from the conservation groups follow:
“This project puts the cart before the horse in a major expansion of the wood pellet industry in our state since the state doesn’t yet know what the impact will be on forests and wetlands,” Derb Carter, director of SELC’s North Carolina offices, stated. “North Carolina law requires that the Ports Authority fully assess these impacts before it goes ahead with this project.”
Debbie Hammel, Senior Resource Specialist with NRDC’s Land and Wildlife Program, stated: “The Carolina coastal region, home to some of the earth’s most ecologically diverse hardwood wetland forests, is highly vulnerable to the detrimental environmental impact of the wood pellet industry. Wetland forests are in serious decline across the landscape and when they disappear so do all the benefits they provide, such as flood protection for nearby communities and habitat for endangered wildlife. It is absolutely critical that a thorough environmental impact analysis is conducted to clearly understand the ramifications of expanding the wood pellet export industry in this region.”
"Over the past year, Enviva’s existing wood pellet mills have been linked to the destruction of wetland forests, the acceleration of carbon emissions and the disruption of the living conditions of our rural communities," said Danna Smith, Executive Director at Dogwood Alliance. "Given all of the evidence and resulting controversy surrounding the impacts of Enviva’s existing wood pellet export operations, it’s unbelievable that the NC Ports Authority has declared that this project will have no significant environmental impact."
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 nearly 60 legal and policy 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
The Natural Resources Defense Council:
The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 1.4 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Livingston, Montana, and Beijing. Visit us at www.nrdc.org and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.
Dogwood Alliance is increasing protection for millions of acres of Southern forests by transforming the way corporations, landowners and communities value them for their climate, wildlife and water benefits. Dogwood Alliance has revolutionized the environmental practices of some of the world’s largest corporations. For more information on the organization please visit www.dogwoodalliance.org or follow on Twitter @DogwoodAlliance.