North Carolinians Hold Their Own Public Hearing on Wilmington Wood Pellets Project

Wilmington, NC (PRWEB) July 09, 2014

Following the North Carolina State Ports Authority’s decision to move forward on its development of a wood pellet export facility at the Port of Wilmington without a public hearing, North Carolina residents filled the MC Erny Gallery in Downtown Wilmington to capacity, holding a public hearing of their own (1). According to a recent news article published by the Raleigh News & Observer, the Authority is developing the wood pellet export facility in partnership with Enviva, one of the world’s largest manufacturers of wood pellets, to ship them to Europe, where they are burned in power plants. The wood pellets will be manufactured from North and South Carolina forests at three planned Enviva plants in southeastern NC (Sampson and Richmond Counties) and SC (Laurens County) (2).

According to Dogwood Alliance, one of the groups that organized the July 1 meeting, public testimony at focused on the impact of this major expansion of the wood pellet industry on North Carolina’s coastal plain forests, local communities, and the climate. Speakers included noted ecologist Andy Wood, who discussed how wood pellet harvesting will affect wetland forests and biodiversity in the coastal plain, as well as negatively impacting climate (cutting forests and burning wood pellets puts more carbon into the atmosphere over the next 35 to 50 years than burning fossil fuels). (3) Representatives from communities near the port and near the proposed Enviva plants also spoke. The hearing culminated in the capacity crowd calling on the Ports Authority and the Governor to halt the project until the impacts are fully evaluated.

“The North Carolina State Ports Authority is being short-sighted by pursuing this project without fully considering all of the environmental impacts,” said Adam Macon of Dogwood Alliance, one of the groups that organized the meeting. “The state should not be supporting forest destruction to supply energy for Europe.”

More than 2,500 people from across North Carolina submitted comments to the Ports Authority in May calling for comprehensive environmental review and an opportunity for public input. On June 4, the Authority announced that they were going ahead with the project without addressing the serious concerns raised by the public. Among these concerns: the fact that media reports have confirmed that Enviva uses whole trees from wetland forests to make its pellets. (4) The Wilmington project would allow Enviva to nearly double its pellet production, threatening hundreds of thousands of acres of forest in eastern NC and SC.

“The wood pellet industry is a growing threat to North Carolina’s valuable wetlands, forests, and the life those ecosystems support,” said Derb Carter, Director of Southern Environmental Law Center’s Chapel Hill Office. “Rather than addressing the serious concerns raised by citizens, the Ports Authority is going all in on an industry with significant threats and uncertain benefits for North Carolina.”

Over the last five years, the Southern US has emerged as the major sourcing area for the global wood pellet industry. “Demand for wood pellets is being driven by European climate polices that erroneously categorize wood pellets as an environmentally-preferable alternative to fossil fuels,” concluded Macon of the Dogwood Alliance.

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