• Environmental justice board hears concerns about wood pellet plants

      By: David Boraks November 18, 2022 The state's growing wood pellet industry came under fire at a meeting in Raleigh last night from scientists, activists and residents who live near wood pellet plants. The meeting's main target was Enviva, the world's largest wood pellet manufacturer, which has four plants in eastern North Carolina. The company cuts trees and turns them into wood pellets that are shipped to Europe to be burned for electricity. All four of Enviva's North Carolina plants are in counties with high poverty rates and large populations of people of color. At the meeting of the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board, Ruby Bell of Sampson County, said that makes this an environmental justice issue. "DEQ has an obligation under Title 6 of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to consider disproportionate impacts," she said. Bell said most of her neighbors are afraid to speak up. "They don't feel that their voices will be heard. Their feeling is what's the use, meaning that the county and the state government are going to do whatever they want to do, with no concern for them," she said. She said when Enviva was first recruited to the county, local leaders ignored residents who opposed the plant, and instead gave the company a multi-million-dollar subsidy. The board scheduled the meeting after writing a letter to environmental secretary Elizabeth Biser in September expressing concerns about the industry. The board worried about the impact on communities with large non-white populations and high poverty and about excessive logging of forests around the plants. And they said the industry does not contribute to the state’s goal of increasing renewable and other clean energy production. Pollution and destruction During the 2½-hour meeting, more than two dozen speakers complained about dust, air pollution and noise, and said the industry is not climate friendly. "This industry is not contributing to any of our goals to increase renewable or clean energy production," said Maritza Mendoza. "It rather continues the status quo of continuing our practices of extraction and deforestation. And so I really hope folks think critically about whether this is good for any of us." In Europe, wood pellets are subsidized and treated as a carbon-neutral fuel. The industry says the carbon is accounted for where the trees are cut. Climate scientist William Moomaw (MOO-maw) said many factors aren't considered. "When wood is burned, it releases more carbon dioxide immediately than does any coal or any other fossil fuel to produce the same amount of energy or heat or electricity. Second, the forest that would have kept on growing would have accumulated three to 10 times as much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere by 2100 as would the regrown cut forest," Moomaw said. While many comments were about the industry broadly, speakers from a group called Impacted Communities Against Wood Pellets urged the DEQ to reject Enviva's pending request for an air quality permit to expand its plant in Ahoskie, in Hertford County. The plant is near tribal lands of the Meherrin. Tribe member Hannah Jeffries called on the company and DEQ to improve communication. "I'm here to let you know, after speaking to my chief, my chairman, my council, members of my general body, we were not aware, fully, what the industry was doing to the community," Jeffries said. Other speakers called on state regulators to begin tracking the industry's carbon emissions. Emily Zucchino of the Dogwood Alliance, an environmental justice group that's part of the coalition, said they're also worried that the pellet industry's growth will further endanger North Carolina forests. "This permit (Ahoskie) also has a massive expansion of production and there's no forum to express concerns about the impact of that expansion. The industry talks about forest health and forest growth in a way that's misleading," Zucchino said. At the meeting's end, advisory board chair Jim Johnson hinted that the board would pass along at least some of the recommendations to Biser. "I think that it is incumbent upon us as an advisory board to take seriously everything that we've heard and make known to the secretary and all the people at DEQ our stance on what we've heard," he said. In a statement before the meeting, Enviva said its plans provide "well-paid jobs and create a positive economic impact." The company said that air quality near its plants complies with environmental laws and regulations. And it said the air quality permit for Ahoskie would allow it to begin installing state-of-the art emission control equipment. Read on Blue Ridge Public Radio


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  • NC Senate GOP rejects Cooper’s DEQ appointee

    By: Laura Leslie, WRAL June 2, 2021 RALEIGH, N.C. — After an angry debate, a key Senate committee voted on party lines Wednesday to reject Gov. Roy Cooper’s nomination of Dionne Delli-Gatti as secretary of the Dept. of Environmental Quality. Senate Leader Phil Berger is urging Cooper to withdraw Delli-Gatti’s nomination before it goes to the Senate floor for a vote. Senate GOP leaders say they have approved all 15 nominees as agency heads sent to them by the Democratic governor. But in Cooper’s first term, at least one nomination had to be quietly pulled because Senate Republicans threatened to reject it. Sen….


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  • Two NC bills have different agendas for permits in environmental projects. Here’s what they would do.

    By: Kristen Johnson, The Fayetteville Observer May 13, 2021 Two bills in the North Carolina General Assembly have different agendas for the operation of environmental projects and their impacts on communities living next to them. One would make it easier for corporations to get permits needed to operate solid waste management systems, the other would make it tougher. In the Senate, the NC Farm Act of 2021 calls for a general permit for the installation and operation of biogas digester systems, which is favored by the pork industry but condemned by some community members. In the House, the Environmental Justice…


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  • Gov. Cooper nominates Dionne Delli-Gatti, another EDF alum, to lead Department of Environmental Quality

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch February 16, 2021 Dionne Delli-Gatti, who previously worked as for the Environmental Defense Fund, is Gov. Roy Cooper’s pick to head the NC Department of Environmental Quality, his office announced today. Delli-Gatti was EDF’s director of Regulatory and Legislative Affairs and Southeast Climate and Clean Energy Initiatives. Former DEQ Secretary Michael Regan, now on his way to becoming EPA administrator, had also worked for EDF, focusing on clean energy. According to her EDF bio, Delli-Gatti “focused on maintaining North Carolina’s position as a clean energy leader and on promoting clean energy goals in other…


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  • BREAKING: Judge rules for DEQ in Round 1 of coal ash cleanup appeal

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch August 2, 2019 State environmental regulators were not wrong in choosing the method of closure — excavation and removal of millions of tons of coal ash — at Duke Energy impoundments, Administrative Law Judge Selina Malherbe has ruled. Duke Energy had contested DEQ’s April 1 decision to require it to excavate all of the coal ash from nine unlined impoundments at its remaining six plants. The ash would then be placed in lined landfills onsite or offsite. Private lawsuits already have compelled Duke Energy to excavate ash from impoundments at eight of its 14 North Carolina plants. Duke…


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