Environmental Injustice: Public comment stifled on Richmond County Enviva project

Tearing down the forests is apparently not enough, now they're muzzling the opposition:

A press conference will be held by The Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, a local citizen engagement group, to voice concerns about the health and environmental concerns of locating an Enviva wood pellet facility in this predominantly black community. Concerned residents have on multiple occasions attempted to address the county with their concerns, and have been repeatedly denied. On March 7th, the Richmond County Commissioners will hold their monthly meeting, and representatives from Enviva will appear to speak on the agenda. The Concerned Citizens of Richmond County have once again been denied the opportunity to speak during the public comment section.

Concerned citizens fear this facility will create harmful particulate matter and pollutants, will create constant noise and disrupt their quality of life, and clog up roads with dangerous truck traffic. The County has offered Enviva $1.6 million in direct cash incentives and property tax breaks of up to 85%, which residents oppose as a wasteful expenditure of taxpayer dollars.

Press conference is this Tuesday (3/7), and there will be a rally March 25th. Please spread the word about both, because this issue touches on both deforestation and environmental justice, not to mention the stifling of public comment. The Richmond County Commissioners have set up pretty zany rules about what you can say and when:

The 30-minute time frame will be limited to 6 individuals speaking for no more than 5 minutes each, and groups addressing the Board shall be limited to 10-minute presentations with no more than 2 speakers.

Comments should be limited to discussion of items which have an impact upon the community, and every speaker will be held responsible for his or her comments, and if deemed inappropriate (such as slanderous or libelous remarks), the Chairman may revoke the individual’s right to speak.

During the 30-minute open forum this time shall not be used to discuss any of the following: 1) matters which appear on the agenda of that meeting; 2) matters which concern the candidacy of any person seeking public office, including the person addressing the Board; 3) a request that the Board consider funding a certain program or activity, either from the current budget or from a future budget; and 4) matters in current or anticipated litigation.

Any citizen wishing to address the Board during the 30-minute Open Forum may call the Clerk to the Board anytime during regular office hours until 5 p.m. on the Friday prior to the first Tuesday of the month Regular Meeting. Speakers will be asked to specify the subject matter or nature of comments to be made. (Amended by Board action May 20, 2008)

There will be no public debate nor audience response to comments made during this portion of the agenda unless requested by the Board.

Bolding mine, because damn. If something's on the agenda that concerns you, I guess you should have looked into your crystal ball a month before and spoke your mind then, before it was even a thing. This is one of those moments when something is so absurd my mouth just hangs open...



In case you're wondering

where the first link is, this info came to me from a little birdie. A little birdie with a couple graduate degrees, no less. Not sure if she can still fly, but it wouldn't surprise me...