Polluters and environmentalists in NC form questionable joint lobbying group

Purportedly to better conserve natural resources:

NC Forever appears to invite the lambs to lie down with the lions: Environmental Defense Fund, NC Coastal Federation and Audubon Society of North Carolina, plus several parks nonprofits, are joining groups with dubious environmental histories: global pork producer Smithfield Foods, agribusiness advocates the NC Farm Bureau, mining and quarrying company Martin Marietta, and the NC Forestry Association, which represents primarily the interests of the timber industry.

Nonetheless, the nonprofit plans to lobby state lawmakers to appropriate much-needed money to conservation programs, such as the Clean Water Management Trust Fund, which have sustained major cuts over the past seven years. From 2000 to 2017, state appropriations to the trust fund have declined by more than half, from $40 million to $18 million.

Go and read the whole article. Lisa Sorg has once again delved deeply into an issue, answering most of the questions I had yet to formulate. But that still leaves me with these important questions: What good (net benefit) will we achieve in increasing state funding (taxpayer monies) to the Clean Water Management Trust Fund to *attempt* to mitigate water pollution, while we allow massive CAFOs like Smithfield to continually pollute our water? What net benefit will we achieve by purchasing 1,000 acres of woodlands for conservation, while tens of thousands of acres are clear-cut by the wood pellet industry to fuel Europe's wood-burning boondoggle that's supposed to be "renewable" energy? It appears this group is the brainchild of Smithfield Foods, patterned after their Virginia version:

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:

More research on habitat loss from wood pellet industry

Stronger regulation is desperately needed:

The region was recently designated a global biodiversity hot spot, and according to one of the papers, the use of biomass for energy hinges on its sustainability. Minimizing overall loss of forests and biodiversity and maximizing the area of habitat have been suggested as criteria for sustainable bio-energy production.

“Results from the scenarios we examined suggest that simultaneously achieving the best outcomes for these sustainability criteria under a single biomass production future may not be possible,” according to the report. However, there may be a middle ground. To avoid the negative effects on critical habitats, restrictions on biomass harvesting in longleaf pine and bottomland hardwoods will be necessary.

Bolding mine. As is very often the case with studies emerging from NCSU, the agriculture industry is given the benefit of the doubt on sustainability initiatives. In this case, researchers assume they're going to re-plant new forests wherever they harvest, so there won't be a "net loss" of forestland. I disagree, vehemently. There is little evidence of that, on a large-scale, anyway. With that understanding, those words "will be necessary" above carry even more weight. Enviva needs to leave those longleaf pines and bottomland hardwoods alone. But since they've already developed a taste for those precious trees, the only way to stop them is to make it illegal. And as for their claims of sustainable operations:

Greenwashing on the cheap: Enviva's miniscule conservation grants


Look at that cute little forest over there:

Maryland-based Enviva, criticized by environmentalists for mills that make wood pellets to be burned as fuel in European power plants, said Wednesday it is spending $295,000 for grants that will help two conservation groups protect bottomland forests in North Carolina.

The Triangle Land Conservancy will receive $100,000 to help acquire a conservation easement on 127 wooded acres near Beaverdam Lake and the Neuse River east of Raleigh. The Nature Conservancy North Carolina chapter will receive $195,000 toward the $935,000 purchase of 1,294 acres of forested wetlands on the Roanoke River in Washington County.

If anybody reading this is on the boards or otherwise associated with these two (great) non-profits, please try to focus on the big picture. And that big picture is missing hundreds of thousands of acres of forests in the Southeast already, and NC hardwoods are being chopped up at an alarming rate:

NC's wood pellet problem shifting into overdrive

And six NC counties are in the crosshairs:

The N.C. Bioenergy Research Initiative recently awarded $1 million in grants for 12 research projects to boost bioenergy opportunities and production in the state.

$98,640 to Carolina Land & Lakes RC&D for the development of “Pellets for Pullets.” This expands a previously funded project into areas of the state with a higher concentration of broiler production. Wood-pellet heating systems have been shown to offer cost savings, reduction in moisture and fossil fuel by-products and delivery of a better product to market, while utilizing a renewable domestic fuel.

Two things you need to know from the start: Carolina Land & Lakes RC&D is not a private company, it's (supposed to be) a conservation district, operated by a non-profit. And the "Pellets for Pullets" designation is a (wildly misleading) description of what it's goal is, to provide heat for chicken coops. In reality, their goal is to produce wood pellets to export to European energy markets, an activity that is already bringing about deforestation in Southern states at an alarming level. I'm not speculating, the logistics are part of the plan:

NC's wood pellet problem

Not even close to being sustainable:

The Enviva Forest Conservation Fund will award $5 million in matching grants to conservation organizations over the next ten years. The effort will focus on four specific areas of bottomland forests in 35 counties in North Carolina and Virginia. Environmental advocates say the effort is not enough.

“After opening three mills in North Carolina and Virginia claiming it would produce wood pellets from sawdust and waste products, Enviva now acknowledges it will focus its pellet sourcing on cutting standing forests,” says Derb Carter, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center. “It fails to put off limits to pellet sourcing some of our most ecologically sensitive and valuable forests including oak and ash swamps, black gum swamps, non-riverine hardwood swamps and longleaf pine forests.”

$500,000 per year, to be split into 35 counties. Calling it a "pittance" would be generous, and considering wood pellet exports to Europe have doubled each year since 2012, every year that pittance will become more irrelevant. This needs to stop, people.

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