Deforestation

Modified permit for Enviva exposes the sheer volume of NC trees that will be lost

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Clear-cutting our forests to service a boondoggle in Europe:

Enviva Pellets Hamlet, LLC and the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality Division of Air Quality (DAQ) on Monday reached a settlement with Clean Air Carolina (CAC) in which the wood pellet processing company agreed to a new round of measures to control emissions and to submit semi-annual output reports to CAC for review.

In January, Enviva modified its permit with the DAQ to allow it to increase its production of wood pellets from 537,625 oven-dried tons per year to 625,011 and to be reclassified as a minor source of pollution in exchange for adding new emission controls.

Bolding mine, because this method of calculation actually downplays the volume of trees this industry is consuming. In order to arrive at that "oven-dried" weight, several times that amount of green/wet wood is required. Enviva is clear-cutting some 50 acres of North Carolina forests every single day. Here's more from the Rachel Carlson Council:

CCRC and Dogwood Alliance speak out on wood pellet plant

And Richmond County's draconian public comment rules:

The group had come to last month’s meeting to voice concerns about the Enviva plant, but were denied because of the county’s public comment policy, which states that speakers must sign up with the the board’s clerk the Friday prior to the monthly meeting.

Kim McCall, secretary of the group, said she and Debra David attempted to do so this month, but were again denied because Enviva was on the agenda. The public comment policy — which county officials said has been in place since 1997 — also does not allow for comment for an item on the agenda. McCall calls not being allowed to speak an “injustice.”

These County Commissioners might think they're being clever, but they're about to get a hell of a lot more exposure than they imagined, and not the good kind, either. Here's a few words from Emily Zucchino, fighting the good fight for the Dogwood Alliance:

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:

Quashing the myth of "carbon-neutral" woody biomass

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Scientific facts the wood pellet industry doesn't want you to know:

When whole trees are pelletized, the carbon they store is released to the atmosphere immediately when they are burned. The small trees that grow back to replace them will store much less carbon for decades — so there is a net release of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere. Young trees grow faster than old trees, but most replanted trees will not be near big enough to offset the carbon dioxide emissions from increased forest harvest by the 2030 target of the Paris Climate accord.

Arguments that regrowing forests will “pay back” the carbon debt over 100 years are irrelevant; the most harmful effects of rapid global climate change will be “locked in” within a hundred years.

When looking at or discussing this issue, there is one word that needs to be in the forefront: Sequestration. Not the Congressional budgeting blunt instrument, but the chemical action. Carbon is a basic element, and when plants and microorganisms consume it, that carbon doesn't magically disappear. It is stored in the form of cellulose and other compounds. So when we burn the wood from trees, especially older trees, we are releasing carbon into the atmosphere that had been sequestered up to a hundred years ago, and all the years in-between. And we're also taking that mature tree, with its healthy appetite for atmospheric carbon, out of the carbon uptake formula:

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:

Op-Ed on the devastation of the wood pellet industry

In which I take Steve Troxler to task:

Just looking at the hog industry alone, the sheer number of animals and the waste they produce here in North Carolina has created a water quality crisis that has crossed over into other industries that support tens of thousands of our fellow North Carolinians. Many fish in eastern North Carolina are no longer edible, and massive fish kills are becoming more frequent. Which leads us to what Steve Troxler is not: an environmentalist. So when he starts bandying around terms like "renewable" and "sustainable," it gets my antennas waving a little bit.

Using woody biomass in place of coal to fire the steam generators in power plants is relatively new. I had a debate with an N.C. State grad student several years ago about this very thing, and he assured me (because he had been assured) there was more than enough scruffy byproduct from land development to scratch this particular itch. I tried to explain to him the sheer volume needed would soon have us chopping down healthy trees to keep the supply flowing. I wish I had been wrong, but I wasn't.

Please hop the link and go read the whole thing at the Fayetteville Observer. The more traffic articles like this get, the more likely they will publish other opinions of a similar nature in the future.

Big surprise: Steve Troxler is in favor of wood pellet industry

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Better paint those trees now, before they're gone:

Exporting wood energy is a sustainable way for North Carolina to create jobs at home, draw attention to our state's robust forestry industry and reduce carbon emissions by providing a green alternative to fossil fuels.

North Carolina is in a position to capitalize on global demand for wood-derived energy. Nearly 60 percent of the state is forest land. The wood energy industry has already created 168,732 jobs statewide and that number is set to grow. As it is, at least one major wood energy supplier, Enviva, has plans to open two new plants in Richmond and Sampson counties by 2017, creating over 170 permanent jobs and injecting over $214 million into the local economy, a boon for North Carolina, both in jobs and economic stimulus.

Bolding mine, because that's the biggest load of equine droppings I've seen from a public official in a long time. And considering the prolific liars running our state right now, that's saying a lot. No doubt he got that number from an industry rep and not Commerce or Labor. And he also misrepresents the NC State study I dealt with a few months ago:

Greenwashing on the cheap: Enviva's miniscule conservation grants

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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:

Green-washing the deforestation of the South

Clear-cutting forests is neither sustainable nor renewable:

In an announcement by Dave Shaffer, chief operating officer and president of Georgia Renewable Power, his company’s subsidiary, North Carolina Renewable Power -Lumberton LLC, has renovated the former 35 MW coal-fired electrical generating station and has “re-powered it to be a highly-efficient Combined Heat and Power plant that burns 100 percent renewable fuel.” The plant is already generating power and sending it to Duke Energy, Shaffer said.

When finished in the spring of 2017, the plant will produce 25 megawatts of electrical power as well as an “enhanced wood fuel product” for export to Ireland and other European nations, the company statement says. The total number of local jobs will eventually jump to almost 200 when those associated with transportation of fuel to the plant and the harvesting of timber for the plant’s fuel production operations are added in.

In case you're wondering, the plant is sending the generated power to Duke Energy to help the utility giant reach compliance with NC's Renewable Energy Portfolio Standards. But they'll be sending those wood pellets to Europe by the tons strictly for profits, chewing up trees by the thousands in the process. Please take the time to look at this map of woody biomass facilities already in place or coming online in the Southeast, and make your voice heard in opposition to this.

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:

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