Environmental groups are calling on North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper to halt taxpayer subsidies and limit new factory permits for the wood pellet industry.
Pellets made from trees logged in eastern North Carolina are shipped to Europe, where they're burned for electricity and classified as renewable energy. Since the industry began expanding in the state in 2014, the pellet producer Enviva has received $7 million in state incentives, most tied to job creation.
While there are new jobs, the industry has downsides, too, says Emily Zucchino of the Asheville-based Dogwood Alliance.
"From Rocky Mount to Wilmington, the growth of industrial tree plantations and the resulting loss of North Carolina's natural forests is decreasing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and limit devastating floodwaters," Zucchino said
She and other speakers at a news conference at the legislature in Raleigh Wednesday said the logging leads to deforestation, emits greenhouse gases and has disproportionately negative environmental effects on some of North Carolina's poorest counties.
They noted that the governor did not include wood pellets as a renewable fuel source in his 2019 Clean Energy Plan.
"In spite of that cautious and critical view, our state has provided over $7 million in subsidies to support and expand this industry," Donna Chavis of Friends of the Earth said at Wednesday's press conference. "What we are concerned about is business that decreases the quality of life for all in North Carolina and specifically for impacting communities that are hit disproportionately by the presence of these dirty industries."
Cooper's office did not respond to a request for comment.
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