Wilmingtonbiz logo
More News

Conservationists Object To Wood Pellet Project At Port

By Jenny Callison, posted Jul 3, 2014
With plans for construction of Enviva’s wood pellet storage facility getting the green light from the N.C. State Ports Authority, some conservation organizations are objecting to that approval and are contesting Enviva’s claims about its pellet production process.

Tuesday of this week, the Dogwood Alliance, a forest protection advocacy organization based in Asheville, held a public forum on the N.C. State Ports Authority’s decision to move forward on development of the facility in partnership with Baltimore, Maryland-based Enviva. The conservation group said it objected to the Ports Authority’s decision not to hold a public hearing on the project.

In May, several conservation groups called for such a hearing and submitted to the Ports Authority the comments of 4,500 people from the Carolinas, according to a May 13, 2014 news release from Dogwood Alliance. The request for a public hearing was denied, according to Dogwood Alliance spokesman Scot Quaranda.

About 50 people attended Tuesday’s forum to hear speakers from the Dogwood Alliance, Southern Environmental Law Center and N.C. Coastal Federation, and conservation educator Andy Wood speak about the primary reason they object to the storage facility: Enviva’s choice of wood for pellets.

The pellets would be transported from pellet plants Enviva is considering building in North and South Carolina, stored at the Port of Wilmington, and shipped to Europe to be used as fuel to produce electricity, as the European Union phases out coal as a source of energy production.

Speakers said that, contrary to its assurances that it follows sustainable harvesting practices, Enviva uses whole trees, including hardwoods harvested from habitat-rich bottomland swamps in the coastal plain. The conservationists say, furthermore, that there is little oversight on what wood is harvested because most harvesting is done on private lands, where few regulations apply.

“Forests in the U.S. capture 12 percent of our annual carbon emissions. If they are cut and shipped to Europe, we’re going to lose that,” said Derb Carter of the SELC, adding that he estimated that wood pellet production in the Southeast would swell from 1.7 million dry tons in 2013 to about 19 million dry tons by 2020.

Carter also said that old trees store larger amounts of carbon than young trees. When they are burned, not only is the stored carbon emitted, but it takes years for trees in reforested areas to gain enough carbon storage capacity to replace the trees that were harvested.

While it was clear from speakers’ remarks at the forum that they do not support the notion that wood pellets represent a low-carbon alternative to burning coal, a fact sheet distributed at the meeting states the Dogwood Alliance isn’t asking Enviva to shutter its plants; just to change what it claims are its practices.  

“You don’t need to cut down entire forests to produce wood pellets,” the fact sheet stated. “There are sustainably sourced alternatives like reclaimed wood from municipal and commercial operations, urban and right-of-way trimmings, sawmill and forest residues.”

For its part, Enviva states that it does subscribe to sustainable forestry practices, and that it produces wood pellets from resources that might otherwise go to waste.

“All of the wood that Enviva uses is a byproduct of the traditional saw timber industry,” said Elizabeth Woodworth, a company spokesman, in a prepared response to questions from the Business Journal. “Regarding the use of whole trees, the only cases in which Enviva takes ‘whole trees’ are when there are low grade trees on a harvest tract that cannot be used by higher value markets due to rot, disease, pest infestation, small size, crooked form or other defects. Leaving these trees standing while taking only trees capable of delivering high-value sawtimber is known as high-grading, an unsustainable forestry practice which results in a less healthy, less biodiverse forest over time.

“Enviva also takes commercial thinnings, which are smaller, less healthy trees removed to allow larger, healthier trees to grow to sawtimber size.”

Woodworth added, ”Because of Enviva’s stringent procurement policies, which are independently audited and certified under sustainable forestry guidelines, we can ensure that all harvests are undertaken using state-mandated Best Management Practices in harvest operations that protect the environment, including water-quality and sensitive ecosystems.”

Enviva is considering wood pellet plant sites in Sampson and Richmond counties in North Carolina and Laurens County in South Carolina, Woodworth said in her statement. Product from those plants would be sent by truck or rail to the new storage facility at the Port of Wilmington.

Construction of the facility will begin soon after all permitting and related processes are complete, she said. The Ports Authority is responsible for getting regulatory approvals for construction and operation of the storage facility, Woodworth explained, including a major development permit under the North Carolina Coastal Management Act (CAMA).

“While not required for this project, the N.C. State Ports Authority chose to undertake a voluntary Environmental Assessment under the NC State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) to ensure that the agency thoroughly reviewed all possible direct and cumulative environmental impacts and provided this information to the public,” Woodworth said in the statement. “After performing a thorough evaluation of the direct and cumulative impacts of the proposed port facility, the NCSPA submitted a proposed Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI).”

Join The Discussion

Similar Stories

Book On Business

2015 bookonbusiness

The 2015 WilmingtonBiz: Book on Business is an annual publication showcasing the Wilmington region as a center of business.

Order Your Copy Today!
Print Only
$19.95 - Qty
Print + Excel File
$79.95 - Qty

In The Current Issue

Schedulefly Takes Targeted Approach To Clients

Schedulefly is a web application that allows restaurant owners and managers to post schedules online. They’re sent to staff via email and text as well. All changes (shift trades, for example) and time off requests occur online – usually from a mobile device.

Funding Traffic Jam For Some Local Road Projects

Some area officials are frustrated that several other projects important to the Cape Fear area have not been given priority in the state’s T...

Entrepreneurship At Any Age

Forget the stereotype of an entrepreneur as a hard-driving 20-something or middle-aged man. There is plenty of evidence locally that the ent...

Ico topnews Editor's Picks

Duke Announces Updates On Smokestack, Coal Ash Removal At Sutton Plant

Jenny Callison - About 4 hours ago

Former Leader Of Outer Banks Firm Buys Vacation Rental Company

Cece Nunn - About 5 hours ago Trending News

On First Filing Day, Eight Candidates For Local Posts Come Forward

Jenny Callison - Jul 6, 2015 Trending News

Raleigh Street Industrial Property Sells For $479,000

Cece Nunn - Jul 6, 2015 Trending News

Markraft Cabinets

MarKraft Cabinets specializes in cabinet and countertop design and installation in both new residential and commercial construction, as well as custom remodeling projects.

Ico trending Trending News

Ico newsinimages News in Pictures

Have a tip, pitch or guest column?  Send us a tip.

Gallery Galleries

Video Videos

Power Breakfast Series - Special Sauce for Economic Development - March. 2014
WilmingtonBiz Expo Keynote - Ken Lowe - Founder HGTV, CEO Scripps Networks - March. 2014

Register to Continue Seeing Wilmington's Best Business Coverage!

There are three ways to register for free.

Sign in with LinkedIn, Facebook or create an account:

Already registered? Login here.

Your free registration includes:

  • Access to 10 articles per month on WilmingtonBiz.com
  • Email updates to stay informed on local business news
  • A mobile optimized website
  • Advanced notification of Business Journal events
  • Management of your digital and print subscriptions
Laptop iphone ipad