Controversy Simmers Over North Carolina Wood Pellet Plant

A biomass fuel plant that processes tree scraps into wood pellets has some North Carolinians concerned about its potential environmental and health impacts. Maryland-based Enviva will soon open its fourth wood pellet plant in the southern part of the state. The new plant will be just outside the small town of Dobbins Heights, where roughly […]

A biomass fuel plant that processes tree scraps into wood pellets has some North Carolinians concerned about its potential environmental and health impacts.

Maryland-based Enviva will soon open its fourth wood pellet plant in the southern part of the state. The new plant will be just outside the small town of Dobbins Heights, where roughly 85 percent of residents are African American and the median household income is $21,000.

Longtime Dobbins Heights resident Debra David is afraid the plant will add “hundreds of thousands of tons of pollutants each year” to the air around her town. On a recent afternoon, she stood on the side of Highway 177 at the site of what will soon become the Enviva plant. “I live right down the road. Everything around here is damaging to the community for its pollution,” David said. “We already got four industrial plants within a four mile radius that’s putting out pollution.”

The new Enviva plant will take a mixture of hardwood and softwood trees from the surrounding forests and process them into wood pellets that are burned as an alternative to coal. The United Kingdom is the main purchaser of the pellets as a means to transition itself entirely off coal by the year 2025. But a growing number of European and Asian countries are also switching from burning coal to wood fiber.

Most of the UK’s wood pellet supply comes from the southern United States, including North Carolina. David and other Dobbins Heights residents fear their community will bear the brunt of the environmental impacts and see little of the economic benefit.

From WUNC 91.5: http://wunc.org/post/controversy-simmers-over-nc-wood-pellet-plant#stream/0

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