More than 10,000 individuals and 50 organizations have signed a petition asking Governor Cooper to revoke the world’s largest wood pellet manufacturer’s flawed air quality permit in Richmond County. At a Raleigh press conference on July 18, speakers represented prominent NC organizations such as Dogwood Alliance, Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, and Clean Air Carolina. Susannah Tuttle of NC Interfaith Power& Light was among the speakers. She said:
We are called to be stewards, but are giving away our resources. Our faith calls upon us to stand with the people of Richmond County in their fight for clean air and healthy community. I hope that Governor Cooper can hear our call to stand with North Carolina communities, and put people above climate polluting industries like Enviva. Faithful Christians believe that God will redeem both people and nature in the new heaven and earth. Knowing that God intends one day to redeem nature should motivate Christians to view and act differently towards the environment. Christians should also be involved as much as possible in the process of redeeming nature here and now on earth as an expression of our own redemption and salvation and the “living out” of our faith. (Phil. 2:12-13; Jas. 2:14-25) In the case of a Christian forester or ecologist, for example, being involved in the restoration of a healthy forest ecosystem is consistent with and honors God’s ultimate plan for redeeming nature. In contrast, being responsible for widespread and complete destruction of a particular forest ecosystem does not seem consistent with nor does it honor God’s plan for redeeming nature. “Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad, let the sea resound and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them. Let all the trees of the forest sing for joy. Let all creation rejoice before the Lord, for he comes, he comes to judge the earth. He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his faithfulness.” (Psalm 96: 11-13)
The organizations contend that biomass and the wood pellet industry are an environmental injustice. Nowhere is this more clearly seen than rural Richmond County. For the last several years, county officials have been working, mostly behind closed doors, with wood-pellet producer Enviva to gain approval for the construction of a manufacturing facility in the town of Hamlet. Enviva already has six production facilities in the southeastern U.S. Residents of the county have repeatedly attempted to deliver public comments to their elected officials at the Richmond County Commission and have been denied on multiple occasions in a practice that NC Policy Watch reports “clearly violates the first amendment.”
As Terry Landsdell, Program Director at Clean Air Carolina, explained the concerns:
North Carolina forests do their job to clean the air when they are a living part of our environment. From production to combustion, wood pellet chain emissions are higher than coal, release large quantities of respiratory pollutants and release levels of particulate matter that disproportionately affect residents already overburdened with health impacts like asthma and COPD from air pollution exposure.