Appeal from Biofuelwatch

Biofuelwatch is asking UK climate and social justice groups urgently to consider signing this open letter to support frontline communities in North Carolina who are facing the expansion of a huge pellet mill in Ahoskie which supplies wood pellets to burn at UK power stations like Drax and Lynemouth:  

Drax Power Station: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic .
Image by Paul Glazzard

The mill is owned by the world’s biggest wood pellet producer, Enviva. If this pellet mill expansion goes ahead, it will increase dangerous air pollution for local communities, lead to the destruction of around 24,000 acres of forest, harm wildlife and make the climate crisis worse. 
The pellet mill expansion will also lead to even more wood being burned at UK power stations like Drax, Lynemouth and the new Tees Renewable Energy Plant near Middlesbrough, with very harmful impacts on the health of UK communities and on the climate. 
The letter is calling on the Governor of North Carolina to say no to the expansion of the wood pellet industry in the Southern US and we’re hoping as many UK groups as possible will sign it ahead of a public hearing in North Carolina on Tuesday 16th August
Frontline community activists would like to read out the letter at the hearing to show Enviva and the Governor of North Carolina that they are being supported by groups in the UK. Biofuelwatch would be very grateful if your climate or social justice group would like to sign.

Here’s the text of the letter

Dear Governor Cooper,

We, the undersigned environmental and climate justice groups in the UK, are writing to urge you to say no to Enviva’s plans to expand the wood pellet industry in North Carolina. We firmly stand in support of frontline groups’ complaints about Enviva and share their disappointment as to the lack of action to address the rapidly expanding wood pellet production market in North Carolina. 

If you are to be the climate champion that you claim, the climate, forest, biodiversity and environmental justice impacts of the wood pellet industry must be addressed.

As UK groups, we have a focus on North Carolina because many of your forests that are turned into pellets end up being burned in our power stations: Drax and Lynemouth. If the Enviva Ahoskie facility is permitted to expand, the equivalent of over 24,000 hectares of forest will be cut to meet its new capacity. We understand that North Carolina justice groups warn that this will lead to more logging trucks and more pollution. 

In the UK, the same is true. The wood pellets that Enviva supplies to burn at Drax and Lynemouth Power Stations are producing harmful air pollution and Drax is facing prosecution from the Health and Safety Executive in the UK for risking the health of their workers through exposure to harmful wood dust from pellets. 

Burning wood for energy in UK power stations is also making the climate crisis worse and Drax Power Station alone emitted over 13 million tonnes of CO2 from burning wood in 2021. Any expansion of the Ahoskie pellet mill in the United States will also have consequences for us here and would further exacerbate these health and climate impacts as Enviva is expected to supply pellets to burn at the Tees Renewable Energy Plant near Middlesbrough.

In 2021, 500 scientists from around the world signed an open letter about the impacts of wood bioenergy sourced from forests, warning: “regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change. As numerous studies have shown, this burning of wood will increase warming for decades to centuries. That is true even when the wood replaces coal, oil or natural gas.” 

Although climate scientists agree that the world must significantly increase its ability to retain carbon in forests, American forests are sequestering considerably less carbon today than they did just 30 years ago. Forests are a vital natural carbon sink, and burning them for fuel is a dangerous policy that will exacerbate climate change, particularly since burning biomass is not carbon neutral and in fact produces more pollution and more carbon emissions than the coal it is intended to replace.

It is time to stop this dirty and destructive industry that is harming people, wildlife and the planet. We need standing, natural forests. Forests absorb carbon, filter our water and our air, protect us from dangerous storms and floods, and provide vital green spaces for nature and people. 

For the sake of forests, wildlife, communities and the climate, we urge you to refuse this application for Enviva’s Ahoskie mill expansion and to place a moratorium on any expansion of the wood pellet industry. 

No new subsidies for big biomass plants

Scot.E3 has joined with many other campaigns and individuals in calling on the Westminster Government not to use renewable subsidies to support wood burning power stations. We reprint the Biofuel Watch Press Statement here. The Biofuel Watch website includes links to further reading and sources.

Hundreds of environmental campaigners are calling on the UK Government to take urgent climate action by ensuring that future renewable subsidies are not used to fund burning trees in UK power stations. Over 800 individuals as well as 20 environmental campaign organisations have submitted critical comments to the consultation, which sets out proposals on how to award future renewable electricity subsidies, called Contracts for Difference (CfDs). 

Image by Chris Allen CC BY SA 2.0.   

The NGOs and individual respondents to the consultation have called on the Government to ensure that safeguards vital for meeting climate commitments are reaffirmed, ones which would prevent new subsidies for large biomass plants reliant on imported wood from trees. They have urged the Government to protect forest ecosystems and the climate by ensuring that all future renewable power subsidies go to the cleanest forms of renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, rather than to more wood-burning power stations.

In 2018, the government announced new greenhouse gas and efficiency standards for CfD awards, which resulted in virtually all renewable power subsidies awarded since then going to lower carbon offshore wind and not to polluting biomass plants that emit at least as much CO2 as coal plants per unit of energy. They stated that failure to apply those changes “would lead to greenhouse gas emissions significantly above the projected UK grid average for most of the lifetime of [biomass] CfD projects”. The government’s proposal for future CfD awards, which they have just consulted on, makes no mention of extending those safeguards. The safeguards will automatically lapse unless they are explicitly extended.

Almuth Ernsting from Biofuelwatch said: “The UK already pays some £1.3 billion in subsidies for burning more wood in power plants than any other country in the world. At least, in 2018, the government’s new standards stopped the expansion of inefficient, high-carbon wood burning for electricity and thereby mobilised more money for non-emissive wind power. The government must not let those safeguards lapse now, after parliament acknowledged the climate emergency. It must not allow any more renewables subsidies to be misspent on a high-carbon source of energy which also harms wildlife and communities.”

Rita Frost from Dogwood Alliance added: “Following last Friday’s International Day for Biodiversity, I want to highlight the devastation that the biomass industry causes in the natural world. Living in the Southeastern forests of the North American Coastal Plain, I’ve been in awe of the remarkable biological diversity that’s all around me, and saddened by the devastating destruction of forest ecosystems by the biomass industry. Every day, this world-class biological hotspot of diversity, that includes species found nowhere else on the planet, is destroyed to make wood pellets for utilities like Drax [the world’s largest biomass power station, in Yorkshire]. The government has committed to planting 30,000 hectares of trees a year across the UK by 2025. Yet, just in the Southern U.S. in 2018 alone, over 43,000 hectares of forests were destroyed to feed Drax’s demand. No further biomass projects should receive government support.”  

David Carr from the Southern Environmental Law Center stated: “It is very worrying that we didn’t see any confirmation in the consultation document that the Government will apply the same emissions and efficiency standards to new biomass plants in future as it did in 2018 and ‘19. Those standards were hard-won by environmental campaigners as well as scientists showing the true climate impacts of cutting down trees for burning. We urge BEIS not to backtrack on its own commitments at this crucial juncture for the climate and biodiversity.”