OCE is among a coalition of environmental groups, community groups, and legal experts challenging air pollution permits at wood pellet manufacturing facilities throughout the southeastern United States. These facilities are among the largest in the world; they produce wood pellets for export to Europe, which are used in pellet burning stoves. The wood pellet industry has grown more than 10-fold in the past decade.
Biomass is considered part of the mix of “renewable” energy sources due to a loophole in the European Union’s accounting system that is based on the notion that biomass can be carbon neutral because trees grow back and absorb carbon as they grow. But burning wood pellets emits large amounts of greenhouse gases and replanted trees take many decades to grow enough to absorb as much carbon dioxide as the industry emits, and not all the saplings survive. Additionally, the manufacturing process is extremely dirty.
Wood pellet plants emit dangerous amounts of volatile organic chemicals into the air, befouling nearby communities and putting public health in serious jeopardy. Because these plants are always located in rural areas, mostly in the southeast United States and often adjacent to small towns, if is extremely difficult for residents to take effective action at the state level, particularly when the state regulatory agencies are used to promoting industry and ignoring public health concerns.