Refurbished textile mill will become another NC wood pellet plant


Spelling the demise of thousands more acres of trees:

This factory used to house Alamac American Knits, an erstwhile leading manufacturer of woven fabrics. But it closed in 2017, in part due to market pressures, but also because of damage inflicted by Hurricane Matthew, which the previous year dumped 10 inches of rain on the town, flooding the Lumber River until it burst its banks.

Now the 150-acre site is the home of Active Energy Renewable Power. A subsidiary of Active Energy Group, it is a publicly traded British company with a spotty project history. Aided by a half-million dollars in state taxpayer money, it is the latest entrant into the state’s wood pellet business.

It's long past time for us to stop referring to wood pellet burning as "renewable energy." It's not. Some of the wood they use comes from old-growth hardwoods, very often located in or near our critical wetlands, and many of those trees are over 100 years old. It's not as asinine as John Skvarla's (thanks, McCrory) claim that crude oil is renewable, but it ranks up there. This also has COVID 19 implications as well, since scientists have determined that fine particulate air pollution increases risk for fatalities in people who live in dirty air environments. Their own permit application is damning enough:

In fact, the facility is projected to emit about 25 tons of volatile organic compounds each year, well above the threshold of 5 tons to qualify for an permit exemption. Based on modeling of emissions data from two Enviva wood pellet plants in North Carolina, Active Energy would also emit nearly 2.5 tons of hazardous air pollutants annually, as well as smaller amounts of nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter.

Active Energy’s emissions projections are based on a production rate of 40,000 tons of wood pellets per year. But the company has told shareholders that it expects to ramp up production to 400,000 tons annually by 2021.

“That’s a massive increase,” said Emily Zucchino, director of community engagement for the Dogwood Alliance, a forest conservation group.

Yes, it is. And as I've said before, we need to move past just taking a company's word for how much they will pollute. It's one big reason why NC Republicans have cut DEQ's budget and staff by at least 40% since they took over in 2011, to tie their hands (and feet) and keep them from regulating and investigating.