Critics seek more regulations on NC wood pellet industry
Eastern North Carolina residents and community organizations rally at the legislature for more environmental regulations on the wood pellet industry.
day to the press conference and I would like to thank all those who have reached out to me on this important issue. This is not a new issue, but allow me to set the record straight. I want to do something because I've been reached out to both sides on this issue. I want to let it be known that that I am pro business. I support the timber owners, the drivers who haul the timber out of the forest, the businesses that would sell those trucks, diesel fuel, and all those in the jobs that it will support, particularly our rural areas. I get it and I understand that, but we must allow our voices to be heard whether pro or con. The reason we're here today is because these concerned citizens have come to arrive to share their concerns on this very important issue, and I am willing to any time to reserve the press conference room for the industry to share their concerns. These conservatives are here today to express their concerns about how there are some bad actors in the industry. And we get that however viva and others have reached out to me to assure me I know them. I've dealt with them many meetings a couple of years ago, so we just want to know that if the whole, with the whole, there are people operating in the industry that attempted to try to do the right thing. So I just want to be fair as a legislator, because this is where we come to, uh, without grievances to share either way of the other. So that's why we're here today and I want to welcome again those who have come to share and they'll have their concerns with us. But I just hope at the end of the day we can all come to come to the table. Our rural areas need jobs, I support jobs, I'm from a rural area and I understand that all we're dealing with but at the same time uh they have a have a right those who have come today to share their concerns, they have to live in the neighborhoods. But I think if we can all work together we can all work for the good of our communities, for the industry and for those who lived. And I hope that statement is one that we all can live with because I think we've got to be fair on these issues and make a stance on them. At this time I'm gonna continue to call those who will speak, we're gonna start Mr Belinda Jonah, concerned citizens from North Hampton County. Uh Good afternoon 1st I would like to think this gentleman for allowing us to be here today um as he said, I am from North Hampton County We are home to four facilities that has permitted from de que. We have hog farms, we have land filled um and of course we have in Denver, we would have been home to the compressor station in atlantic coast pipeline. Thank you to God that didn't come to fruition. Um I was in a meeting with Mr Spray very in 2019. We're a community of colour were Tier one county. So I consider our count as a dumping ground because everything that anybody else don't want this is where they bring it. We're right off the card about 95. So they say it's easy access. Um I asked Mr spray very in the meeting because we had a group of people that were in what they call a blast um meaning that if one of those pipes had ruptured and we had a major explosion in mind you were a volunteer fire Department, How long would it take? A hazmat team to get to us? And he told me 90 minutes Now, according to my time, 90 minutes is an hour and a half. So my next question to mr spray very well. What do you think you would find once you get, you're talking about a blast, uh you know, a natural gas pipeline that has exploded And you're saying 90 minutes and then to add insult to injury. Our governor, I didn't want any fracking on the coast because of tourism, but he had no problem with the pipeline being in my backyard. I think something is wrong with that picture within viva. We just had a hearing on monday night and I just listen to the people talk with no concern as to the health inspectorate, ease the life that these people are living that live, you know in lever is smack dab in the back in a black community. So I'm having in the front yard, so I'm having in the backyard. So I'm having on the side and all they could say well though in viva did this for us and they gave us this amount of money. But what about the people that live right there that's affected by it every day? You know, they're talking about Covic, oh, you know, is this black and Hispanics are dying at a high rate with Covid? Do you wonder why when you look at our communities, everything that they don't want? Is there pollution? Um, I had a lady that's 80 years old. She can't go out in her yard and working her flowers because her nose constantly run. She doesn't sleep at night because in Vivas right in her backyard. So she here the trucks, 24/7 changing gears, squeaking brakes. But it's supposed to be okay because in Viva gave broadband to the schools. So my question is, where is the concern for the people that are affected by that? I had a meeting last year with Michael Regan and his staff Last year in September had three people from D. Q four From the Advisory Board to Come to My Home. We took him on a tour to let them see the impact the communities that was there. And so when we met with Mr Reading last year in february, I said I told myself We had about 40, some people that were opposed to the expansion of in fever that inaugurated spend $45 million dollars to expand and people are saying, oh in viva did this but that's just crumbs residue from the crumbs Any time you can spend $45 million dollars to expand And you give me $1,000. Come on, don't insult me. Like. And I asked him myself, you know, with all the people that was in the opposition to this expansion, why did it have? And I was told as long as they were in compliance, but what the states say they should be, then they had to grant to commit. So my next question was, what's the use of a public hearing? And I was told then that those comments are used to strengthen the permitting process. So then my next question, when are you going to start doing it? I've been in several meetings with Mike Aspe Ginza. I've been in several meetings with Michael Regan and it's still the same. Nothing has changed. So my thing is how many people have to die because people are prospering when that ship go overseas with all of that. Um Tell us, and I've had people to come from the Netherlands to my home, they don't want. And every time that shit leave out of Chesapeake or women took her wherever it's going from, you look at the thousands of dollars that's going over. But then if little johnny that lives right next to him, viva gets sick, who's going to pay his hospital? If I get cancer, money can't pay them. But my cute, so, you know, profit over people. It needs to stop. We have other states that are taken into consideration the cumulative impacts, the health impacts on these communities. And they're saying no to these companies that are coming here. But you know what knocking out has become a cess pool because everything that anybody else don't want, we don't have the laws to protect us. We have these politicians, ou our constituents and my constituents. But when they get in office, Duke energy, the many in power smithfield arms in favor and all the rest of them come their constituents. We need to wake up as a people because there's more of us than it is then. And when election time comes, if you're not gonna represent me, then you need to go. And my feelings about the EQ is damn everybody's quality of life. Thanks. Mhm. Mhm. Mr. Donald Davis. Mhm. Thank you. Representative Pierce. And good afternoon. We have crossed over to the afternoon. Now, um we're here today to call on governor Cooper to preserve north Carolina's greatest natural resource, our forest. Now, we call them natural resources when we think of what they do for us. But in the indigenous way of thinking, our forests are source of life. The trees are the lungs of the earth and they help us all to stay healthy and to live better. So in Governor Cooper's Clean Energy Plan that was released in October of 2019, he holds that, and I'm quoting from the plan. Currently, the wood pellet industry does not contribute to north Carolina's energy generation portfolio and does not advance north Carolina's clean energy economy. And while that is in the clean energy plan, In spite of that cautious and critical view, our state has provided over $7 million dollars in subsidies to support and expand this industry. Now, I want to say that I agree with representative pierce and those that you hear from today are not anti business. What we are concerned about is business that uh decreases the quality of life for all in north Carolina and specifically for impacted communities that are hit disproportionately by the presence of these dirty industries. Now, Governor Cooper had launched a plan, a process through which the clean energy plan was discussed by many stakeholders. And yet even with that, he has continued to allow the wood biomass industry to log our forest in order to provide Woodstock globally. You heard uh Miss Belinda's comments about the wood pellets being shipped overseas. So in the Clean Energy plan, we are not supposed to burn these in north Carolina, but there's not a problem with selling millions of pounds of wood pellets to other countries and but we do lose our forests with the forests are logged, they released the carbon that they have stopped that they have stored over decades and hundreds of years and the capacity for that carbon capture cannot be replaced in a few years. No matter what, the industry says, our forests support biodiversity, remove carbon from the atmosphere and provide natural protection in rural communities from more severe flooding and drought. I live in one of the county's most impacted by clear cutting and the storms of Matthew and Florence. Uh, we once had representative pierces our representative, but with redistricting we lost him and I hope we'll get you back reverend pierce because he is someone who stands with the people in his district and I'm sure he heard elders at farmers and homeowners testify to the impact added to the storms because of the loss of trees that have always served to mitigate the force of the storms and the flooding together. The five north Carolina based wood pellet facilities clear cut over 60,000 acres per year. Just think of that. When I drive around in Robertson County, I'm constantly amazed at the loss of the trees and for years I wondered what's happening and then I learned one of the reasons was the potential use as the wood biomass to be used in countries away from the United States. The counties that these facilities are in Are all cheer one counties, those are Herford, North, Hampton, Robinson, Sampson and Richmond. And there is a plant that is trying to get started in Robertson county and has run into some bumps because of errors they made in the permitting process and they're being scrutinized much more closely because of the citizen input. And I have to say that's what you're hearing today. Governor cooper, I call on you to follow the science supplying the globe with default solution of wood biomass pellets as to our climate crisis at home and abroad, be the environmental and environmental justice you proclaim to be, I say, where is cooper, when it comes to buy environmental justice? We have not seen him in our communities or at the table pushing policies that support the communities most impacted take action today, governor Cooper, by directing the north Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, also known as DJ, to more fully evaluate the impact of the wood, biomass industry on our forest communities and public health, halt all subsidies, grants and incentives for energy schemes that are not a part of or do not support the north Carolina clean Energy plan and I want to add a little asterisk there. The company that's trying to come into Robinson County is a part of the UK company, Active Energy Group. They were a lot. They were given a $500,000 grand by the Department of Commerce before they ever submitted their first permit request. So as we were moving into the decision making process, our state Through the Department of Commerce had already agreed to read than $500,000 kind of makes it hard to have what we would consider an equal uh an equal floor on which to stand for the citizens to raise their concerns when the state has already allowed the company to be to be given a 500 or promised at any rate of $500,000 grant. So it's important that would call upon the cooper administration. Cooper is the boss, he is the decision maker and others work under him in his administration. And we call him him to tell his departments to halt all incentivizing of companies that have not met the guidelines of the Clean Energy Plan and to instruct the Department of Environmental Quality to follow suit. Thank you, reverend Matt Legacy. Mhm. Good afternoon. I'm reverend Makkal Edgerton. I'm um co director of the Robinson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development and interim director with the north Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition. It's good to see the ministers that are in the group in the room today as well as our representatives and our media and our constituencies throughout our communities that are here today. Okay. The wood pellet industry was created at a time when the cost of producing true, clean and renewable energy sources, what's much higher than it is today. Wood pellets were promoted as a cheap replacement for coal and touted as a clean and renewable resource with the massive drop in the cost of solar wind, battery, starter storage and thermal energy production. The economic viability of the wood pellet industry began to be questioned. There is now growing national and international consensus that the wood pellet industry cannot survive in the free market system on its own without massive government support. On May 20, John Randall, a british conservative and advisor to the environment for the former Prime Minister, Theresa May published an article highly critical of all forms of bioenergy. He stated, the government's buy into the experimental bioenergy industry is a rare false step. But despite intense and expensive lobbying, there are still major gaps in the argument for bioenergy, serious evidence that calls into question how effectively it cuts emissions at all. He went on to state that biomass when burned, produces more carbon per kilo than burning coal. He described the promoters of biomass as providing fantasy solution to climate change in public discourse regarding the wood pellet industry here in north Carolina. The most neglected issue is the full impact of the toxic chemicals that are released during its production and their impact on environmental and public health. It's pollutants are airborne and waterborne chemicals emitted are associated with a range of diseases including respiratory and heart disease and cancer. If this industry is so safe, why are all five of the wood fellow facilities in North Carolina only located in the poorest counties and census tracts, with black residents representing from 35 to 90% of their populations. The harmful impacts of the wood pellet industry on forests, public health, air and water resources and the climate are now well documented. The social and environmental damage that the industry has created outweighs its minimal jobs, employment and tax benefits. The rapid expansion of the wood pellet industry has occurred in north Carolina without any meaningful public or policy discourse. And that's why we are here today, we are literally selling out our most precious natural resource to be exported and burned in foreign lands. This is done at the expense of the environmental and public health of the most vulnerable populations, communities and counties in our state. We are here today to call on Governor cooper and all our leaders in our state to develop a more substantial clean energy plan that creates and attracts clean industry creates and attracts hundreds and thousands of clean jobs and creates and supports healthy and thriving communities. We can't do this with short term misleading solutions that leave us with ghost forest, more polluted communities, ever increasing instability in our weather and extreme climate conditions and rural out migration due to diminishing quality of life. But we can do it by acting with compassion and courage and a clear mind and a clean heart focused on healthy and restorative solutions to our economic, environmental and climate crises and challenges facing us, particularly in rural north Carolina. And thank you and thank you for being here with us today. Miss Deborah Davis, concerned citizen of Richmond County. Good afternoon. Thank you for the respect today. I will down the road from damn evil. And I want to say that the county commissioners, I'm not gonna say all of them in each state or counting whatever you want to say, They go out, they did go out and look for your fever for the Richmond County plan. They brought in people to our area and when they brought in a fever, they brought more devastation to L. A. County. I live in the area of just 300 people and dr heights Uh count whole county ain't about 47,000 people less now because I called it, they blame all this briefing stuff on covid, but some of these bigger stuff is coming from the pollution. Mhm. And I say that myself because suddenly having some breathing problems since then people being up the road we are impacted by some of this stuff and people bring through they are chipping up at the plant and when they hold the chipping it's um not covered at all chips fly off the back of the truck. So does several of us were standing outside the road, one of them was a reporter truck came by with sold us on it, blowing our faith. So here you got a problem does so that gets on your car windshield. They built a whole new car washing rocking here. Had to be for that to wash all the calls. People aren't gonna watch their car every day or every other day. They're gonna run it through the car wash. They built all those health facilities in the last seven years knowing that there was gonna be some problems coming. You don't build a whole bunch era urgent here and nothing's happening. I know We got more than five and maximum county plus you know you close the hospital down build all these earlier care. You did it for a reason. You know something was coming. These plants are not exactly what they say they are. Those wood pallets are going overseas only with pellets. I see in the county is the ones you put it on the grill. Why aren't these wood pellets coming staying in the county? How the people in the county not buying these pellets? Is it not enough money where we will all for the big bucks our county commissioners and our government. It's all behind this and they are killing us. These are death notices. I took one knee on the neck to put somebody profile and it's it doesn't take nothing but the whole world to say, let's stop this because our brow, it's gonna be lost. Do the pollution. But slowly, it's the same thing. Over time, they would tell industries has taken everything away from the animals, people yards putting water all in them. You're right by water still standing and it's been dry for so many days. When is enough gonna be enough? Governor Cooper and our government officials. That's all I have to say. Mr Jeff Currie nelson that right, lumber riverkeepers that pronounced that right, Okay, thank you. Representative Pierce. And uh everybody here today and we appreciate this opportunity to talk about this issue. My name is Jeff Currie and the lumber riverkeeper On the border of Scotland Robinson counties. A couple of years before Hurricane Matthew in 2016, a landowner contracted with the timber company to clear cut a large standard Trees is located in a low lying intermediate swamp was across from a mostly lumbee Indian community called Bryant circle. Mr Clayton Powell told me that the flooding started after they cut down all the trees. When Hurricanes Matthew in 2016, in Florence in 2018 tore through southeastern north Carolina While dropping 20- 30" of rain. Everyone expected flooding. But the people are brought circles and many other communities Experience Something No one had anticipated flooding. That was historic, catastrophic and dangerous. It seemed like that. Uh to some like the lumber river which flows nearby, Bryant circle, redirected itself directly through the middle of people's yards, houses and lives, nobody had visited. Nobody still had visited Bryant circle or many other communities to hold public meetings to listen and learn. So where's keeper? He's promised to help with flooding, although, instead of working to better understand our waterways and to understand how deforestation and flooding work together and our most precarious watersheds. He's allowed our state to give incentive money to corporations which facilitates the clear cutting of our forest, wetland and Connie woods for the expansion and new construction of wood pellet manufacturing plants throughout eastern north Carolina. The new processes of some of these plants for turning our trees into wood pellets, like the one that is proposed that the proposed AARP pellet mill in Lumberton is using, worries me, worries me, is the riverkeeper and as a citizen, because the pollution impacts aren't just air, it's air and water. The majority african american community around it proposed AARP plant in Lumberton have voiced their concerns loudly about the justice of building more polluting industries in their neighborhood, but Governor Cooper's d he with deaf to any concerns about cumulative impacts of pollution and environmental justice. Black hispanic indian poor communities in north Carolina on NC wetlands dot org. A website created and hosted by scientists at N. C. D. S. Use division of water resources. It says this quote swamps act like sponges absorbing water, cleaning it in releasing it slowly. So simply our bottomland forest of flat woods and swamps absorb water that controls flooding. It helps cleans the surface. Orders to help control our pollution and recharges the groundwater supplies for clean drinking water. So where's keeper in all this? He seems to favor cutting out our trees for pellets. The folks overseas can burn for electricity to keep their lights on. So basically their lights are more important than the health and welfare of our waterways and the people and communities that live along all of north Carolina's watersheds. Thank you, Reverend Richard hardy director, gassed in youth. Mhm. Thank you. At the age of 50, I was right right now. I was born as the civil rights movement was winding down a movement. They began because black lives Matter. I have moved into the neighborhood in the course of my life where I wasn't wanted because I am black working on the school board, I have been a part of a process to fix payroll issues where non white employees were paid less than white employees. I understand how gun violence is terrorizing our communities. I am in the middle of it yesterday, my daughter and granddaughter names were mentioned in a threatening way where my house was shot up. None of our elected officials showed up, but they decided to have a march a year later when the media was there. So I asked the question, Do Black Lives Matter to us? I was able to envision a T shirt about social justice, about racial racial equality, Employment rights act, but I never thought I would need a shirt addressing environmental justice. The black lives matter. Where is my community the design location for a facility that will not only shorten my life, but the lives of my Children. Why is it okay to have the dusk cover the homes, the cars, Children toys for monetary gain because it's a neighborhood of people of color. The black lives matter. Where do our country, which which has 100% of its our county, which has 100% of its local elected officials being black, stand back and do nothing. But when the cold as facility in our county wanted to move in and the neighbors are that proposed facility did not look like me. Everyone was on board. A wonderful effort where where all lives matter. But but when it comes to wood pellets and their financial gain, there is no concern, don't be misinformed. There are jobs available in the wrong valley and no in viva has not been the savior born of a virgin that they claim to be, but they are a nuisance. Our officials said we got jobs. At least one of the local elected officials has trucks running there. There is not support nor concern. So I asked them do our black lives really matter. Our community is most of these facilities. They come into areas like mine, black neighborhoods where people, they just aren't gonna fight. They're tired of fighting over and over and over. So that's why we're here D. I. D. Q. We had a They had a title five permit hearing on Monday and I'm gonna ask you again that you did you that you require and viva to develop and implement a fugitive fugitive dust control plan to mitigate the impact that harmful dust pollution is having on the surrounding community. And incorporate that plan and say Divas title five permit. I want all of us to be able to grow. I want all of us to be able to live but until we can get people that was staying and do what I do for us. Right. I wonder who this out black lives really matter to. Mhm. Okay. It's Sarah. Okay. Yes. Okay. Hello and thank you. My name is Sarah musk in and I am representing a group of five public Health graduate students from UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health. Um This spring we were connected with Miss Belinda Joyner from North Hampton County to collaborate on a research project surrounding the environmental injustices you've heard about today faced by that community. We decided with Belinda to focus our research on the imbaba plant there and how D. Q. Engages stakeholders in the industrial permitting process. The EU claims to enhance and ensure the quality of life for north Carolinians is one of the department's main objectives by protecting air quality, water quality and the public's health. The department states that D. Q. Is designed to accomplish such objectives. Yet, as is the case in environmental justice communities across the state, they continuously failed to do so. The wood pellet industry is worse than a false solution to climate change. It is also a harmful practice to the forests and the communities that impacts deke. You should not be granting permits to the wood pellet industry on the basis of environmental justice and environmental protection. We found very research that the D. E. Q stakeholder engagement process needs to be streamlined so that community voices can be heard. This fact is even recognized by the EU itself is. Just last year they released a public participation plan to reportedly provide meaningful outreach and engagement in the D. E. Q. Decision making process. The plan itself, though, is a product of the D. Q. Environmental Justice Program and is not actual legislation, so does not hold the weight or specificity needed to make it truly enforceable. We need to hold you accountable to their promises and support them in endeavors that are protective of the communities they claim to serve as part of our research. We learned about the stakeholder engagement processes, specifically for environmental justice issues in other states. Centering community voices is possible as well as indispensable in the permitting process. New Jersey recently passed passed landmark legislation mandating that state environmental departments evaluate potential public health and environmental stressors that would follow from a permit approval the exposures prior to permitting approval, for example, if a community is already experiencing poverty, racial discrimination and or other types of environmental pollution, the permit is automatically denied. New york is in the process of passing similar legislation. And states like Rhode island Connecticut, Oregon and California have concrete processes to engage communities. North Carolina should follow in suit. Governor Cooper has promised to address climate change and environmental justice to follow through on those promises. He must mandate that his D. Q. Include impacted communities in the decision making process in a meaningful and enforceable way. We must push for D. Q. And north Carolina legislators to reevaluate the mechanisms through which they make decisions and restructure the process to center the needs and health of impacted communities over the demands of polluting industries. Thanks so much for your time. So you? Re fact, wow, okay, it really you can come. She tired me out. But thank you Representative peers. Good afternoon everyone. Thank you all for being here today and. Mhm. Oh my last name is zucchino. It's a tough one. I'm Melissa kino. I'm the director of community engagement with Dogwood Alliance. We are all here today because this critical issue has gone unaddressed by the highest levels of leadership in north Carolina. During Governor Cooper's first term impacted community members and environmental organizations provided him and his administration with detailed evidence of the forest, climate and pollution impacts of the wood pellet industry. The governor responded by excluding wood pellets from the 2019 North Carolina Clean Energy Plan acknowledging some of their impacts. In spite of this, governor Cooper has not addressed the rapidly expanding wood pellet export market. Under his leadership, North Carolina became the largest exporter of wood pallets in the nation. We are calling on Governor Cooper to commit to the following four things. Number one direct the N. C. Department of Commerce to halt all future subsidies, grants and incentives for proposed industrial energy projects that are not a part of the north Carolina Clean Energy Plan Or executive order 80 on climate change. As you heard earlier, North Carolina has subsidized this industry with $7 million. Yet the counties with wood pellet facilities remain some of the poorest in the state. This use of taxpayer dollars does not advance a green economy for a state or support long term jobs and investment in rural communities. Number two, we're calling on Governor Cooper to direct the N. C. Department of Environmental Quality to deny all future permits for proposed industrial energy projects that are not a part of the N. C. Clean Energy Plan or Executive Order 80 the wood pellet industry which is led by in viva Clear cut 60,000 acres of North Carolina Forest per year. This logging is concentrated along the southern coastal plain, a region already heavily burdened by industrial logging and increasingly subject to inland flooding from Rocky Mount to Wilmington. The growth of industrial tree plantations and the resulting loss of north Carolina's natural forests is decreasing their ability to absorb carbon dioxide and limit devastating floodwaters. If we were to fully account for the emissions from vivas north Carolina pellet production facilities, It would show they have released 28 million tons of carbon dioxide during harvest, transport production and combustion. That's equivalent to seven coal plants operating for a full year. This is not the clean energy solution we've been promised number three. We're calling on Governor cooper to direct the N. C. D. E. Q. To accurately and transparently account for and reduce emissions from the forestry sector. A recent study concluded that logging and manufacturing of wood products is the third largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions in our state. Just behind electricity and transportation. Yet our state's greenhouse gas inventory does not account for any emissions from logging, making our state's carbon reduction plans not only misleading but unachievable with the, with the current information being used. Number four, we are calling on Governor Cooper to direct the NCDEQ to complete a comprehensive study into the forest climate and community impacts of the existing wood pellet industry in north Carolina. Despite overwhelming scientific evidence that this industry is taking us backwards and not forwards on climate change, North Carolina has advanced this industry without any public or policy discourse, Governor Cooper and his administration simply cannot follow through on their promises on climate change and environmental justice while continuing to support this press conference for this industry. Sorry, I jumped ahead following this press conference. We will be joined outside by additional impacted residents and other environmental organizations who are joining together today to ask where is Governor Cooper? When it comes to protecting our forests in our communities, we hope that some of you will be able to join us. Thank you. I have to my legislative colleagues. I don't know if they had a comment on this issue. I know that we have so that you have comment under. You might not be up on all of you here. What it says if you like comment. Thanks. You didn't have to do this Representative peers. But but I think representative pierce because I am representative linda Cooper Suggs District 24 Wilson County. But I am a product of Sampson County from the time that I was born, reared out in the country, a little place called railway north Carolina in the country. I have seen how my county, my own personal county has gone from a place where my family and I could sit outside and farm and do everything that we wanted to do in growing as I was growing up. But after I returned from college and I started coming back home to visit my mom and my dad, we realized that we can no longer sit outside in the afternoons and I, we live in the heart of the country. So we like those green trees and we like to be able to smell the clean air because we're talking about deforestation this morning, but Samson counter today because but Sampson County hasn't been affected also with these pellet chips and and what's taking place. But we've also been affected from environmental standpoint because of those farms, those hog farms, those poetry farms, so I understand what you're going through. I thank you for your fight. You're not in it, don't stop doing what you're doing because when we speak out, somebody has to listen. When the public speaks you, they must listen. So I encourage all of you to keep right on fighting. And I think representative peers for even inviting me to come up to this stand and to be able to pull all of this together. So thank you so much. I guess I may be the last speaker. My name is a jones. I'm not from county, I'm from here in Raleigh. Um, but this is an issue which I've had some experience with, not directly but indirectly because for a long time I used to work for the United States Department of Justice and we uh covered environmental issues all across the eastern part of the state. Uh, some of you may be old enough for him of the PCB scandal and what happened and when it was spreading PCB all over into poor neighborhoods and poisoning the atmosphere. This wood pellet industry is similar. And I suggest to you, if you go out and read about it that what the way it's justified as they say, well, we bring jobs, jobs jobs, but you can't trade your health for money. Your health is given to you by Almighty God. And when it's taken away, it's gone for good. And so I think if you can spread from here, just spread information, explain it to people, let them know what happens. There is power and information. And so I reach out as a city boy from Riley to say godspeed to you, you should make the effort and spread the real facts and people will stop defending a dirty industry. Industry can clean up. But they only clean up if they are made to clean up. And I had that experience in Justice Department over and over and over again, they can be made to clean up and behave. If the government who is supposed to be representative people will do it and that's what has to be done. So I encourage you to fight your fight, speak out, get publication, put light on it and light brings enlightenment and then you can fight this fight. Thank you so much, colleagues. And like I said once again, I have my opening remarks and I would just open the floor for questions. But we all got to work together and I think that's so important. I will end that on. We've got to work together citizens industrial, everybody working together, Brother jones said we can put things in place that will protect our community if we were willing to do that, but I'm just grateful to be here today. I've been a long time champion of fighting for communities and I will continue to do that. We always general Assembly, sometimes we get into issues and sometimes we try to figure out how we get in there and how we get out of them. But I just got a day to be fair about the issue, to hear your voices and do whatever I can so that our citizens can have a good quality of life in the community that they live in. And I think that should be all legislation to have that same desire for all of our citizens, as opposed to saying we should all have that same desire at this time I'm gonna be over for questions and I let Mr Langston, his whoever from his group. If you have questions, you can address them to reverend Kingston. Okay. Yes. What questions do we have from the media and will decide who to answer those for you? Yes. Hi. I'm to Sturgis with facing I was wondering if one of the speakers could talk about what the emissions are from the plant besides carbon, because some folks have referenced toxic emissions. So I'm just wondering what's coming out of these plans? Emily, you're Jeff, would you? There? There are several experts on the issue who aren't with us today, including representatives from Southern Environmental Law Center and Environmental Integrity Project. But the broadly speaking, it's helps hazardous air pollutants and then fine particulate matter pm 2.5. And so the issue that health officials have been most concerned about is that PM 2.5, which is the really fine particulates that kind of can enter into the nose and the mouth and get into the bloodstream and lead to things like asthma, respiratory illness, heart disease cancer. Um, we can get you a list of all the particular emissions that are coming from the facilities and that's primarily from the production of the wood pallets I would say in regards to your p we don't know if you look at the application. It was actually the air quality was evaluated based on Aviva and the process is completely different and is well, they tested it but they never took any data. So we don't totally known. There's also water, uh, emissions, um, a discharge, but we don't know what that is completely either. So, uh, I guess it's a good tires which is scary. I think that's why I said I was worried about it because you should know before you get a full permit. I think you should know, you know what's, what's going to be there. Um, it just seems to be logical to me but evidently not to be here one. I'll just comment on this issue of science. The disadvantage we have with listening and respecting the science is that in our state the Commerce Department is allowed to provide incentives and grants monies and make those agreements prior to the receiving of any permits. So how is our Department of Environmental Quality going to objectively examine these issues, particularly when it's unknown when the Commerce Department has already decided They are worthy of over $7 million dollars and people don't like to talk about it. But that's a that's a backward procedure. Our industry should get the permits 1st and then go to the state for any subsidies after they've been permitted. Not before. So the whole system is backwards and it really leads to a pro quo situation. We have the same problem with the atlantic coast pipeline as well with this administration. And I just let's open it for more questions. Any other questions from the media? Yeah, comments now to permit harding. I think you mean yes. Are there other things that could be done to those permits plants? Yes, speak to that? No one else wants to add it. So there are two open permit um permits right now. Foreign Viva, North Hampton and Aviva Sampson. Both of them are kind of standard permits in North Hampton County. This is a standard title five permit that industries are supposed to get one year after they began operation in this case because of several changes to the permit and other unknown delays. It's it's been seven years, but They are right now applying for their title five permit. So this is really from what I understand from, from the lawyers who are experts on this issue is this permit is really just an opportunity to kind of compile all of the information about the plant and ensure that everything is in compliance. So, unlike other permits that we've seen in previous years that allowed for expansions of the facility, this permit doesn't allow for any expansion and it's, it's not really anything that would allow the plant to, you know, it doesn't stop it from operating. However, with North Hampton County, this is an opportunity for the EQ to require in Viva to install a fugitive dust control plan, which is what reverend harding was referencing earlier. There have been many complaints in the community about the dust, yet neither in Viva on its own accord, has installed these more stringent controls and the EQ has not required them to do so. So that is what the community is asking for right now, with this title. Five permit, North Hampton County in Sampson County. From what I understand this permit is the result of A lawsuit in 2019, brought um by cleaner Carolina under Southern Environmental Law Center. And because of that lawsuit, and we've agreed to a settlement to install additional air pollution controls at Sampson County and Richmond County. So in viva did not do this on their own accord. It was only when the legal matter was brought forward to the EQ that either D E. Q. Or in viva took action on the issue. And so that permit in Sampson County right now is, is really just to ensure the additional um appliance of those air pollution controls. Very briefly, the about three years ago air quality came until Northampton County. They wanted to put in a an air monitoring station and that station was placed at a local high school. But and it was it was basically to make, you know, to present forth an effort that we're doing what we can to ensure that you're safe. But there were several facilities surrounding that are monitoring station so they never really got any good information out of it. So one of the things that we're having is we're having people saying that they're really trying to do what can help, but if people can just come in and see exactly what's going on. Um when you have a facility that's placed directly in the middle of a community, there's a lot of things that's going on with the people that live around it. And and one of the main things that we're asking is to take some of this money you're making to help protect these people because any time you come outside and you got to clean your windshield to leave and be able to go to work and things of that nature it cause some serious problems. And these are issues that we bring forth when they were asking about these permits and they're hearing on monday and we and we were told that it was gonna be only about air pollution but everything that we heard was otherwise from them. So it's very difficult. It's very hard to get people to come out and talk about it. But we want people to understand that they need to speak up about these permits. They need to be vocal, they need to let them know exactly what they're dealing with because that's the only way to get it to get any of these issues addressed. One of the issues with all the permits. And we're actually starting at Eco Justice Co lab in eastern north Carolina with universities. Um, We're at a real disadvantage because we can't hire researchers and scientists. Um, so we're going to form an Eco Justice Co lab and E. J. Cole ab to bring in researchers and the capacity of our higher education students and faculty, uh to develop some indicators of dirty and clean energy. Because all of our economic development projects need to now be evaluated on a scale of 1 to 10 on whether they're dirty or whether they're clean and not. Just listen to the marketing stories from these industries. We clearly know that when something is burned, it's not renewable, it's just not renewable. Wood ballots are not renewable and they're obviously not clean, but they're marketed that way. And if you think about it, it's actually worse than the tobacco industry. All the tobacco industry was said was denial, denial, denial, but this industry is saying not just denial, but we're actually good for the environment, It's good for us to cut your trees down and send them to europe to be burned to create more methane gas. This is not natural gas and it's not renewable natural gas, it is methane gas, which is a more harmful gas, then fossil gas. So we're we're in a real pickle. And then with the AARP in Lumberton, there's political football being played between the political parties. You know, people want to blame cooper for the fact that with the minimal regulations we have around the environment, D. Q. Is doing its job because we have worked with the EQ to alert them to what's happening in Lumberton. There's two lawsuits on a drp and they had problems in Utah in Utah Canada and now in north Carolina, these companies need to be vetted at the state level. And if they reach a A level of four to 10 in terms of dirty industry, we don't need them in north Carolina, we need clean jobs, we need thousands of jobs that can be created through the clean energy economy and the commitment to fully electrify the energy sector. The real problem we're having in north Carolina and the nation for the first time in the history of Environmental protection. And our legislators need to know this and it's sorrowful for me to tell this story. But for the first time in the history of environmental protection in this country, you now have the combined economic and political power of the fossil fuel industry and industrial agriculture with biomass and bio gas. For the first time, industrial agriculture has situated itself in the middle of the energy production sector that has never occurred in history of this country. And when you combine the economic and political power of the fossil fuel industry with industrial industrial agriculture, all of us need to take caution and pause at what that means for those of us that have permitted to the protection and promotion of our sacred environment. We talk about De Que and when we talk about our representatives and I'm not throwing off on you all, but I got to say what I got to say. If you would take the time once you get in your office, is to go back out in these communities that you represent and talk to the people and find out what's going on in their communities and come back and speak to it. I mean, this is what you're supposed to be doing. You're supposed to be protecting the people that you represent. And you know, we don't see them deke you should be held accountable because once you give a permit to somebody, you just don't give a permit and say, I don't need to go back out and see if they're doing what they need to be doing. You shouldn't call me and tell me that you're coming to my house surprise me because if you tell me you come into my house, whatever is not in order. By the time you get there, I'm gonna have it straight. But if you surprise me and I had to talk to social workers at school about that, you know, when our Children are going through, you don't need to call mama said mama, I'll be there at one o'clock work on the weekends and get the police and go there on saturday night and see what's happening with our Children. This is the same thing that you all need to be doing as representatives when you're talking about representing us. If you're gonna represent me representative you ask for my vote, I give it to you, I'm putting basically my future or you know I'm putting you in, I'm in your hands. And if you're not gonna take care of me then don't take the job S. E. D. Q. Is given all these permits to these people. But how much monitoring are they doing? When are they going back and say okay I'm not gonna call and we were just gonna bust up in there and see what's going on. It doesn't happen and they noticed. And then if they are going there somebody at some point in time so we're gonna let them know what y'all know D. Q. Is coming someone today. It's just like when we have um right now we have CNN and our community before when we had the people from the Netherlands there, somebody told them because the trucks wasn't running like they normally run. Business was slow those days. So you know, you have to be cognizant of what you're doing when you take that oath to uphold your your office and say that you're going to protect me, then protect me. Because just like I say, they talked about so much money night, it made me sick. Oh they supported this and they gave this and they gave that with no concern at all to the people that are directly right there, no concern whatsoever is about money. Money can't buy health money can't buy happiness, but I can't go out in my yard and work because of the particulars that I'm breathing in and is making my nose run, my eyes run and I can't breathe. And I got to go back in my house. I'm a prisoner in my own home. I was there before they got there, been there all my life. But then it's okay for them to come into my community and disrupt my livelihood. And I'm supposed to take it and not say anything. And then we have a governor, we have representatives to say, you know, you all our constituents. And then once, you know, like I said, you get where you need to be. You forget who put you there. It's not right. So I'm just saying to Governor cooper, whoever else is listening. It's time out. It is time out of putting profit over people because that's all they're doing is probably not, I'm not against economic development, I had to work, but I'm against economic development. That's going to harm my health. I'm against economic development. That's going to take away my livelihood. So, you know, I have no problem. The trucks running up and down the highway, but don't kill me in the process. Yeah. And um, I just got notice of the decision that comes out of the Netherlands. Uh, friends of the Earth Netherlands sued Shell, which is a dutch based company for the damage they had done to the climate due to their practices and the courts in the Netherlands found Shell guilty. Now, why am I mentioning that we're talking here about holding companies accountable and companies that know the damage they're doing. This is a landmark decision by the corpse of the Netherlands to hold Shell accountable. They had been ordered now to reduce their Um emissions by 45% by 2030. That is serious business coming from the court of the Netherlands. And so what as Miss Belinda was saying in terms of our elected officials are regulatory agencies, accountability is important not only to the company's, as has been said, but also to the citizens and everyone has said we are not anti business, There's a lot of money to be made in renewable energies. And I come from Robinson, which is number one in the state for the development of solar solar panels. We have not seen that impact in our economy and Robinson County because all of the benefits go out. But what I'm saying to bring that up in relationship to the to the decision out of the Netherlands is that yes, companies can do the right thing and thank you Representative for what you said, they can do the right thing, but they have to be forced sometimes to do that. And that's what we're asking today, is to keep the feet to the fire so that what they know they need to do and what in some cases they've been told to do by legal settlements that we're asking them to follow through. Thank you. I wanted to share it quick start on the pollution. I'm sorry. I didn't have this earlier. Um a 2018 report by the environmental integrity project found that 21 wood pellet mills exporting to the EU um it thousands of tons of particulate matter that's fine dust, carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, that smog and volatile organic compounds, docs per year, each of which are associated with a range of illnesses from respiratory and heart disease to cancer. The wood pellet mills also admit 3.1 million tonnes of greenhouse gases per year. And that report is by environmental integrity project. And it's, I can send it to all. It's got a ton of information on the air pollutants from these industries and how they've scared of the Clean Air Act. Thank you all for being here today. We are offer the same invitation to the industry anytime they like to have the press conference room to share their concerns. We welcome that because we're legislators, we'd like to get both sides of the issue. We we enjoy debate. Is that right? But jones we enjoy debate. So we we don't mind that because we all want to be fair and do the right thing. But I mean, you've had some compelling statements you made today and we get it and we understand it and we hope that we can do what we can as legislators and that's why I was so important today uh to have your voice heard. I mean, I was I will admit I was like because everybody was calling me from all directions about this. I'm honest, I was all directions, but I still thought it was the right thing to do, and I still believe it's the right thing to do. So I hope my little part I played today will make a difference in your life and your community. Thank you. Mhm. I'd like to just thank Representative Pierce. We want to thank you and I just have to say a word. You know, our elected officials that are ministers and those of us that are ministers. Um it's are called.