There’s a Booming Enterprise in America’s Forests. Some Aren’t Comfortable About It.

Pellet makers supply wooden from 1000’s of landowners, who are sometimes wanting to earn income to offset land taxes. Enviva opened its first mill in Ahoskie, N.C., in 2011, promising to make pellets primarily from wooden “residues” resembling tree tops, branches and sawdust with no different market.

When land is logged, the thick, straight trunks usually go to a sawmill that churns out issues like two-by-fours. Pellet makers take small items which will haven’t any different market and vie with makers of paper, cardboard containers and diaper fluff for the remaining. About 3 p.c of harvested wooden from the South goes to pellets, in accordance with Consuelo Brandeis, a analysis forester with the USA Forest Service.

Environmental teams say they’ve documented truckloads of logs and entire bushes, not simply leftovers, getting into pellet mills. Publicly out there pictures present logs stacked at mills, and a reporter outdoors a pellet mill entrance noticed vans of logs getting into.

Pellet makers’ pledges to depend on waste wooden “painted them right into a nook,” mentioned Robert Abt, a forest economist at North Carolina State College in Raleigh, as a result of the wood-products business already used its provides comparatively effectively, leaving little waste.

Whereas longer items of wooden which are too crooked or knotted for sawmills do make up a part of Enviva’s provide, Jennifer Jenkins, Enviva’s chief sustainability officer, who holds a Ph.D. in ecosystem ecology, mentioned the corporate’s sourcing was sustainable as a result of it buys solely from landowners who decide to regrow bushes, and since the Southeast’s forests total are increasing. Pellets sourced from such areas ought to be thought-about carbon impartial, in accordance with accounting guidelines laid out by the Intergovernmental Panel on Local weather Change, a United Nations physique that gives scientific info on local weather change, Dr. Jenkins mentioned.

Dr. Jenkins mentioned the corporate had put in air air pollution controls that exceed necessities. A neighborhood relations supervisor mentioned he had acquired no noise complaints associated to the Northampton County mill.

The US wooden pellet business, which exported greater than seven million tons of pellets final 12 months, has generated robust opinions in North Carolina.

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