Wood Bioenergy Project

Over the last decade, a rapidly expanding but destructive industry has grown in the U.S. based on cutting down forests to convert the wood into pellets for burning  in power plants, mostly in Europe.  The industry promotes itself as a “climate friendly” alternative to burning coal. But in reality, the manufacture and burning of wood pellets creates large amounts of air pollution—frequently illegally—and destroys woodlands needed for wildlife habitat, water filtration, the production of oxygen, and the sequestration of carbon dioxide. EIP’s work has revealed that more than half of the U.S. wood pellet plants built to feed foreign demand for biomass are emitting illegal air pollution or have failed to install legally-required pollution controls.

Mission:

Limit the growth of the wood bioenergy industry in the United States and the associated climate change driven by deforestation and air pollution.

Guiding Principles:

  • Burning wood biomass to produce energy generally produces more carbon emissions than burning fossil fuels per unit of electricity generated. Further, producing and burning wood biomass releases air toxics and other pollutants.
  • Successful advocacy depends on building partnerships with national, regional and local environmental, public health, and community organizations.

Current Strategies:

  • Review Clean Air Act permits for existing and proposed wood bioenergy plants to ensure that facilities are required to comply with all applicable aspects of the Clean Air Act.
  • Challenge permits in state and federal proceedings when permits fail to restrict pollution to legal levels or otherwise allow plants to skirt Clean Air Act requirements.
  • Partner with organizations, such as Dogwood Alliance, Partnership for Policy Integrity, and Our Children’s Earth and Natural Resources Defense Council to educate the general public and impacted communities about bioenergy pollution.

Progress:

  • Since the Wood Bioenergy Project’s January 2017 inception, we have identified systemic deficiencies in Clean Air Act permits for wood pellet plants, challenged permits in seven states, and built a coalition dedicated to ensuring that bioenergy facilities comply with stringent air pollution control requirements.
  • We have developed considerable expertise in bioenergy plant emissions and technology, making us very effective at identifying Clean Air Act violations and challenging inadequate permits.

Research:

  • Our investigation revealed all wood pellet production plants permitted prior to 2014 dramatically underestimated projected air pollution levels, resulting in construction permits that unlawfully exclude air pollution control requirements for large air polluters. Moreover, states are attempting to renew these permits without addressing this ongoing noncompliance.
  • We discovered that numerous existing wood pellet production facilities are violating Clean Air Act requirements and that many proposed facilities are holding lax construction permits requiring inadequate pollution control.

Action:

  • We filed comments on wood pellet and biomass power plant permits in North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Michigan, Mississippi, Texas, and Florida raising an array of Clean Air Act compliance issues; we are preparing comments on a permit for pellet plants in Alabama and Louisiana as well.
  • We opposed U.S. EPA’s proposed approval of a Georgia regulation that exempts bioenergy plants from certain Clean Air Act preconstruction permitting requirements.
  • We are developing strategies to address Clean Air Act violations at facilities where no permit proceedings are imminent and to block facility construction authorized by deficient permits.