Our Forests Aren’t Fuel
To: The Netherlands House of Representatives
Contacts for response:
Rita Frost, U.S.A. email@example.com
Adam Collette, U.S.A. firstname.lastname@example.org
Maarten Visschers, Netherlands email@example.com
Fenna Swart, Netherlands firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Immediately place a moratorium on imports of wood pellets from the United States and terminate Dutch government subsidies for imported wood biomass (SDE++)
Date: June 19, 2022
Dear Members of the House of Representatives,
As organizations based in the Southern United States, we are writing to you to call for an immediate moratorium of wood pellets from our region and to encourage the Netherlands biomass phase out plan to be implemented in the most prompt fashion possible. By living in the region that is the world’s largest producer of wood pellets, we have seen how wood pellet biomass is an egregious greenwash of “renewable energy” and that its production and consumption have adverse impacts on climate, forests, and our communities.
Dutch renewable energy policies harm our communities and forests
Since 2012, imports of biomass wood pellets from the southern United States have fed Dutch power stations for heat and electricity. Over the course of this time, 3,200,000 tonnes of biomass have been sent from our Southern forests to be burned. It’s been a decade of this energy trade regime, all driven by renewable energy policies in the Netherlands. Scores of scientific reports and analyses1www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/14/eu-must-not-burn-the-worlds-forests-for-renewabl e-energy have shown the detriment this causes to communities, forests, and the climate. Wood pellet biomass demand has harmed our communities and forests’ health, essentially making the Southern United States a sacrifice zone for Dutch energy demand. Our communities have been harmed, their economies have gotten worse, and while we may have a lot of trees, we are losing more and more forests.
3,200,000 tonnes of wood pellets over the past decade has required 31,080 hectares of forests2media.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Acres-of-Pellets-Fact-Sheet.pdf to be clearcut in the biodiversity hotspot of the North American Coastal Plain-– an area close to the size of 1.5 Amsterdams. Despite industry’s claims of “sustainable supply,” we are seeing our forests disappearing.
Enviva’s practices harm forests and send carbon into the atmosphere
A new report3www.southernenvironment.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Biomass-White-Page.pdf by the Southern Environmental Law Center analyzed satellite images of forest cover loss and harvest around Enviva’s pellet mills in northeastern North Carolina and southeastern Virginia. Enviva steadily supplies Netherlands energy companies with wood pellets. The research established that hardwood forest harvesting increased in the area around these 3 mills after Enviva started operating. Forest harvesting even exceeded the previous harvest levels of the forestry industry in years past.
From 2011-2016, there was a net loss of hardwood forest cover in the area around Enviva’s pellet mills. From 2016-2018, Enviva’s three mills consumed nearly half of all wood from hardwood forest clearings in the sourcing area. Enviva has contributed to overall declines in carbon stocks in hardwood forests in the mill area and part of the blame must be put on the source of the demand, which includes the Netherlands.
This amount of forests that have been lost and consequently burned as wood pellets have sent up an amount of CO2 that is equivalent to 5,862,259 additional cars on the road for a year4www.epa.gov/energy/greenhouse-gas-equivalencies-calculator#results. Almost any other choice of energy would be better. The reality has been hidden behind jargon such as “sustainable biomass,” “forest residues” and “biologically sequestered carbon.” The latter refers to the millions of tons of CO2 that comes out of the smokestack from burning biomass, but which Netherlands carbon accounts completely ignore.
Wood pellet production worsens Environmental Racism
Dutch sign-on letter June 19 Communities on the frontlines of industrial logging are suffering from the Netherlands energy policy. Newspaper headlines over the years have included, “Europe’s wood pellet market is worsening environmental racism in the American South,”5scalawagmagazine.org/2020/10/wood-pellet-environmental-racism-part-one and “How marginalized communities in the South are paying the price for ‘green energy’ in Europe.”6edition.cnn.com/interactive/2021/07/us/american-south-biomass-energy-invs This reporting is not only in the media, but is backed up by scientific journals as well. Wood pellet facilities in the U.S. that feed Netherlands energy markets are 50% more likely to be located in environmental justice designated communities.7www.liebertpub.com/doi/10.1089/env.2017.0025 Environmental justice communities are those with counties where the poverty level is above the state median and at least 25% of the population is nonwhite.
If industrial logging, or wood pellet biomass production facilities, were a means of economic development, then these communities should be some of the richest in the world. Yet Enviva has yet to jump-start the local economies in the counties where it has plants. For example, Enviva has operated a plant in Northampton County, North Carolina, since 2014. Since that time, the poverty rate has actually increased from 26.3% to 28.5%8ncpolicywatch.com/2018/11/09/half-truths-and-sometimes-no-truth-at-all-public-debates-pollution-limits-at-envivas-wood-pellet-plant-in-hamlet. Communities suffer from air impacts of wood pellet production facilities, dust, constant noise, loss of forests, and loss of peace.
Wood Pellet Production Creates Air Pollution
The Environmental Integrity Project examined the wood pellet mills that export to Europe and found numerous schemes to skirt federal Clean Air Act regulations as well as finding that at least a third violated their permit limits and released illegal amounts of pollution. Wood pellet facilities have a history of dirty deception: more than half of wood pellet plants in the Southern United States either failed to keep emissions below legal limits or failed to install required pollution controls9www.environmentalintegrity.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Biomass-Report.pdf. Since 2001, over 50 fires and/or explosions have been reported at wood pellet biomass facilities across the United States, endangering both employees and communities further10www.dogwoodalliance.org/2022/01/fires-at-wood-pellet-facilities-what-you-need-to-know.
Loss of natural forests
The IPCC report in April 2022 sent a very clear and final warning that we must rapidly cut emissions to avert climate disaster. It also highlighted that nature, like ecosystems such as intact natural forests, is critical to stopping climate change. Demand for biomass has meant logging forests in the southeast U.S.– mature forests that are rich in wildlife, and are naturally growing. The result of these additional harvests is a large initial increase in carbon emissions, creating a carbon debt, which increases over time as more trees are harvested for continuing bioenergy use. Regrowing trees may eventually pay off this carbon debt, but regrowth takes time the world does not have to solve climate change11www.woodwellclimate.org/letter-regarding-use-of-forests-for-bioenergy.
When forests are clearcut for biomass production, they are occasionally replaced with a plantation of trees, grown in rows, and are a monoculture. Since 1953, the U.S. South has lost over 33 million acres of natural forest, and gained 40 million acres of pine plantations12media.dogwoodalliance.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/A-History-of-Forests.pdf. Natural forests store 50% more carbon than planted forests. To stop climate change, we need to keep carbon out of the atmosphere. The biomass industry is extending the reaches of industrial logging and making their practices worse.
Immediate moratorium on imports
As advocates in the fight against climate change and for environmental protection and social justice, we recognize the Dutch government’s important role in these areas and its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect forests, and safeguard the species that depend on them. To do so, we urge the Dutch Government to place an immediate moratorium on imports of all wood pellet biomass from the Southern United States. Enviva and other suppliers have not shown that they can supply wood pellets that are sustainable in terms of climate change, biodiversity, or community well-being. Sustainable forest management is not a proxy for accounting for the greenhouse gas impacts of burning wood pellets.
The Netherlands is on the right path to phase out biomass. We urge you that this comes with an immediate moratorium on wood pellets from the United States.
We ask you to have a video call with representatives from our groups in order to discuss more, prior to the EZK Commission debate on biomass.
Supported by three Dutch leadersorganizations:
Fenna Swart, Clean Air Committee, Johan Vollenbroek, Mobilisation for the Environment And Maarten Visschers, Leefmilieu.
Athens County’s Future Action Network
Carolina Wetlands Association
Clean Water NC
Climate Reality Project, Charlotte
Coastal Plain Conservation Group
Concerned Citizens of Northampton County
Concerned Citizens of Richmond County
Earth Action, Inc.
Economics, Environmental, Climate, and Health Organization
Friends of the Earth
Environmental Integrity Project
Global Justice Ecology Project
Impacted Communities Against Wood Pellets
John Muir Project
Last Tree Laws
Massachusetts Forest Watch
Mangrove Action Project
NAACP, Charlotte Mecklenburg
NAACP, NC Environmental Justice Committee
Natural Resources Defense Council
North Carolina Climate Solutions Coalition
Partnership for Policy Integrity
Plastic Ocean Project, Inc.
Quit Carbon North Carolina
Rachel Carson Council
Robeson County Cooperative for Sustainable Development
Southern Environmental Law Center
Southern Forests Conservation Coalition Southwings
Spruill Farm Conservation Project
Swan View Coalition
The Enviro Show
Toxic Free NC
Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy