Local group opposes permit for world’s largest wood pellet plant in predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood

Press release | August 15, 2022

ADEL, Georgia – August 5, on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Cook County (4C), the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a request with the Georgia Office of State Administrative Hearings to appeal an air quality permit that would allow construction of the world’s largest wood pellet plant adjacent to a predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhood.

Wood pellet factories release air particles that create air quality problems and are linked to serious health problems, such as asthma and heart disease. These harmful facilities are often built near predominantly black and Hispanic neighborhoods, continuing a legacy of environmental injustice in areas that already face an unfair share of pollution.

The issuance by the Environmental Protection Division of the permit authorizing the construction of the Spectrum wood pellet plant in West Adel is in breach of the Clean Air Act and threatens health and welfare of local residents who raised their concerns with the agency in two separate comment letters. In addition to violations of the Clean Air Act, EPD’s decision to allow a facility to be built first and then tested later circumvents non-discrimination goals set by the Environmental Protection Agency to enable meaningful participation in the process, protect public health and welfare, and prevent pollution.

The Spectrum wood pellet plant is not the first of its kind proposed: in 2021, EPD issued a permit to the Renewable Biomass Group, which is expected to produce 450,000 metric tons per year of industrial wood pellets.

“Since Spectrum was first proposed, concerned citizens of Cook County have alerted Superintendent Dunn that a second harmful wood pellet plant in Adel would be detrimental to the health of residents by further diminishing the quality air and increasing cases of asthma, heart disease, lung disease. , and other diseases,” says Dr. Treva Gear, founding member of 4C. “Our community deserves better. Economic progress should not equate to our black, Hispanic, and poor neighborhoods being treated as a sacrifice zone for repeated environmental injustices. Residents of Adel’s west side live alongside industries that have been polluting our air and water for decades, and it must stop. Clean air and clean water are a human right. We just need to breathe.

“The Environmental Protection Division has a responsibility to fully understand the toxicity and nuisance of wood pellet plants on Cook County residents before approving a permit,” says Jennifer Whitfield, senior attorney at the office. of Georgia from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “The agency’s mandate to protect the public welfare requires it to administer its permit programs in a non-discriminatory manner, which is clearly not what has been done here.”

“The community of West Adel already faces multiple environmental issues: contaminated groundwater, foul odors associated with a local propane company, the existing pellet plant, and now this. The Spectrum pellet plant alone proposed would be a problem. Coupled with the existing misdeeds in the neighborhood, its operation is beyond unsustainable. None of us would want the same daily environmental threats in our own neighborhoods, and the smooth operation of civil rights and environmental law should not allow it for the citizens of West Adel,” said Chandra Taylor-Sawyer, head of the SELC’s Environmental Justice Initiative. “EPD has a golden opportunity to bring justice to those who live in proximity to the factory proposed by Spectrum and to revoke the permit.”

Since it was filed on August 5, the petition has had a stay until Georgia’s Office of State Administrative Hearings details the next steps in the case.

Chronology

On January 28, 2021, EPD rejected a request from environmental groups to comment on a draft permit authorizing Renewable Biomass Group to build and operate a new wood pellet plant in Adel.

In October 2021, Spectrum applied for a permit to build and operate a wood pellet manufacturing plant with a capacity of 600,000 tons of wood pellets per year in phase 1 and 1,320,000 tons in phase 2. Operating at full capacity, Spectrum would become the largest pellet manufacturing plant in the world.

On November 19, 2021, 4C and 14 other public interest organizations submitted comments opposing Spectrum’s license application, raising concerns that the application was incomplete and did not contain sufficient information. to assess the potential impact of the plant.

In December 2021, Spectrum submitted a revised license application.

On March 28, 2022, EPD sought public comment on Spectrum’s revised draft permit.

On May 2, 2022, 4C and 13 other public interest organizations resubmitted comments, raising concerns about insufficient air pollution controls and information to assess the potential impact of the plant on the local community.

On July 8, 2022, the permit was approved for Spectrum to begin two phases of construction and operation. None of the 14 public interest groups that submitted comments were notified of the issuance of the permit and the deadline for requesting a permit hearing.

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