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Wood from the Carolinas is increasingly being used overseas for energy. While the industry creates jobs, communities are also paying a price. Our ongoing coverage looks at the local and global policy debate and the communities feeding the world’s appetite for wood energy.

North Carolina DEQ grants air quality permit to Sampson County wood pellet plant

 The main office at Enviva's wood pellet plant in Sampson County, NC.
Celeste Gracia
The main office at Enviva's wood pellet plant in Sampson County, NC.

North Carolina environmental regulators have approved an air quality permit for a wood pellet plant in Sampson County.

The state Department of Environmental Quality Division of Air Quality said the so-called Title V operating permit requires no major changes at the Enviva plant in Faison, about 60 miles southeast of Raleigh. The permit is required under the federal Clean Air Act and was reviewed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

The plant produces wood pellets to be burned for energy, mainly in Europe. Enviva is the world's largest supplier of wood pellets. It has been growing thanks to rules that allow producers to treat wood as zero-carbon energy.

In a public hearing and written comments, environmental and social justice groups had sought stronger requirements for dust around the plant. But regulators said they were not needed because there had been no complaints.

The permit allows the plant to emit some potentially hazardous substances but sets limits — 250 tons per year for volatile organic compounds and 25 tons per year for other hazardous air pollutants.

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David Boraks is a veteran journalist who covers climate change for WFAE. See more at www.wfae.org/climate-news. He also has covered housing and homelessness, energy and the environment, transportation and business.