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PNS Daily Newscast - December 8, 2017 


In focus on our Friday rundown; two members of Congress are stepping down over sexual misconduct allegations; the BLM suspends natural gas waste standards; and we have a noted historian's take on the GOP Tax plan.

Daily Newscasts

At What Cost? NC Forests Fueling Clean Air in Europe

Dogwood Alliance and Sierra Club produced an informational video on the damage forest harvesting is doing to parts of eastern North Carolina. (Hendy Street Produxions)
October 12, 2017

CLINTON, N.C. -- North Carolina's hardwood forests - located in the eastern part of the state - are becoming a high demand commodity for a growing energy industry.

Parts of Europe are transitioning to the use of wood pellets for power generation and the heating of their homes and businesses. It's part of their effort to meet requirements for reduced carbon emissions.

But Dr. Robert Parr with Medical Advocates for Healthy Air said wood pellets actually could be worse than burning coal.

"The problem with wood pellets is that it's an industry that's been formed based on misinterpretations of science,” Parr said. "When you add it all up, you find that the only way that can possibly work is if all the emissions at the power plant are not counted."

Parr is also concerned about the increased amount of particulate matter released into the atmosphere with the cutting down of trees and the process it takes to turn them into pellets.

There are three wood pellet plants in North Carolina, located in Sampson, Northampton and Ahoskie counties. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. exports of wood pellets more than doubled between 2012 and 2014, making this country the largest global exporter of pellets.

Jack Spruill owns farm and woodland in Washington County and has been working on a conservation project to protect the hardwoods. He said claims that wood pellets are a wholly renewable resource are false, because when trees are replanted, they're rarely replaced with the hardwood varieties that were there.

"There is just very little planting. And the whole idea that it's a renewable energy resource because it's being replanted is just totally wrong,” Spruill said. "If you rely on natural regeneration, that is very, very slow."

Parr said poor air quality near wood pellet plants causes increased cardiac and pulmonary disease, diabetes, high blood pressure and dementia. And as a former emergency room doctor, he's concerned about the long-term impact on the citizens of North Carolina.

"We have an area that already has low health parameters, and then we have these plants that are coming in and the plants have multiple stages where they release these toxic chemicals,” he said.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 60 percent of the 30 million acres of bottomland forests that once covered the southeastern United States have been destroyed.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC