Forty cars traveled the streets of the state capitol in Columbia to protest Enviva’s draft air permit.
“We should not put peoples lives at risk,” Rev. Leo Woodberry, executive director of New Alpha CDC, said at a virtual press conference following the protest.
Woodberry said he was pleased with the turnout of 40 cars.
“We were expecting 25 cars,” Woodberry said.
At the beginning of the press conference, Woodberry introduced members of groups who participated and explained why the groups were protesting.
“Our chief concern is that we know there are pollutants being released into the air,” said Woodberry, who has worked on environmental issues for 19 years. “We are asking DHEC to not grant a permit.”
Woodberry said he is also calling on Gov. Henry McMaster to pause all facilities that affect air quality.
The caravan protest which began at noon Friday started at Zion Baptist Church in Columbia before making a stop at DHEC’s offices on Bull Street before heading to Richland Street where the Governor’s Mansion sits.
Enviva responded to the caravan protest.
“Enviva is committed to sustainability and environmental leadership throughout our operations,” the company said in a statement. “We care about, are engaged with and invest in our communities.”
The statement said the air quality monitors installed near the Greenwood facility show the air quality is rated as “good,” which is the best rating under the EPA’s Air Quality Index.
“Our Greenwood facility operates in accordance with the highest environmental standards,” the statement said.
In February, Enviva submitted a construction permit to DHEC to modify the air permit for its Greenwood facility to install equipment to reduce air emissions and increase production at the facility.
The project included replacing five existing horizontal dry hammermills with 36 new vertical hammermills, adding one new green hammermill, three new pelletizers and one new pellet cooler. The project also includes installing new air pollution control devices and routing dry hammermills to existing air pollution control devices.
The goal is to decrease dust and the overall emissions from the facility.
A public hearing was conducted virtually Aug. 20 as part of DHEC’s technical review process and allowed for the community to voice its opinion on the draft air permit.
Several people spoke in opposition to the permit citing concerns about dust, cutting down trees and Enviva’s compliance history.
Enviva was cited by DHEC for alleged violations of the air permit and regulations. Enviva signed a consent order with DHEC in July which required Enviva to correct opacity and permit requirement deficiencies as well as pay a civil penalty of $13,000.
DHEC reported Thursday that the civil penalty has been paid and the company has updated it’s best management practices plan for dust control, an update from the Bureau of Air Quality said.
During the hearing, many tree farmers spoke in favor of the permit.
“This is vital to the current forest industry,” Charles McKinney, president of a Laurens County forestry group, said.
The Bureau of Air Quality technical review includes a regulatory review, ambient air quality analysis and verifying that the project can meet air quality regulations, DHEC’s Enviva website said.
The public comment period ended Aug. 27.
Enviva is a wood pellet manufacturer located along Highway 246 in Greenwood. Wood pellets produced at this plant can take the place of coal in producing energy. Enviva acquired the Greenwood plant from Colombo Energy in February 2018.