General Statement from Rev. Leo Woodberry as to why we took the action that we did:
I’ve been involved in environmental justice movements for 19 years now, that’s working in the state of South Carolina, regionally, nationally, as well as doing some work internationally. Our chief concern and our main reason for the protest is because of Enviva’s plan to expand the plant in Greenwood, South Carolina. Other companies are also planning to expand their facilities, like Westinghouse whose plan to expand for 40 years, in the Richland County area, Santee Cooper in the Georgetown area, and Dominion Energy in the Pamplico area and in some other places. Our chief concern is that we know that there are pollutants that are released into the air whenever we have emissions. And during this COVID pandemic where people in communities like that, who have pre-existing conditions, such as asthma. We should take into consideration the fact that we should not put people’s lives at risk.
At this time during the pandemic. It is better to err on the side of caution. And to assure that human lives are not put at risk and in jeopardy. When we look at South Carolina, and we look at where most of these polluting facilities are located, they are located in what we call environmental justice communities, which are low-income communities and communities that are predominantly people of color, such as the Greenwood plant. And when we look at these communities, African American children are 10 times more likely to contract asthma than their white counterparts, and four times more likely to die from it. We also know that respiratory problems like asthma are one of the things that make people more susceptible to COVID. And when we look at South Carolina, and these SC DHEC’s statistics, African Americans make up 27% of the population, but we are 43% of the deaths.
And so, we are asking SC DHEC not to grant a permit for the ENVIVA plant expansion while COVID is spiking in our state and lives are being put at risk. And we’re also asking because not only did we go and protest at the head office of SC DHEC on Bull Street in Columbia, SC, but we also went to the governor’s mansion, where we are asking the governor to also put a pause on all facilities that may impact the quality and put people’s lives at risk during this COVID pandemic. And so just as the governor could issue an order to pause the activities on beaches, in bars, and in schools, in places of worship, and retail establishments, we can also request a pause in the activities of polluting facilities that impact our air quality. We ask that a pause be put in place for companies such as ENVIVA, especially since the wood pellet industry, in which ENVIVA is the number one producer of, is not an essential service for the citizens or the economy of South Carolina.
There is no market for biomass wood pellets in the United States. Those wood pellets are sold to and used in Asia and the European Union. So while it is DHEC’s job to oversee the quality of our water, air, and land, their first responsibility is to protect the public health for the citizens of this state. And so that’s why we are calling on them not to permit the ENVIVA expansion and other polluter expansions or constructs. That is also why we are calling on Governor McMaster to put a halt to what may increase the number of illnesses and deaths in our beloved state.
Rev. Leo Woodberry