Investigation Shows Forests Destroyed to Supply Biomass

WASHINGTON – A new investigation exposes how valuable forests and ecosystems in the U.S. Southeast face devastation from demand for “biomass” energy.

The recent photographic evidence gathered by the Natural Resources Defense CouncilDogwood Alliance, and the Southern Environmental Law Center documents the ecological destruction of biomass sourced from clear-cut forests to supply Enviva, the world’s largest wood-pellet producer. Millions of tons of Enviva’s pellets are burned in power plants to produce electricity abroad – primarily in the UK and other countries in Europe, and, increasingly, Japan.

Burning wood for electricity accelerates climate change, destroys forests and increases emissions of dangerous air pollutants.

The new documentary evidence revealed today shows how forests in the U.S. Southeast are clearcut and whole trees and other large-diameter wood sent to the industrial mills of Enviva to be manufactured into pellets. This investigation demonstrates that what Enviva calls “low grade” wood often encompasses mature trees that have been locking up carbon for decades or more. Burning them spews that carbon into the atmosphere, worsening our climate crisis.

“There’s nothing green about devastating these stunning forests and then burning the wood in dirty power plants,” said Sasha Stashwick, senior advocate at the Natural Resources Defense Council. “This investigation lets the public see with its own eyes the reality of this destructive industry.”

Enviva’s wood pellet mills are located in areas that already endure some of the highest logging rates in the world, with surrounding communities suffering high poverty rates and facing the threat of flooding from climate change.

“These forests and wetlands play a vital role in keeping our people safe from the worst impacts of flooding and storm surges,” said Rita Frost, campaigns director at Dogwood Alliance, which conducted the investigation. “No one can look at these horrific images and conclude that slashing forests and burning the wood for electricity is a viable solution to our climate crisis.”

This photographic evidence demonstrates the destruction necessary to supply Enviva’s operations, a reality the company failed to mention while unveiling a new “responsible sourcing policy” earlier this month.  

In its Global Assessment Report last month, the UN revealed that a million species are at risk of extinction as natural ecosystems are destroyed. It emphasized the role of human activity in the depletion of forests other wild landscapes. Forests in the U.S. Southeast are under severe stress as they are being logged at four times the rate of that of the Amazon.

The full investigation booklet, “Global Markets for Biomass Energy are Devastating U.S. Forests,” can be found here.

The high-resolution images from the investigations can be found here:

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The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Since 1970, our lawyers, scientists, and other environmental specialists have worked to protect the world's natural resources, public health, and the environment. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Bozeman, MT, and Beijing. Visit us at and follow us on Twitter @NRDC.

Dogwood Alliance is a nonprofit environmental organization based in the Southern United States that mobilizes diverse voices to protect Southern forests and communities from destructive industrial logging. The group’s Our Forests Aren’t Fuel campaign is part of an international coalition opposing industrial-scale forest biomass energy. Learn more at and follow us on Twitter @DogwoodAlliance.

For more than 30 years, the Southern Environmental Law Center has used the power of the law to champion the environment of the Southeast. With more than 80 attorneys and nine offices across the region, SELC is widely recognized as the Southeast’s foremost environmental organization and regional leader. SELC works on a full range of environmental issues to protect our natural resources and the health and well-being of all the people in our region.




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