The Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality is requiring a Morehouse Parish wood pellet manufacturing plant to install pollution control equipment following complaints from an environmental group.
The Environmental Integrity Project released a letter from the DEQ on Tuesday about the plant near Bastrop. The wood pellets manufactured at the Drax Group’s operations are transported to the Port of Greater Baton Rouge, where they are stored, then exported to Britain. In Britain, the wood pellets are smashed into sawdust and burned as fuel for power plants, instead of coal.
“LDEQ is persuaded that the wood pellet manufacturing facility is a major stationary source under the Prevention of Significant Deterioration program,” the agency said.
The Environmental Integrity Project and Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade filed written comments with the DEQ in spring 2018 over the renewal of Drax’s air pollution control permit. The groups said the biomass industry releases not only millions of tons of greenhouse gases but also tons of soot particles that can trigger asthma and heart attacks, as well as carcinogens and smog-forming pollutants.
“This is good news for air quality and the local community because we know that Drax can reduce the plant’s emissions to legal levels without cutting jobs,” said Environmental Integrity Project attorney Patrick Anderson. “In fact, the air pollution control technology that the Drax Morehouse plant needs to install is already being successfully used, for example, at a plant in Georgia. And the Georgia plant produces more wood pellets, while releasing less air pollution.”
Officials with Drax said they do not know what will be required to reduce pollution at the Morehouse plant or its other facilities.
Drax, a British company, operates three wood pellet-producing plants in the U.S.: Morehouse Parish, Urania in La Salle Parish and Gloster, Mississippi.
The plants take in low-quality trees and shred the soft pine down to wood pellets. The pellets are trucked to the Baton Rouge port and stored in large domes until they are transferred to Britain.
Keri Powell, a spokeswoman for the Environmental Integrity Project, said she understands that the DEQ test results for Drax’s Morehouse plant has been given to Mississippi regulators. The company is in the process of updating its permit application for the Gloster plant.
“We’re glad to see the Louisiana DEQ has responded to comments and put Drax under compliance,” Powell said.