Drax pollution

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Burning coal is deadly, burning wood pellets is criminal

Life is what happens between the first and the last breath. Breathing is not optional. Medical research shows the particulate matter (PM) damage to our health begins before we are born. Exposure to pollution during pregnancy may affect a child’s breathing and learning skills.  

PM 2.5 increases mortality of Covid-19

Coronavirus patients living in areas with high levels of air pollution are more likely to die. Researchers at the Harvard University School of Public Health found that higher levels of fine particulate matter – the invisible particles in the air known as PM 2.5 – increase death rates from Covid-19.

Sources of PM 2.5

Unlike other major air pollutants – ground-level ozone, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and nitrogen dioxide – particulate air pollution is defined by size rather than the chemicals it contains. PM, typically reported in micrograms per cubic meter – the smaller these particulates are, the more damage they can wreak on the human body. Which is why they’re regulated in the United States by the Clean Air Act.

PM 2.5 comes primarily from combustion. Fireplaces, vehicles, and coal or natural gas power plants are all major PM 2.5 sources. Some states require yearly emissions inspections, but Arkansas is more concerned with zero-emission electric vehicles, with a $200 annual registration fee.

Drax Group

The UK Drax Group doubles down on deforestation, production and transportation of wood pellets in Arkansas, pretending to save the planet. If pellet mills are environmentally sound, good for the forests, economic drivers, and centers of job creation, why is Drax not using UK forests?

If you look at their website, Drax.com, you will be amazed at their sustainability ambitions, their plans for the Glasgow UN Climate Change Conference (COP 26), a climate partnership with the United States, and cartoons showing Drax’ decarbonization progress.  

Here are the facts: Wood pellet mills release large amounts of harmful air pollutants including PM 2.5, volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide, greenhouse gases, acetaldehyde, formaldehyde, and methanol. Breathing the pollutants emitted from wood pellet plants can trigger many health problems for children, the elderly, and people with respiratory diseases.

Wood pellet mills create PM 2.5 emissions

Last July, the Mendocino, Calif., community demanded the Calpella wood pellet plant close during the Covid-19 pandemic. The petition said although the mill finally, after several modifications, meets the official air quality requirements, community members in the Calpella area are concerned for their health as Covid-19 is spiking in Mendocino.

Meeting air quality standards is not enough. Air pollution from 40-ton diesel logging trucks destroying the roads, for example, are not included.

EPA Air Quality standards were “rolled back” before the pandemic and then dismissed to deal with the economic crisis. In March 2020, the EPA gave an open license to pollute during the pandemic.

Drax plans to build three new Arkansas wood pellet mills

The Arkansas Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ) recently granted Drax three major source Title V air permits, giving Drax the right to build the mills:

Arkansas BioEnergy Russellville, LLC – Permit No. 2421-AOP-R0

Arkansas BioEnergy Bearden, LLC – Permit Number: 2422-AOP-R0

Arkansas BioEnergy Leola, LLC – Permit Number: 2420-AOP-R0

How did we get to this point?

Arkansas has very lax environmental protection rules. To build a pellet mill, for a nominal fee you can hire a company to incorporate an entity with whatever name you want so you can claim to be an Arkansas business “in good standing.” Then, you can apply for an air quality permit with emissions specifications, and ADEQ will review the application to see if it meets EPA regulations, before the mill is built. ADEQ is not responsible for the type of product you want to make or anything outside the mill.

Now Drax is in Arkansas with a fictitious name and a permit to pollute the air, ignoring the pandemic.

Biden time

Michael Regan, our new Secretary of EPA, is not like the coal lobbyist who was in charge. Regan is the real deal, who had to use an inhaler growing up in North Carolina.

Dr. Luis Contreras

6 COMMENTS

  1. Why would we trust “Arkansas BioEnergy” if they are using an alias and have kept their plans in the woods?

    Drax Biomass had air quality problems in Louisiana. – Here are the details

    Washington, DC – Louisiana regulators announced they will require a wood pellet manufacturing plant in the northeastern part of the state to install pollution control systems to reduce smog-forming emissions from the Drax Morehouse BioEnergy plant. The 3.5 year-old plant near Bastrop, Louisiana, chops up trees to produce 578,000 tons of wood pellets a year that are burned in power plants to generate electricity, mostly in Europe.

    In May and July 2018, the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), along with the Delta Chapter of the Sierra Club, the Louisiana Environmental Action Network, and the Louisiana Bucket Brigade, filed written comments to the state challenging a proposed renewal of Drax’s air pollution control permit. The groups argued that the plant appeared to be emitting volatile organic compounds in an amount several times higher than the plant’s 250 ton per year limit.

    In a letter received by EIP, the Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality announced that information provided by the groups as well as conversations with Drax had “persuaded” the agency that the plant is a “major” source of air pollution. As a result, state regulators have placed the Drax plant on a mandatory “compliance schedule” requiring it to install the required air pollution controls.

    https://environmentalintegrity.org/news/louisiana-orders-wood-pellet-plant-to-install-air-pollution-controls/

  2. Disclaimer:

    I write based on reliable references and try my best to be honest. The climate emergency keeps me up at night.

    Here is my opinion: As long as Drax keeps spending millions of pounds on BECCS research, Drax will say BECCS is going to happen. Why? Because they have spent too much money transforming their bulk thermal power plant.

    There are superior clean resilient solutions today, but we are running out of time and the laws of physics and thermodynamics are not going to change.

  3. 1. Drax, makes strong claims on climate. Will Gardiner, Drax’s CEO says

    “COP26 in Glasgow gives us a unique opportunity to set a clear pathway to net zero emissions globally. As the newly appointed US Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry puts it ‘it is the last best chance the world has to come together’. It can also act as a forum in which leadership in British technologies can accelerate efforts to tackle the climate emergency, applying our expertise to global problems.”

    “The UK has, in the last decade, decarbonised its electricity system faster than any other in the world. Progressive policies from the government mean companies across the energy sector have invested in renewable electricity technologies including biomass, wind and solar, which have drastically cut carbon emissions. Achievements we should celebrate as the world’s leaders descend on Glasgow.”

    2. Drax says BECCS … is their secret sauce

    “At COP25 in Madrid, I announced Drax’s world-leading ambition to be carbon negative by 2030. This ambition could be achieved by deploying the negative emissions technology, bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS). BECCS is a major opportunity to create and preserve jobs in new clean technologies as we decarbonize the economy.”

    3. You would think Drax has had a BECCS operational for several years with demonstrated results. Drax has the ambition and says in their website BECCS “is critical to achieve net-zero emissions.”

    https://utilityweek.co.uk/will-gardiner-the-next-nine-months-are-critical/

  4. Drax ignores the science.

    Burning wood creates PM2.5 air pollution, which increases the morbidity and mortality of Covid-19

    1. The Guardian November 2020 report says, “Tiny air pollution rise linked to 11% more Covid-19 deaths – study”

    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/nov/04/tiny-air-pollution-rise-linked-to-11-more-covid-19-deaths-study

    2. A 2020 Harvard University Health report says: “One of the first preliminary investigations of this question in the United States, where we found that higher historical PM2.5 exposures are positively associated with higher county-level COVID-19 mortality rates after accounting for many area-level confounders.”

    https://projects.iq.harvard.edu/covid-pm/home/

    3. The New York Times wrote an April 17, 2020, article based on the Harvard Medical report, “New Research Links Air Pollution to Higher Coronavirus Death Rates.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/04/07/climate/air-pollution-coronavirus-covid.html

  5. Drax and the UK are in a dire situation – with negative worldwide implications, as stated in this NRDC December 16, 2020, expert report:

    “Each year, Drax alone burns more wood for electricity than the whole of the UK produces, meaning it must import millions of tonnes of wood pellets from forests around the world to keep its massive boilers running. And because there is simply not enough supply of genuine forestry residues to meet such enormous wood fuel demand, Drax’s supply chain year after year includes whole trees, routinely sourced from clearcuts of mature hardwood and pine forests. These trees are cut down, ground up, then shipped across the ocean to be burned as fuel.”

    “A true green recovery is one that prioritizes the clean, low-cost and abundant climate solutions the UK already has, such as wind and solar. It also means protecting forests, which are the most efficient and powerful carbon-capture system on the planet. No technology that pumps more carbon into the atmosphere or destroys forests should be receiving billpayer funds. Burning trees for electricity does both. UK subsidies for biomass electricity must end now.”

    https://www.nrdc.org/experts/sasha-stashwick/uk-must-end-biomass-electricity-subsidies-now

  6. Here are the facts:

    Drax North Yorkshire, a 4,000-megawatt coal-fired power station, used to be the dirtiest in the UK. The massive facility has eight steam boilers generating 500-megawatts of power each.

    Moving away from coal has made Drax worse!

    After spending an insane amount converting some of the boilers from burning coal to burning wood pellets, and the rest burning gas, Drax has the highest greenhouse gas emissions and pollution in the UK.

    Drax burns our US forests.

    1. Drax is not sustainable: Drax requires millions of pounds in subsidies, it’s a threat to the climate and a public health menace during the pandemic.

    Here is what a report said in 2015. “Half of the plant continues to run on fossilized carbon, and the other half has been converted, in a multi-million-pound project, to burn pellets made from wood. Drax is trying to ensure its survival by moving away from fossil fuel and towards a technology that, it says, is more sustainable.”

    https://qz.com/471288/the-uks-top-polluter-wants-to-be-its-biggest-renewable-energy-producer/

    2. Renewable energy does not mean “clean energy.” Drax has high emissions of carbon dioxide and methane, plus air pollution from incomplete combustion of wood pellets.

    https://www.cnn.com/2019/10/23/business/drax-power-station/index.html

    3. Drax created a financial and ecological disaster, making the situation worse by claiming to be “carbon negative” and a solution to climate change.

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