Groups Appeal NC Decision to Allow Forests to Be Burned for Energy

State Lacks Basic Bioenergy Policies to Protect Forests and Rural Communities

November 11, 2010
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(Raleigh – November 11, 2010) Environmental Defense Fund and the Southern Environmental Law Center announced this week they are appealing a recent decision by the N.C. Utilities Commission that would allow Duke Energy to get renewable energy credits from harvesting and incinerating whole trees to produce electricity in old coal plants. The groups' appeal contends North Carolina's renewable energy law restricts burning forest materials to wood waste. Increasing demand for bioenergy requires new state policies to protect natural forests, support rural communities and reduce air pollution.

"The commission's decision allows utilities to cut and burn our state's forests, with no questions asked," said Will McDow, a specialist in wood biomass with Environmental Defense Fund. "Burning wood waste creates low-carbon energy, but giving unrestricted access to burn thousands of acres of natural forest is imprudent. Wood biomass can help the state transition to a clean energy future, but first the state must develop policies to shape the new markets for bioenergy. States with sound policies will create sustainable bioenergy markets for landowners and loggers."

"The commission's decision allows utilities to meet state renewable energy targets by unrestricted cutting, chipping and burning forests. In the appeal, we are asking the Court of Appeals to take a fresh look at this important legal issue," said Gudrun Thompson, senior attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center.

In a dissent to the Utilities Commission order, Commissioner William T. Culpepper wrote: "I am unable to accept the idea of the state legislature enacting law that permits the clear cutting of old growth forest land for electricity generation purposes without providing concomitant requirements for best forestry practices and/or sustainability measures."

The notice of appeal filed Nov. 10 asks the N.C. Court of Appeals to reverse the Utilities Commission's October decision and limit the burning of wood to wood waste, as defined in North Carolina's 2007 renewable energy law.
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