The Issue

  • The world’s first-ever black wood pellet plant is coming to Lumberton, North Carolina (Robeson County), a predominantly black & low-income rural community already burdened by numerous sources of environmental harm.
  • The community is concerned about increased water & air pollution from this plant, as well as the unknown effects of this new technology, given that no other company has been successful. 
  • Air quality officials recently announced a “digital public hearing” on June 15, 2020 but this fails to provide for or otherwise constitute meaningful engagement of the underserved Lumberton community. A digital public meeting cannot provide a meaningful opportunity for engagement when more than half of Robeson County residents lack broadband technology access completely. For those who do have access, service is unreliable.
  • To proceed without providing a meaningful opportunity for public engagement and without adequate and transparent information about the black wood pellet process AERP intends to use or the volume at which it intends to use it abrogates DAQ’s statutory and regulatory responsibilities.
  • Choosing low-income communities of color is an economic model for harmful industries. They target vulnerable communities with the intention to exploit their lack of resources and North Carolina’s elected officials & regulatory agencies have allowed them to do this. This is more than a permitting issue, but a systemic failure to these communities.



  • Permitting this plant violates DAQ’s obligation to comply with our state constitution’s prohibition on race discrimination. Additionally, they also have an obligation to act consistently with the policy DEQ instituted in 2000, which, among other things, obligates them to address environmental equity issues in permitting decisions for projects potentially having a disparate impact on communities protected by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
    • We have repeatedly asked that DEQ suspend the public comment period until after DEQ’s Title VI program has been completely complied with, including the additional outreach to the surrounding underserved community and assessment of the racially disparate and cumulative impacts that AERP’s novel wood pellet processing facility will cause.
    • In the meantime, please utilize this interim period to conduct the necessary research and analysis of disparate and cumulative impacts, taking into consideration the particular process and volume AERP intends, and provide that information to the public before the public hearing.


Who is responsible

  • NC Department of Environmental Quality Division of Air Quality (DAQ)

Actions you can take

See the most recently-submitted letter to DAQ by our attorneys, the Lawyers’ Committee

Relevant Links

First-of-its kind wood pellet plant leaves North Carolina community wondering

See the comments submitted on our behalf by the Lawyers Committee

NC DEQ’s (previously NCDENR) Environmental Equity Initiative Policy

Report on Cumulative Impacts in Robeson County, NC 2019