Enviva in your community

Published 6:00 pm Friday, July 26, 2019

By John Keppler, Chairman & CEO

The Tidewater News has featured Enviva this week, so we wanted to provide some perspective on how we think about and value our partnership with the Southampton community.

Most importantly, we want our neighbors to know that we work tirelessly to be a company that you are proud to have in your community. That means a lot of different things to different people.

Let’s start with jobs. We appreciate that, while the job market might be great in Washington, D.C., or Charlotte, or San Francisco — it’s a different situation in many small towns. We’re proud of our $170 million investment that is providing nearly 100 jobs around our Southampton facility — jobs that often pay significantly more than the local average. Those 100 jobs support 200 additional indirect jobs, and we are part of an overall forest products industry in Virginia that directly supports over 90,000 jobs.

We are also proud to be a mission-driven team focused on improving the environment and fighting climate change. This drives our daily work.

Sustainable wood energy — which Enviva’s production in Southampton helps generate — is a growing part of the renewable energy sector. We are helping to transition power companies away from fossil fuels.

And we do this in a way that actually helps keep forests as forests. Strong demand for forest products means that landowners will keep their land as managed forests rather than converting it to another use. Because of this strong market, private forest owners in the Southeast are growing 40 percent more wood than they remove every year.

We source wood sustainably from regions where forest inventories are growing. We don’t source from a tract where land use change will occur, and we take special care to avoid areas with high conservation value.

Operating in this way allows us to meet the strict requirements of our customers and their regulators. If this weren’t the case, we wouldn’t sell a single wood pellet. At Enviva, environmental stewardship isn’t just an add-on, it’s foundational to our business. It’s what our customers expect. Our business is growing — not despite our sustainability practices — but because of them.

Our approach to environmental stewardship extends to other aspects of our business as well — and that includes air quality. Like many companies, Enviva operates under a robust federal and state regulatory framework. When we build plants, or modify our product, we apply for permits and then work collaboratively with state regulators, and the communities where we operate. We strive not only to meet but also exceed environmental requirements under the Clean Air Act. We routinely take part in testing to ensure we are in compliance with our permits. We did so most recently in Southampton in April, and we passed in full compliance. The results of those tests are made publicly available.

One improvement we are making is additional investment in what’s known as “control technology” — state-of-the-art equipment to continue to reduce our emissions. We have been working with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality for almost a year to make this happen, and we will begin installing the new technology immediately upon receiving the permit. Once installed, Southampton will be among the most, if not the most, stringently controlled wood pellet manufacturing facilities in the world. We will continue to be subject to strict testing and reporting requirements to ensure our ongoing compliance with the Clean Air Act. We are proud to be an industry leader in environmental stewardship in air emissions controls, as in other areas of our business.

We work to manage our growth responsibly — not just with regulators, but also with environmental stakeholders and our community partners to ensure that we are continually improving both how we source and how we make our product. For you, this includes the opportunity to tell us how we’re doing. There will be an informational meeting on Aug. 6, and a public hearing planned for Sept. 12 held by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality. We look forward to these opportunities to listen to our neighbors and address questions.

Working in Southampton, Enviva will continue its work displacing coal, fighting climate change, growing more trees, protecting sensitive ecosystems, contributing to cleaner air, investing in good people and strong communities, and always being a good neighbor to you. Thank you for partnering with us.

JOHN KEPPLER is chairman and CEO of Enviva.