HAMLET — Richmond County officials and Enviva Biomass leadership held a triumphant groundbreaking ceremony Monday morning to welcome the new wood pellet-processing plant that represents a $100 million investment in the county and promises to bring as many as 80 jobs.
Construction began over the summer and is scheduled to be completed by late Dec. 2018. The Richmond County plant will be the fourth in the state.
A plant in Sampson County began operation in October 2016. The other two plants are in Ahoskie and Garysburg. Enviva also has facilities in Virginia, Mississppi and Florida.
Royal Smith, executive vice president for Enviva, highlighted the benefits the company has brought to North Carolina and what it promises to bring to the county in his speech before the ceremony.
“We’ve built a sustainable supply chain that takes wood fiber that land owners in North Carolina want to sell, makes that fiber transportable, and gets it to customers who want it around the world,” Smith said. “By producing wood pellets, we help our customers provide lower carbon energy. The wood pellets that will be produced here in Hamlet will generate enough electricity to power more than 200,000 homes for a year (a)nd they will do that without the climate impacts of fossil fuels.”
Enviva has accounted for more than 300 jobs in the state while indirectly supporting more than 600 jobs, as well as an estimated $500 million per year in economic activity, according to Smith.
Enviva selected Richmond County as the site for its new plant largely due to the access to rail service provided by CSX which allows them to ship their product to the port of Wilmington for international export.
“It is a great day for not only the folks that will have the ability to be employed there but also for the owners of timber that will be located…70 miles out in every direction from the plant,” said state Sen. Tom McInnis, R-Richmond, referring to Enviva’s practice of sourcing wood from local landowners.
U.S. Rep. Robert Pettinger, R-Charlotte, echoed McInnis’ excitment, saying the plant will bring “a lot of good jobs and a lot of hope to a large number of people.”
Other dignitaries included most of the county commissioners and state Rep. Ken Goodman, D-Richmond.
However, not everyone sees the new plant in a positive light.
It has drawn the ire of the Dogwood Alliance, an Asheville-based environmental activist group, who in recent months has teamed with the Concerned Citizens of Richmond County, claiming that the plant will be detrimental to the health of the surrounding community.
Concerned Citizens filed a lawsuit against the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality over the summer which takes issue with the permit issued to Enviva, which had to be revised twice due to listing an incorrect address for the plant. The group claims that is grounds for them to be required to seek a new round of public comment.
A hearing is scheduled for Nov. 27 in High Point.
Reach Gavin Stone at 910-817-2674.