Woodville, TX – Based on a Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) decision requiring that Best Available Control Technology (BACT) be adopted by a wood pellet manufacturing facility, German Pellets, LLC has agreed to install $6 million worth of pollution controls on its Woodville German Pellets Mill.  According to a new permit application submitted by German Pellets to the state agency, this action will reduce the facility’s Volatile Organic Compound (VOC) and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) emissions.

Represented by LSLA Environmental Justice Attorneys Colin Cox and Amy Dinn, concerned Woodville residents Marlene Brown and Jimmy Reed III submitted comments and requested a Contested Case Hearing on an amendment to the facility’s air quality permit through TCEQ. Brown and Reed along with LSLA’s community partners, Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, and Our Children’s Earth, applaud the agency’s decision to require a reduction in harmful emissions.

In their comments to TCEQ, Brown and Reed explained how VOC emissions from the Woodville facility have drastically affected their quality of life. Noting a significant change in air quality after the plant first began operating in 2013, the residents would often see an orange haze filling the sky along with noxious fumes that smelled like rotten eggs or burning tires while the plant was operating – sometimes day and night. Community members were forced to stay indoors as particulate matter settled on their lawns and gardens. Initially moving to Woodville for its “better air quality,” Brown and Reed subsequently developed serious respiratory issues including breathing difficulties and persistent inflammation of the lungs.  In their comments to TCEQ, the residents pointed out that the Woodville facility was lacking the VOC emission controls required by the federal Clean Air Act through BACT – the same type of pollution controls that similar facilities in neighboring states were already using to successfully reduce their VOC emissions.

Built on the site of a former woodchip factory, the Woodville facility produces up to 578,000 tons of wood pellets per year for export as biofuel. Falsely touted as a “clean” alternative to coal, the use and manufacture of wood pellets produces vast amounts of soot and VOCs, both of which can cause lung disease and cancer.  VOCs also play a role in the formation of ground-level ozone, which can reduce lung function, damage the lining of the lungs, and trigger asthma, bronchitis and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD).

German Pellets recently re-started its Woodville manufacturing operations after a fire in the company’s Port Arthur storage facility caused a temporary shutdown. Because the BACT pollution controls have not yet been installed at the facility, residents are faced with breathing in the heavily polluted VOC-filled air. LSLA’s EJ Team plans to remain engaged on this issue until community members can once again breathe cleaner air. “This result shows that community engagement can make a difference in the permitting process and result in lower emissions and a healthier community,” shared LSLA’s Amy Dinn, “Lone Star Legal Aid is pleased with the outcome here and hopes to be able to help other communities raise similar permitting challenges.”

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org