Young, Gifted & Green’s Official Statement on the Withdrawal of the Biomass Sawmill Application Slated for North Memphis

Mar 18, 2024 | Catch the Green Tea, Policy Statements, Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 1 comment

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 18, 2024

Media Contact: media@younggiftedggreen.org

Young, Gifted & Green, a national civil rights and environmental justice organization, strongly condemns the recent actions of the Biomass Sawmill Applicant in attempting to deceive the public and regulatory authorities by withdrawing their original application presented as a “biomass sawmill” which was initially proposed as a biochar project in a majority Black Community in North Memphis, TN and parts of Midtown. The biomass sawmill applicant’s biochar focus of the project was rightfully rejected by the Shelby County Health Department due to valid concerns regarding potential environmental and public health hazards and risks. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the storage of lumber and biochar production can contribute to air pollution through the release of particulate matter, wood dust, and volatile organic compounds (VOCs). These pollutants can have adverse effects on respiratory health and air quality in the surrounding area. The EPA’s Office of Research and Development (ORD) encourages a cumulative health impact assessment with such projects to support federal, tribal, state, and community decision-making by strengthening the scientific foundation for assessing cumulative impacts, exposures, and risks through existing and new methods, tools, data, and monitoring. A cumulative health impact assessment was not conducted in the original application nor did any local agency or electoral body require the applicant to provide transparent peer reviewed research analyzing potential risks. Read the full Biomass-Sawmill Environmental, Public Health & Feasibility Risk Analysis for a detailed overview of critical challenges and concerns of this project. By withdrawing their original application and attempting to reclassify the project as a “lumber yard,” the applicant is engaging in deceptive tactics that undermine transparency and public trust. This deliberate attempt to mislead the community raises serious ethical concerns and demonstrates a lack of respect for the well-being of the residents of Memphis, particularly those in marginalized communities who are disproportionately affected by environmental injustices.

As the Carbon Management Co-Chair for the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council, I advise the President of the United States, the US Department of Energy, the Environmental Protection Agency, and all other applicable federal agencies on the risks of carbon management deployment and projects. I am disheartened that in my own city, I would be fighting such an insidious project that has completely ignored the voices of North Memphis and Midtown residents. This is a false climate solution and nothing more than a “get rich quick scam” off the backs of a largely Black community–a clear indication of choosing profit over people.

LaTricea D. Adams, MAT, EdS | Founder CEO & President of Young, Gifted & Green

We strongly oppose the potential expansion of the definition of “light industrial” to include a “lumber yard” without proper community input. This withdrawal further diminishes community voice and attempts to evade accountability. Even with the potential “change”, the same risks for the local environment, air quality, and public health remain. Increased industrial activities in residential areas can lead to heightened levels of noise, air and water pollution, transportation and logistics concerns, and negative impacts on property values. Our organization firmly believes in the importance of inclusive and transparent decision-making processes that prioritize the voices and concerns of the communities affected. The lack of community engagement in these matters not only disregards the 17 Principles of Environmental Justice and the Jemez Principles, but also perpetuates historical patterns of environmental racism. While the applicant boasts of months of open houses at the proposed site and “community meetings”, residents that live directly across the street confirmed that not only were they not engaged, but they were completely unaware that the project was coming. It is imperative that all applicable local authorities (both elected and agency specific) adhere to their responsibility of protecting the health and well-being of all residents, especially those who have historically been marginalized.

We are also calling upon the Shelby County Health Department to reassess the potential environmental and health risks associated with the proposed “biomass sawmill” project and to engage in a comprehensive and transparent community consultation process. We also urge the Shelby County Land Use Control Board to reconsider any expansion of the definition of “light industrial” with thorough evaluation of the impacts on the local community. We also call upon the leadership of Memphis City Council to facilitate an ethical and fair process by valuing the voices of impacted community members and properly adhering to T.C.A. § 8-44-101 with appropriate and timely postings of agendas and should amendments be needed, following Robert’s Rules of Order with making a motion for an amendment as opposed to revising agendas within a matter of hours prior to a public meeting.

Young, Gifted & Green remains committed to fighting for environmental justice, equity, and the well-being of all residents of Memphis and across the country. We will continue to monitor this situation closely and work tirelessly to ensure that the voices of marginalized communities are heard and their rights are protected.

For media inquiries or further information, please contact:

LaTricea D. Adams, MAT, EdS
Founder CEO & President
media@younggiftedgreen.org

About Young, Gifted & Green
Young, Gifted & Green (Formerly Black Millennials 4 Flint) is a national civil rights and environmental justice organization that aims to unite like-minded organizations to advocate collectively against the crisis of lead exposure and environmental injustice in disadvantaged communities.

1 Comment

  1. Amal Altareb

    PREACH! We are behind you!

    Reply

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