Drax US wood pellet plant breaches air pollution limits for second time

North Yorkshire power station operator Drax has breached air pollution limits at its wood pellet facility in Gloster, Mississippi for a second time, the firm has admitted.

The facility is one of many operated by Drax throughout the United States, which creates biomass wood pellets such as those burned at its Selby power station.

The latest breach comes after Drax was previously fined $2.5m for emitting excessive hazardous air pollutants at the Mississippi site in 2021. No further fine has yet been issued over the latest breach.

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Concerns around Drax’s pellet plants in the US were recently raised at the company’s AGM in April. A group of campaigners, including a former resident of Gloster, raised issues around the dust emitted from such plants, as well as the effects of pollutants on local residents.

Drax's North Yorkshire power station.Drax's North Yorkshire power station.
Drax's North Yorkshire power station.

The latest breach has come to light after a freedom of information request from the Environmental Integrity Project, a US-based environmental non-profit group.

The Guardian has reported that in March of this year, The Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality (MDEQ) wrote to Drax owned company Amite BioEnergy to notify the firm that it had violated emission rules.

But a Drax spokesperson said: “In January 2022, our new environmental consultant reviewed our previous Hazardous Air Pollutant (HAP) calculations and identified some discrepancies. We contacted MDEQ immediately and worked to fine-tune the HAP emissions calculations further and we provided them with these updated readings.

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“Drax took prompt corrective action in response and worked with to resolve the issues and provide them with accurate reports and permit applications. Drax is committed to environmental compliance and remains focused on transparency and open communication with the Environmental Protection Agency, MDEQ and the community."

The Guardian has reported that Amite BioEnergy believes it was only non-compliant between late October and early November in 2021.

Last year, Greenpeace’s Unearthed reporting unit also found that Drax Biomass had agreed to settlements totalling $3.2m for air pollution claims against two of its Louisiana sites.

Drax denied that it committed any violations at the plants, and agreed to the settlements without accepting liability. The settlements relate to claims dating back to 2019.

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Drax has previously announced that it plans to increase wood pellet production, including a new facility in Longview, Washington. The news also follows a recent announcement that it has selected two sites in the US for biomass plants with carbon capture and storage technology.