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NC Ports takes step toward wood pellet business

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) -- New business could be burning its way into the Port of Wilmington. After months of negotiations the North Carolina Ports Authority and wood pellet company Enviva are inching closer to a partnership.

The NC Ports Board of Directors took an axe to the bargaining table and came away with two agreements that could chop into North Carolina unemployment.

"They relate to one another relative to a project that we have been talking about for a while for the development of a wood pellet export facility at the Port of Wilmington," Acting Ports Executive Director Jeff Miles said. "Enviva will make the investment, and the North Carolina Ports Authority will be the operator, and we hope we'll be in operation by January 2015."

Environmentalist Michael Rice of Save the Cape says this is the kind of business the port needs to be successful.

"These are exactly the right kinds of things that the ports authority should be doing," Rice said. "It serves regional agribusiness and is business that has been brought to them, so it seems to be quite a good fit."

Enviva claims it would use the facility to store low-value waste wood that would be shipped to Europe. But not all coastal advocates have the same kind of enthusiasm over the work the company does.

"This company is cutting down whole old-growth forests and chopping them up and sending them overseas to be burned in furnaces that create pollution," NC Coastal Federation's Mike Giles said. "Whether that pollution is worse than coal hasn't been decided. We need to go slow and think about what we're going to do."

The lease agreement now moves to the Council of State for final approval.

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"took an axe to the bargaining table" ?

What the heck is that supposed to mean?