Photo by Axe Drax

Axe Drax Press Release

Leeds 30th November 2021

Climate justice campaigners have been taking part in demonstrations online and at Leeds Magistrates Court today in support of health and safety charges against Drax Power Station, the UK’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide [1]. The campaigners stand in solidarity with workers, highlighting the risks Drax poses to the health of the planet and all its inhabitants.

Drax is accused of exposing employees to wood dust at its Selby plant by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), thereby risking their health, safety and welfare at work [2]. The court case comes in the wake of Drax’s $2.5 million fine for breaching air pollution laws in its wood pellet mill in the USA [3].

Margaret Smith, North East Yorkshire and Humber region delegate for Unite Community said: “We as community union members know that there can’t be exceptions. If an industrial process is a danger to health for the community it is centred on, that must be prioritised over jobs in that community and the demands of the national economy. Particulate pollution from woodburning is a problem for employees of Drax who need the advocacy of their industrial trade union; the communities where the huge biomass burners are situated need our advocacy.”

Campaigners from trade unions and environmental campaign group, Axe Drax [4], joined a banner demonstration outside Leeds Magistrates Court to show solidarity with workers whose health is at risk from exposure to wood dust, whilst also highlighting Drax’s greenwashing of wood burning as ‘renewable energy’. Meanwhile, activists are also sharing social media with slogans including #ProtectPeople, AxeDrax, #BigBadBiomass and #ForestsAreNotFuel to denounce the impact of Drax’s tree burning on communities around the world.

Drax in Yorkshire is the UK’s single biggest carbon emitter [5], releasing over 13 million tonnes of CO₂ from burning wood last year [6]. Drax is also the largest wood-burning power station in the world, fuelled by around 7 million tonnes of wood pellets every year, the equivalent of about 25 million trees [7].

At its Yorkshire power station, Drax employs approximately 900 people [8] and is accused by HSE of exposing them to harmful levels of wood dust.[9] Drax receives renewable energy subsidies from the UK government equivalent to £2.27 million per day [10], despite biomass CO₂ emissions being greater than those from burning coal.[11] In addition, wood pellet plants in the US that supply Drax are predominantly located in low-income communities of colour [12], damaging air quality for residents and widening inequalities.

Joe Irving, 21, from Axe Drax, said: “Drax is literally burning away some of our last hopes of ensuring we have a liveable planet, with 3 to 4 years to avert this crisis, we can’t afford to be burning forests. Poisoning its workers and polluting the planet, Drax cannot be trusted with the millions of pounds that the government gives Drax. We’ve run out of time, and we must remove these subsidies now.”

 Belinda Joyner, forest and environmental justice campaigner from North Carolina, said: “As we address the issues of Particulate matter affecting people throughout our communities, we are very concerned about the health and welfare of the employees.

“Earning a wage in the midst of this situation is definitely a life or death situation. No one should have to put their livelihood in jeopardy to provide for their family. [It’s] profit over people!”


Photos available for use here: 

For media enquiries please contact

Notes for editors



Information on the dangers of wod dust exposure is available at


[4] Axe Drax is a campaign group opposing Drax Power Station: They work alongside Biofuelwatch and the Cut Carbon Not Forests campaign to end burning forests for fuel and promote a Just Transition to genuine renewables by transferring over £1 billion in UK renewable subsidies from bioenergy to wind and solar power: Axe Drax’s most recent protest stopped a Drax train of wood pellets en route to its Selby plant. More information of Drax’s environmental and social impact can be found at


[6] Drax is the world’s largest wood-burning power station:

[7] Drax is producing electricity by burning the equivalent of over 25 million trees a year:



[10] Drax’s subsidies:

[11] Letter from over 500 scientists to President Biden and other world leaders urging them to stop subsidising the burning of forests for energy: