North Carolina environmental justice groups announced today that they reached a settlement agreement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) of a 2014 Title VI complaint filed with the Environmental Protection Agency. The complaint, filed by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance, alleged that DEQ allowed industrial swine facilities to operate with “grossly inadequate and outdated systems of controlling animal waste” resulting in an “unjustified disproportionate impact on the basis of race and national origin against African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans.”
Under the Agreement, which was reached after an intensive 13-month long mediation, DEQ commits to new policies to ensure compliance with federal civil rights laws, including a language access program and the development of an Environmental Justice (EJ) tool to examine demographic, health, and environmental characteristics of communities impacted by DEQ policies. In addition, DEQ agreed to a number of changes in the draft of the swine general permit that will be considered in the upcoming stakeholder process for the next swine general permit. Naeema Muhammed, Executive Director of the NCEJN, recognized the groundbreaking nature of the settlement but also cautioned “At the same time, the harmful effects of the hog industry on communities in eastern North Carolina continue, and all of us involved in this struggle need to keep the pressure on. There is still a long way to go to address the harms caused by the swine industry.” “While these changes may seem technical,” added Will Hendrick of Waterkeeper Alliance, “they will begin to address air and water pollution from the swine industry.”
“For too long people living in Duplin, Sampson and other counties in the heart of hog country have had trouble breathing when they go outside,” said Devon Hall, the Co-Founder and Program Manager of REACH. “Even small changes in the permit can be important, like making clear that DEQ has authority to inspect without prior notice. It’s unacceptable that DEQ has been giving facilities advance notice before conducting an inspection, which means that the operation can just change what it has been doing and clean up before the inspector arrives.”
Hall also emphasized the importance of provisions in the settlement agreement calling for community involvement in water and air monitoring. “People who live here can walk outside, smell the problem, and see the waste running into nearby ditches and streams,” said Hall. “But we want to help document the impacts of the CAFO industry on our community. With thousands of swine operations across eastern North Carolina, the provisions in this agreement calling for monitoring may feel like a drop in the bucket, but they are a good start.”
“For too many years, the `lagoon (or cesspool) and sprayfield’ system of waste management has allowed feces and urine to blow through the air and flow from the sprayfields into our waterways and into nearby communities,” said Larry Baldwin, the Crystal Coast Waterkeeper. “There’s still a long way to go but our groups will continue the work needed. The provisions in this agreement are a step in the right direction and provide more opportunities for people in eastern North Carolina to have a voice in decisions affecting their future.”
Will Hendrick stated, “DEQ has the responsibility to ensure that these facilities operate in a way that prevents negative impacts on their neighbors. Terms proposed for the general permit stakeholder process are a start, but DEQ needs to go further in the future to protect communities. Mandatory groundwater monitoring is needed, for example, to ensure protection of vital resources.”
“Most importantly, we believe that this agreement signifies a new dynamic in the relationship between DEQ and the communities of color that are most severely impacted by the policies and decisions it makes,” noted Ms. Muhammad. “As a result of the process we have engaged with DEQ over the last three years, the needs and priorities of those communities will be at the forefront of DEQ’s considerations going forward.”
REACH, NCEJN, and Waterkeeper Alliance are committed to continuing to hold DEQ accountable—to the settlement agreement, and to DEQ’s broader mission of serving the people of North Carolina and protecting the state’s environment. The groups are represented by Earthjustice, the Yale Law School Environmental Justice Clinic, and the Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights.
At 3:00 AM on April 15, the MV Bilash, a large bulk cargo vessel carrying 775 metric tonnes of coal, sank in the Pashur River watershed near Harbaria Point, upstream of the Sundarbans World Heritage Site. In July, the UNESCO World Heritage Committee issued a decision urging the government of Bangladesh to put an adequate management system in place for shipping to minimize negative impacts to the Sundarbans. This is the sixth time in four years that a cargo shipping disaster has occurred where the government of Bangladesh has had no preparation to manage these accidents. As of today, there is still no government action to clean up the coal barge that sank on April 15. The barge owner started recovering submerged coal from the barge manually on April 20.
The waterways flowing through the Sundarbans are home to the Dhangmari and Chandpai dolphin sanctuaries, created to protect the rare Irrawaddy and Ganges dolphins. Additionally, the Sundarbans is critical habitat for the endangered Bengal tiger.
Sharif Jamil, Coordinator of Waterkeepers Bangladesh said, “It is distressing to see that the current government has made not substantive progress in complying with the World Heritage Committee decision and protecting this unique World Heritage Site. Instead, they are allowing the destruction of the Sundarbans by allowing more shipping traffic and polluting industries to operate in this fragile ecosystem, claiming that the sunken barge poses no threat to the waters. It is unscientific and untrue to say this coal will do no harm to the water and biodiversity of the river Pashur, the lifeline of the Sundarbans.”
There has been no practical effort by the Bangladesh government to recover the vessel that has been polluting the Pashur River for more than a week. Additionally, the government has taken no measures to avoid these increasingly more frequent accidents. The governments of India and Bangladesh are aggressively moving forward with the construction of the proposed Rampal coal-fired power plant which will dramatically increase the shipping of coal, coal ash and gypsum pollutants through the Sundarbans.
“All these shipping accidents show that the leaders of India and Bangladesh are not taking steps to protect the Sundarbans; rather, they are attempting to increase damage and destruction,” said Pashur River Waterkeeper Noor Alam. “This accident again proves the carelessness of the government towards the protection of the Sundarbans and justifies the call to stop construction of Rampal on the banks of River Pashur.”
“Recent episodes of coal barges capsizing have increased the pollutant load contaminating the waterways and endangering the rare aquatic ecology of the Sundarbans,” said Donna Lisenby, Clean & Safe Energy Campaign Manager for Waterkeeper Alliance. “The Rampal coal plant must be stopped because it will lead to even more coal contamination of the Sundarbans and further imperil the World Heritage Site.”
Photos and videos of the spill site can be downloaded here. Please credit Noor Alam, Pashur River Waterkeeper.
Yesterday, Waterkeeper Alliance, Cape Fear River Watch and the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), represented by Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin of the Julius L. Chambers for Civil Rights, reached a settlement with the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ) that they hope will ensure prompt, transparent action by the agency in response to citizen complaints about animal agriculture operations.
Each year, over 2,000 concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) with the capacity to house more than 9 million hogs in North Carolina generate billions of gallons of waste that is laden with nutrients, bacteria, and pathogens. This waste is stored in unlined cesspools and sprayed onto adjacent fields. State permits governing swine CAFOs prohibit land application when the risk of runoff or discharge is heightened, including more than 4 hours after the issuance of a flood watch by the National Weather Service (NWS).
In advance of both Tropical Storm Hermine and Hurricane Matthew, petitioners captured time-stamped and geo-located images of operators spraying waste more than 4 hours after a flood watch. They reported that illegal activity to NCDEQ, but saw no response. The agency’s investigation, and its enforcement of rules prohibiting such spraying, was particularly urgent because pollution from swine CAFOs in Eastern North Carolina disproportionately impacts communities of color. After weeks of apparent agency inaction, in December 2016 the groups filed a challenge in the NC Office of Administrative Hearings.
As a result of the settlement, NCDEQ agreed to adopt a new complaint response protocol to ensure prompt investigation of citizen complaints. The protocol includes timelines for complaint investigation, requires agency investigators to consider all information submitted by complainants, articulates steps for the documentation of complaint response efforts by agency staff, and clarifies that such records should be made public upon request. In addition, NCDEQ agreed to maintain, and update monthly, an online list of complaints for which a determination of violation has been made, so that citizens can track the outcome of their interaction with the agency. DEQ also agreed to publish an annual report denoting the number of complaints received about animal operations, number of complaints investigated, and number of complaints where a violation was found.
“African American, Latino, and Native American communities disproportionately bear the burden of living near industrial hog operations in Eastern North Carolina. This settlement is an important step toward easing that burden,” said NCEJN co-director Naeema Muhammad.
“We’re pleased that NCDEQ is prioritizing people over polluters and committing to promptly respond to citizen complaints,” said Kemp Burdette, the Cape Fear Riverkeeper. “Since 2010, the legislature slashed the budget of NCDEQ’s regional offices, where complaint investigators work, by 40%. It’s important that NCDEQ recognizes the value of third-party evidence collection to supplement the agency’s limited resources.”
The settlement comes amid a flurry of activity regarding pollution from animal agriculture. NCDEQ drew criticism from EPA this year for failing to mitigate the disproportionate racial impact of its swine permitting program. Just this summer, the NC legislature eliminated property rights for victims of nuisance caused by hog operations. Also, for the first time since 2006, NCDEQ is revising the rules that govern animal waste management and certain proposed amendments drew objection from Waterkeeper Alliance and many other environmental groups.
“At a time when our legislature is failing communities and devaluing our natural resources, it is even more important that NCDEQ enforces and improves laws and regulations governing animal waste,” said Will Hendrick, staff attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance.
Waterkeeper Alliance was founded to ensure the protection of one of our greatest natural resources—water—so all can safely enjoy and benefit from our waterways. We fight polluters that seek to monopolize the use of waterways to their financial benefit. Efforts to rob the public of their health, safety, and quality of life in order to line the pockets of the wealthiest corporations and individuals flies in the face of the principles that we hold dear.
Right now, the federal government is reworking both how it will take in revenue and how it will spend money – decisions that will have far-reaching impacts. A few weeks ago, Congress passed a federal budget resolution for fiscal year 2018, which is essentially a blueprint for what Members of Congress think the expenses and revenue of the federal government should be. This resolution contains language that makes it easier for Congress to pass a tax overhaul bill and paves the way to allow drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as a way to increase government revenue. Not only would drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge spoil one of our last truly wild places and impact an ecosystem already stressed by climate change, it would lead to increased greenhouse gas emissions.
The Senate also released its version of the budget for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week. While the cuts proposed by the bill are not nearly as extreme as what was proposed by the Trump administration, the Senate’s proposed cuts would accelerate efforts to ensure that EPA will not do its job by slashing funds for everyday operations and cutting staff. The bill also contains dangerous riders that would benefit polluting companies.
The pending tax plan bills—one which passed the House of Representatives and the other which will be considered by the Senate Budget Committee this week—would perpetuate inequality. Both versions are, in large part, enormous tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations built on the backs of the middle and working class. Additionally, the Trump administration is focused on cutting services and protections that benefit average Americans and irresponsibly selling off our public resources to fossil fuel companies—all to make up for the decreased tax revenue caused by tax cuts for the rich.
Both the tax plan and the federal budget process show the same disturbing trend—transferring prosperity and protections away from the wider public to benefit the wealthy and powerful few. The impacts of some of these cuts and actions may not be immediately obvious, but they will hurt disadvantaged people the most in the long-term. Whether they drastically increase fossil fuel production and emissions, increase pollution into our waterways, or make visiting national parks too expensive for many Americans, these policies show a blatant disregard for the government’s primary function — doing what is best for the majority of Americans.
This week, please stand up against efforts to finance tax cuts for the rich through policies that hurt everyday Americans and endanger our future. Please call your Senators at (202) 224-3121 and tell them:
“My name is [YOUR NAME] and I am a resident of ZIP code [ZIP CODE] in [STATE]. I am calling to express my concerns about the tax plan and the federal budget. I am opposed to the current tax overhaul plan, as it will primarily benefit the wealthy and corporations, and hurt the middle class. I also am opposed to tax cuts being paid for by opening up more public lands and offshore areas to fossil fuel extraction and do not want the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge spoiled by drilling. Furthermore, I believe that the Environmental Protection Agency should be fully funded at least current levels and able to do its job of protecting the public from pollution. I believe that government should do what is best for the majority of the people, and ask that you stand up against proposals that would mortgage our future to line the pockets of wealthy companies and individuals. Thank you.”
President Trump’s decision is divorced from reality and puts the United States on the wrong side of history.
NEW YORK, NY – President Trump today announced his decision to withdraw the United States from the landmark Paris Agreement, a monumental accord that is essential for the survival of life on our planet. This decision threatens our economy, environment and communities, and will have a disproportionate impact on our most vulnerable populations.
Signed by 195 countries in December 2015, the Paris Agreement outlined a long-term, global framework to enable countries to limit the rise in average global temperature to well below 2°C, with 1.5°C being the ideal benchmark. The United States’ participation in the agreement is vital to its success, as Americans emit more than double the global average of CO2 per person and the U.S. is the second highest producer of carbon in the world after China. Withdrawing from the agreement may weaken other countries’ drive to uphold their pledges and the U.S. would sit with just Syria and Nicaragua as the only countries in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change who have not agreed to the accord.
President Trump’s decision is divorced from reality and is not supported by the majority of Americans. A recent poll shows 71% of Americans support the United States participation in the agreement, understanding that global action protects us and that American leadership is critical for securing global action.
“President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris Agreement is mostly sound and fury and will not ‘make America great again,’” said Waterkeeper Alliance Executive Director Marc Yaggi. “It instead risks the United States’ position as a world leader and sets us backward. Rather than supporting a sustainable future for humanity, growing our economy and creating jobs, President Trump is putting the United States on the wrong side of history.”
“Consider the implications to history if Great Britain turned back from the Industrial Revolution in 1800,” said Waterkeeper Alliance President Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. “President Trump has made the most reckless and irresponsible decision by a US president since the Iraq war. America has lost her moral authority and any claim to being an exemplary nation. With this pen stroke, we have ceded our position as the world’s leader to China. The generations will pay for our stupidity.”
As the richest country in the world and the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases, the United States has an obligation to take a leadership role in curbing the climate crises by reducing our emissions and shifting toward a clean energy future. Market forces and investments in renewable energy all across the U.S. are already driving a transition away from a carbon-based economy, most notably in states that voted for Trump: Texas is the top state in wind energy production, and North Carolina and Arizona are second and third, respectively, in solar energy generation in the country.
Indonesian mining advocacy network, JATAM, and international clean water nonprofit, Waterkeeper Alliance, today released a damning report, “Hungry Coal – Coal Mining and Food Security in Indonesia,” that shows coal mining is the main threat to Indonesian food security and a major land-use policy conflict that demands government intervention.
The report reveals that almost 10 percent of Indonesia’s land is allocated to coal mining, 80 percent of which is under exploration and poses the greatest risk to Indonesia’s food security than any other land use. Indonesia’s national government has reined in the expansion of oil palm planting and has promised a similar check of coal’s expansion, but as yet these promised reforms remain outstanding.
The report further reveals that coal companies are avoiding compliance with Indonesia’s land rehabilitation and water protection regulations. The current condition of mined land causes acid mine drainage that kills fish and destroys rice crops. Indonesia’s water quality regulations do not adequately protect fish farming and agriculture from the heavy metals released by coal mines.
“Operating coal mines occupy almost 4 million hectares in Indonesia and are having a devastating impact. Coal mining leaves the land scarred and barren, water catchments choked and polluted, and groundwater depressed. The current poor compliance with coal mine rehabilitation means that coal mining can confidently be assumed to destroy any potential cultivation on the land that it affects,” said JATAM National Coordinator, Merah Johansyah.
“Farmers interviewed for the report told us that mine pit water is causing rice yields to drop by 50 percent and fish production by 80 percent. All but two of the 17 water samples we took from coal mine sites in East Kalimantan and surrounding waterways had concentrations of aluminum, iron, manganese and/or pH levels that would be expected to lower rice and fish farm yields,” said Paul Winn, International Energy Campaigner with Waterkeeper Alliance.
The report identifies coal mining concessions covering 19 percent of existing rice cultivation and 23 percent of land capable of rice cultivation outside of Java and estimates that coal mining has already reduced Indonesia’s annual rice production by 1.7 million tonnes and that 6 million tonnes of annual rice production is at risk. If coal companies are allowed to mine exploration concessions that cover existing cultivated land, the report estimates that almost 18.5 million tonnes of potential annual rice production could be lost if mining proceeds on all the coal concessions that cover land capable of growing rice.
“Indonesia cannot afford to lose valuable food producing land to coal. Nor can it continue to allow its water resources, essential for crops, to be polluted and choked with sediment. If the country is to continue to feed itself, the National Government must radically alter its land use priorities,” said Donna Lisenby, Clean and Safe Energy campaign manager with Waterkeeper Alliance.
For the Bahasa version of the report, click here.
A press conference was held for the publication of international research report titled as “Rampal Thermal Power Plant: Potential Air Pollution, Toxicity and Effects on Human Health” in the roundtable room of Dhaka Reporters Unity at 5:00 am on Friday, May 5, 017. It was organized jointly by the National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans (NCSS), Doctors for Health and Environment and Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA). The meeting was presided over by Advocate Sultana Kamal, Convener of NCSS, while Lauri Myllyvirta, Coal and Air Pollution Specialist of Greenpeace, presented his study. Pediatrician and President of Doctor for Health Professor Dr. Nazmun Nahar, Health Researcher Dr. M Abu Sayeed and Member Secretary of the National Committee for Saving the Sundarbans & General Secretary of BAPA Dr. Mohd. Abdul Matin and BAPA Joint Secretary Sharif Jamil spoke in the press conference.
By presenting his research paper, Lauri Myllyvirta said that the proposed 1320 MW coal-based power plant in Rampal will be one of the largest single sources of air pollution throughout Bangladesh. The source of the power plant will increase the air toxicity level in the Sundarbans’ ecosystem including the entire south-west of Bangladesh and Khulna, Ashoknagar, Kalyangar, Satkhira, Begumganj, Bashirhat, Narsingdi, Noakhali, Basipur and Comilla regions. Residents of Dhaka and Calcutta, especially children and old people, will be severely affected by the air pollution. He said that the emission of power plants throughout the working hours – will increase the risk of stroke, lung cancer, cardiovascular and respiratory diseases for adults, as well as children. Even if the current air pollution level of Bangladesh is zero, the power plant alone will cause premature death of 6,000 people and the low birth weight of 24,000 children. The day hours will impact the highest and the average Nitrogen oxide levels of the surrounding air will increase up to 25% of the current city’s average, and Sulfur dioxide levels will increase up to 50%. He also mentioned that the high density of population in this region and the weak management of emission system will be the cause for more harmful health effects. The tender has five to ten times more emission of Sulfur dioxide, Nitrogen oxide, dust and mercury than the standard level and state-of-art technology emission level. The power plant can emit strong harmful nerve poison named Mercury, which can damage the brain and the nerve-system of children. Mercury emission from Rampal Power Plant will be sufficient enough to make the fish residing around 70 square kilometers non-edible. These highly affected areas are completely submerged in the Sundarbans wetlands. In addition, during the lifetime of the plant, 10,000 kg of mercury will be deposited as coal ash in ponds which will later be carried away by flood. The extra mercury will cause more damage to the aquatic food-cycle of the Sundarbans and the Bay of Bengal, which will affect millions of people feeding on those fishes.
Advocate Sultana Kamal said that coal-based projects considering environmental and humanitarian grounds can never be accepted, which is already proven by multiple international research works. She informed that they have repeatedly provided science-based facts, but the government has not taken any of these issues into consideration, rather it is going to implement such a potentially harmful project with false information. Referring to the plant builder company MD’s clear denial of using ultra super critical technology in the plant, Sultana Kamal said that as such there had been no adequately effective measures taken yet to combat such pollutions. The government’s EIA report on this project is not based on science and there is no transparency there, and they have already rejected it. She said that she does not possess any personal interests or conflicts. Only in the interests of protecting the Sundarbans, the environment and the nation, she was speaking against the Rampal project with valid scientific information and facts.
Professor Dr. Nazmun Nahar said that on one hand, medical science has been making continuous efforts to reduce child mortality and has been achieving many successes. On the other hand, due to the possible pollution from the Rampal project, 6,000 children will die prematurely and 24,000 children will be born with less weight, whose large part will be the burden of the society due to their disability. In our country, 48% of children are born with low weight because of the environmental crisis and their mothers’ unhealthy diet. We will lag behind in the children’s health parameter when the victims of Rampal’s will be added. Pregnant mothers are very dependent on fish and vegetables, but they contain formalin or harmful chemicals. Scientific data shows that, if the Rampal project is implemented, its toxicity will not only affect the nearby sea, river and soil, but also a vast area of Bangladesh. It will also disperse toxic chemicals in fish and vegetables. In the future, there is a possibility for increment of not only low weight but disable babies.
Professor Dr. M Abu Sayeed said, by the influence of Rampal project, soil, water and air pollution will increase affecting the public health of the country. Due to Mercury and other pollutants’ emission from this project, children will possess under-developed brains which will cause many physical and psychological problems. Therefore, Rampal Project must be abandoned.
Today, President Trump signed presidential memorandums to advance construction of the Dakota Access and the Keystone XL pipelines that will threaten the water supplies of millions, including the Standing Rock Sioux.
Waterkeeper Alliance, a global movement uniting more than 300 Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates across the world, says the order means dire consequences for the American people.
President Trump also signed an executive order to expedite environmental reviews of other infrastructure projects. Waterkeeper Alliance says this could allow potentially dangerous projects to move forward without regard to public safety or health.
Each year in the United States, oil pipelines spill an average of 11-million gallons. The Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines threaten the fishable, swimmable, drinkable water for millions and the viability of North American farmland.
“Clean energy is the future. It creates more jobs, more economic growth and makes us energy independent. Investing in oil pipelines is outdated, dangerous thinking that puts public waters and American lives at risk.” says Waterkeeper Alliance General Counsel and Legal Director Daniel E. Estrin. “Trump is padding the bottom line of companies he’s invested in at the expense of the American people.”
The undersigning organizations condemn the assassination of Aldemar Parra García and express our deepest condolences to his family.
On January 7, Aldemar was assassinated by two unidentified gunmen on a motorcycle on the route from El Hatillo to La Loma in broad daylight. He was a community leader and active trade unionist, until recently employed in the mine of Colombian Natural Resources (CNR). Parra leaves his wife and three children behind.
The murder of Aldemar is not an isolated incident. Unfortunately, this murder fits a pattern of violence against civil society and their leaders that we see across Colombia and in the mining region of Cesar. According to the report ‘Civil society under Threat’, in Cesar at least 200 leaders became victims of threats, assaults and killings during the period 2012-2016. It is important to point out that all of these victims are social leaders whose efforts are considered by certain sectors of the Cesar population to be critical of the impact of mining activities in the region. Most of these acts are claimed by or carry the signature of neo-paramilitary groups, who claim to defend the interests of the mining companies and other economic actors in the region. For example, last September Néstor Iván Martínez, leader of an Afro-Colombian community resisting the expansion of the mines owned by the American mining company Drummond, was assassinated shortly after having been threatened by a neo-paramilitary group.
Aldemar was an active member of the community of El Hatillo; a rural community that since 2010 has been involved in a lengthy process of involuntary resettlement with three mining companies. He was a family member of several community leaders who were critical towards a resettlement plan recently proposed by the mining companies. Since 2014 the community has reported an increasing number of security incidents, e.g. leaflets, text messages or phone calls threatening community members. Since September 2016, inhabitants of El Hatillo have reported the presence of unidentified armed men in the vicinity during the hours of darkness.
The condemnation of the murder of Aldemar by Prodeco and Drummond (as a specific incident) is a first step, but more actions are necessary to effectively mitigate the violence against civil society in Cesar.
We urge the Colombian authorities
We urge the mining companies
List of Signatories:
350.org International Network
Acción Ecologica Ecuador
African Uranium Alliance International Network
AG Bergbau und Menschenrechte in Kolumbien – Berlin Germany
AGEH – Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Entwicklungshilfe Germany
Amigos de la Tierra España Spain
ASK – Arbeitsgruppe Schweiz-Kolumbien Switzerland
Asociación ambiental e cultural Petón do Lobo, Galicia Spain
Asociación gallega Cova Crea, Galicia Spain
Bocas de Ceniza Waterkeeper Colombia
Both ENDS The Netherlands
Buirer für Buir Germany
BUND – Friends of the Earth Germany Germany
BUND Sachsen Germany
BürgerBegehren Klimaschutz Germany
CALG – Coalition against Land Grabbing Philippines
CENSAT agua viva – Friends of the Earth Colombia Colombia
Center for Environment – Friends of the Earth BiH Bosnia and Herzegovina
Christliche Initiative Romero Germany
CNV Internationaal The Netherlands
Coal Action Network UK
Colombia Caravana UK Lawyers’ Group UK
Colombia Solidaritet Denmark
Colombia Solidarity Campaign UK
ContraMINAcción, Galicia Spain
Dachverband der Kritischen Aktionäre Germany
Earth Law Center USA
Environmental Rights Action Nigeria
Facing Finance Germany
FIAN Deutschland Germany
FNV Mondiaal The Netherlands
Forschungs- und Dokumentationszentrum Chile-Lateinamerika Germany
Friends of the Earth Australia Australia
Friends of the Earth Canada Canada
Friends of the Earth England, Wales and Northern Ireland (EWNI) UK
Friends of the Earth International International Network
Friends of the Earth Japan Japan
Friends of the Siberian Forests Russia
FUgE Hamm Hamm
GegenStrömung / CounterCurrent Germany
(Ghana Integrated Platform on Land, Water and Seed Struggles) Ghana
Global 2000 – Friends of the Earth Austria Austria
groundWork, Friends of the Earth South Africa South Africa
Informationsstelle Peru Germany
International Oil Working Group International Network
JA!Justica Ambiental – FOE Mozambique Mozambique
Kohleausstieg Berlin Germany
kolko – Menschenrechte für Kolumbien Germany
Kolumbiengruppe Hamburg Germany
Latin American Mining Monitoring Programme UK
Leave it in the Ground Inititative (LINGO) Mexico
Les Amis de la Terre France
LIGA – Lüner Initiative gegen globale Armut Germany
Lock the Gate Alliance Australia
London Mining Network UK
Market Forces Australia
Network Movement for Justice and Development Sierra Leone
NOAH – Friends of the Earth Denmark Denmark
OCMAL – Observatorio de Conflictos Mineros de América Latina International Network
PAS – Pensamiento y Acción Social Colombia
PAX The Netherlands
pax christi Solidarität Eine Welt Germany
Pro Natura – Friends of the Earth Switzerland Switzerland
Rettet den Regenwald Germany
Robin Wood Germany
Russian Social-Ecological Union – Friends of the Earth Russia Russia
Salva la Selva Spain
Sociedade Histórica e Cultural Coluna Sanfins, Galicia Spain
Solidarity Sweden – Latin America Sweden
SOMO The Netherlands
South Durban Community Environmental Alliance South Africa
Southern Africa Rural Women’s Assembly South Africa
terre des hommes – Hilfe für Kinder in Not Germany
The Gaia Foundation UK
The People’s Dialogue International Network
This Changes Everything UK
TNI – Transnational Institute The Netherlands
Umweltgewerkschaft Düsseldorf Germany
Verdegaia, Galicia Spain
Waterkeeper Alliance International Network
WEED e.V. – World Economy, Ecology & Development Germany
WoMin African Gender and Extractives Alliance South Africa
Yasunidos Ecuador Ecuador
Yasunidos Germany Germany
YLNM – Yes to Life, No to Mining International Network
Zelena Istra – Green Istria Croatia
CHAPEL HILL, NC – In a January 12th letter to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (NCDEQ), the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) External Civil Rights Compliance Office expressed “deep concern” that the State’s failure to adequately regulate more than 2,200 industrial hog operations has a disparate, discriminatory impact on African American, Latino, and Native American communities in eastern North Carolina. The letter was sent to NCDEQ in connection with EPA’s ongoing investigation into a federal civil rights complaint filed in September 2014 by the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), and Waterkeeper Alliance. The groups are represented in this matter by Earthjustice and the UNC Center For Civil Rights.
EPA’s “Letter of Concern” urges NCDEQ to take immediate steps to address the discriminatory impacts of the State’s swine waste management system. For decades, state law has allowed industrial swine operations to dispose of hog waste using lagoon and sprayfield systems, which store hog feces and urine in open-air, unlined pits before spraying this waste onto fields. As part of their investigation, EPA officials have evaluated scientific research and reports showing that North Carolina’s African American, Latino, and Native American residents are disproportionately likely to live near industrial hog operations and suffer the effects of these outdated waste management systems.
EPA’s documented concerns come three months after community members from eastern North Carolina traveled to Washington, D.C. and urged agency officials to visit the region to better understand the health and environmental impacts that industrial hog operations have on communities of color. EPA officials made the trip to North Carolina last November as part of a fact-finding effort that yielded testimony from 85 residents who live in close proximity to these facilities.
In light of this testimony, EPA’s letter recognizes that many communities of color in eastern North Carolina are left to contend with the cumulative impacts of living and working near numerous sources of pollution. “This is part of a broader environmental justice issue in North Carolina,” says NCEJN co-director, Naeema Muhammad. “The same African American, Latino, and Native American communities living near these swine operations also live near a growing number of poultry facilities, landfills, and other land uses that other people are able to refuse.”
EPA’s letter stands in stark contrast to the responses that community members have historically received from NCDEQ. “We have tried to work with NCDEQ for fifteen years, in hopes of getting better regulation and oversight of industrial hog operations, but those efforts have been futile,” says REACH Executive Director, Devon Hall. “After years of telling state officials about the horrendous impacts these facilities have on our daily lives, it is clear that the federal government shares our concern that the State is failing to comply with civil rights laws.”
NCDEQ’s treatment of concerned community members and the state regulator’s friendly relationship with representatives of the pork industry are also scrutinized in the letter from EPA. EPA officials expressed “grave concerns” regarding the longstanding intimidation and hostility that community members have faced from industry representatives when they voice their concerns to the state agency.
“For far too long, NCDEQ has prioritized customer service for the benefit of polluters instead of environmental protection for the benefit of all North Carolinians,” says Will Hendrick, Waterkeeper Alliance Staff Attorney. “We are glad EPA shared our concerns and are hopeful that the new NCDEQ administration will view this as an opportunity to take long overdue action.”
NCEJN, REACH, and Waterkeeper Alliance filed an additional complaint with EPA after members of the National Pork Producers Council arrived at what was supposed to have been a confidential mediation session between the community groups and NCDEQ in January 2016.
EPA’s letter to NCDEQ concludes with key recommendations that the state agency should take immediate steps to implement. EPA recognizes that available, alternative waste management technologies would decrease pollution and odor caused by the use of lagoon and sprayfield systems. EPA also calls on NCDEQ to institute a “functioning nondiscrimination program,” including the introduction of staff and procedures to handle complaints from the public.
NCEJN, REACH, and Waterkeeper Alliance hope that NCDEQ will adopt these recommendations, and look forward to working with state leadership to bring long-awaited changes to North Carolina’s regulation of swine facilities.
Elizabeth Haddix, UNC Center for Civil Rights, [email protected], 919.548.3584
Devon Hall, Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help, [email protected], 910.271.4968
Naeema Muhammad, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, [email protected], 252.314.0703
Maia Raposo, Waterkeeper Alliance, [email protected], 212.747.0622 x116
Keith Rushing, Earthjustice, [email protected], 202.667.4500 x5236