Senate Bill 328 Threatens Fundamental Fairness and Entrenches Racial Disparities in the Siting of Solid Waste Facilities

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Senate Bill 328 seeks to remove the requirement that the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) consider the cumulative impact of solid waste facilities on minority or low-income communities in determining whether to issue a permit for those facilities. The bill is currently in the Senate and quickly making its way through the legislative process, and is the latest in a series of proposed legislation this session which seek to repeal or narrow statutes enacted to prevent the perpetuation of racial discrimination.

Currently, NCGS § 130A-294(a)(4)(c), requires DENR to deny an application for a solid waste facility permit if the Department finds

that the cumulative impact of the proposed facility, when considered in relation to other similar impacts of facilities located or proposed in the community, would have a disproportionate adverse impact on a minority or low-income community protected by Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In addition to eliminating basic wetland, groundwater and other natural resource protections, SB 328's ambiguous language would amend the above provision to apply “only to the extent required by federal law.” Federal law does not protect low-income communities.

According to the State of Exclusion, a soon to be released report by the UNC Center for Civil Rights (CCR), residents of census blocks that are super-majority non-white have almost twice the exposure to solid waste facilities as the state average. The problem is especially bad for residents of super-majority African American communities, where the exposure rate is even higher. Even with existing protections, solid waste facilities across North Carolina are disproportionately located near communities of color. Eliminating these statutory protections will only exacerbate this issue.

CCR represents and works with a number of North Carolina communities of color that already bear a disproportionate burden of their county or municipality’s solid waste facilities. These low-wealth neighborhoods share the reality of living with environmental hazards that often accompany these facilities (as well as increased traffic, noise, pollution and negative stigma) and resulting additional inequities in the distribution of infrastructure like roads, schools, and water and sewer services. The experience of these North Carolina citizens indicates that our state has a long way yet to go to achieve fairness in the siting of solid waste facilities. This makes it imperative to maintain the current language of the law which requires consideration of minority or low-income communities when determining where to site solid waste facilities.

CCR works with many communities who would be negatively impacted by a change in this law. At the core of environmental justice is the equal sharing of both the burdens and the benefits of the public’s infrastructure. The sanitary disposal of waste we all create is part of that public infrastructure, which should be borne equally by all of us, no matter our race or income level. Given the data that exists, SB 328 appears intended to allow historical racial inequities to persist in North Carolina, while NCGS § 130A-294(a) as it exists now clearly does not.

Read the Center Press Release (PDF).

Posted by Jennifer Watson Marsh on Mon. June 10, 2013 12:12 PM
Categories: Community Inclusion, Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination
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