Blog Posts: Environmental Justice

State of Exclusion: Profile on Orange County

Orange-Cover

Following the 2013 State of Exclusion report, the UNC Center for Civil Rights released a series of county profiles, containing a more in-depth examination of exclusion and the legacy of racial segregation in the individual counties. The fifth in the series, Orange County, is released today. This report, the other county reports, and the statewide report, are all available at www.uncinclusionproject.org.

Nestled in the Raleigh-Durham metropolitan area, Orange County boasts three prosperous towns, a low unemployment rate and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Behind this prosperity lies a sharp divide between rich and poor, often along racial lines. As the county has grown, the cost of living has increased and the African American population has declined. The result is outward migration from traditional African American neighborhoods and the county as a whole.

The county’s remaining non-white population disproportionately live in areas with close proximity to solid waste or other potentially polluting facilities. Compared to other wealthy counties or to the state, Orange County has a smaller exposure rate to solid waste facilities for its overall population (3.20% compared to 5.34% statewide), but a higher rate for super majority non-white census blocks (16.72% compared to 9.37%). Additionally, racially identifiable excluded communities still have difficulty obtaining the infrastructure to supply water and sewer access. The County has been working with the cities to address this issue, but it is a slow process.


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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Thu. March 9, 2017 4:14 PM
Categories: Community Inclusion, Education, Environmental Justice, Orange County, Race Discrimination

EPA: "Deep Concern" Over Discriminatory Impacts of Industrial Hog Operations in North Carolina

On January 12th, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) sent the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) a letter expressing “deep concern” that the State has failed to adequately regulate more than 2,220 industrial hog operations concentrated in eastern North Carolina.  The News and Observer first reported on EPA's letter to DEQ Wednesday afternoon.

EPA’s “Letter of Concern” was sent to DEQ as part an 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, Inc., under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.  Current state law allows industrial hog operations to store swine waste in open-air pits, called “lagoons,” before spraying the feces and urine onto fields.  In North Carolina, African American, Latino, and Native American residents are disproportionately more likely to live in close proximity to these industrial facilities and be forced to contend with the impacts of these outdated waste management practices.

In October 2016, community members from eastern North Carolina travelled to Washington, D.C. and urged EPA officials to visit the region to experience firsthand the impacts that industrial hog operations have on communities of color.  EPA’s twelve-page letter to DEQ comes two months after agency officials completed their trip to eastern North Carolina and gathered testimony from more than 80 residents living near industrial swine facilities.

EPA’s letter advises DEQ to take immediate steps to address the discriminatory impacts of the State’s failure to adequately regulate these industrial hog operations.  The letter notes that available, alternative waste management technologies would reduce pollution and odor caused by the current use of lagoon and sprayfield systems.  EPA officials also express “grave concern” over the hostility and intimidation that community members who have brought complaints to DEQ have subsequently faced from representatives of the pork industry.


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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Thu. January 19, 2017 10:15 AM
Categories: Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

Community Organizations File for Administrative Hearing on DEQ's Unanswered Citizen Complaints

On December 6, 2016, the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc., and Cape Fear River Watch (CFRW) filed a Petition for a Contested Case Hearing with the North Carolina Office of Administrative Hearings.  The groups' petition alleges the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has continually failed to respond to credible citizen complaints of illegal activity at industrial hog operations.

NCEJN, Waterkeeper Alliance, and CFRW issued a joint press release after the petition was filed, highlighting the concentration of industrial hog operations in eastern North Carolina and the impact these facilities have on communities of color.  "African American, Latino, and Native American communities disproportionately bear the burden of living near industrial hog operations in Eastern North Carolina. NCDEQ has ignored our continued requests for adequate regulation and monitoring of this industry for years. Their continued failure to investigate complaints filed by members of NCEJN and other impacted community members adds insult to injury for people living with the stench and water contamination caused by swine CAFOs," said NCEJN co-director, Naeema Muhammad.


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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Wed. December 7, 2016 12:36 PM
Categories: Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

Communities Impacted by CAFOs Ask EPA to Make A Finding of Discrimination By Year’s End

African American, Latino, and Native American residents of Eastern North Carolina are anxiously awaiting help from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in their decades-long struggle to resist the adverse impacts of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) disproportionately concentrated in their communities.  In September 2014, groups representing those residents, the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH) and the NC Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), joined with Waterkeeper Alliance in filing a complaint under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 against the NC Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) with EPA’s Office of Civil Rights (OCR).  The complaint alleges that DEQ’s permitting and oversight of swine CAFOs has a racially discriminatory impact on black, Latino and American Indian North Carolinians. 

OCR began its investigation of the complaint in February 2015.  This past October, 20 impacted residents traveled to Washington DC to deliver a petition signed by over 95,000 people from across the country urging EPA investigators to come to eastern North Carolina  and see the impacts for themselves.  The residents met with OCR and with staff of North Carolina legislators, told them about the unbearable stench and pollution from the open pits of hog waste and the fields where the waste is sprayed; the infestation of buzzards, flies and other disease vectors; and the broad range of other ways these operations damage their health and ruin their quality of life.  In response, OCR investigators travelled to the state and observed firsthand the impacts on these communities in mid-November. Over the last two and a half years, the complainants, represented by the Center and Earthjustice, have provided OCR with reams of documents and data (including over a decade’s worth of scientific research led by recently deceased Dr. Steve Wing of UNC’s School of Public Health), as well as sworn declarations from many impacted residents, which support the complaint’s allegations.

The community members are pleading with EPA to make a finding of discrimination before the end of 2016.


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Posted by Elizabeth M. Haddix on Thu. December 1, 2016 12:40 PM
Categories: Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

North Carolina Environmental Justice Network's 18th Annual Environmental Justice Summit

On October 21-22, environmental justice advocates, scientists and impacted community members from across the state gathered at the historic Franklinton Center at Bricks in Whitakers, NC for the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network’s (NCEJN) 18th annual Environmental Justice Summit. There were research presentations on lead poisoning prevention, coal ash and its impact on low-income communities, and anti-biotic resistant bacteria from industrial hog operations. A Government Listening Panel held on Friday afternoon was not attended by any representatives from NC’s Department of Environmental Quality. However, community members were able to directly plead with the EPA to enforce civil rights protections because Cynthia Peurifoy from EPA’s Region IV office in Atlanta, GA was on the panel. Friday evening featured a play based on oral histories collected from residents of West Badin, NC, “Race and Waste in an Aluminum Town,” documenting the disastrous human cost of working in and living near the Alcoa plant which officially closed in 2010. Members of the Concerned Citizens of the West Badin Community spoke after the play. The Center and its clients received special recognition on Saturday when the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH) received NCEJN’s Community Resilience Award, and Center Staff Attorney Elizabeth Haddix received the Steve Wing International Environmental Justice Award.
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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Tue. October 25, 2016 9:10 AM
Categories: Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

Center clients participate in Factory Farm Summit, Green Bay, WI

On September 10 and 11, 2016, Center staff attorney Elizabeth Haddix joined residents from Sampson, Duplin, Bladen and Pender counties who suffer the impacts from industrial pork and poultry operations concentrated in their communities at a national summit hosted by the Oneida Nation in Green Bay, WI entitled “Factory Farm Summit: Demanding Accountability in Agriculture.” The summit, which brought together farmers, residents, researchers and advocates from across the country, was organized by the Socially Responsible Agricultural Project (SRAP), which works throughout the U.S. helping communities protect themselves from the negative impacts of factory farms, officially called Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).
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Posted by Elizabeth M. Haddix on Fri. September 16, 2016 2:11 PM
Categories: Environmental Justice

Center Submits Comments to EPA Regarding "Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda"

The Center, joined by several of its clients and colleagues in the struggle for environmental justice, submitted these comments yesterday to the EPA regarding the agency's "Environmental Justice 2020 Action Agenda."

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Posted by Brent J. Ducharme on Fri. July 29, 2016 10:13 AM
Categories: Environmental Justice

EPA Examines Swine Waste in Duplin County

In September 2014, the NC Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN), the Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (“REACH”) and the Waterkeepers Alliance filed a race discrimination administrative complaint (PDF) against the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) with the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Civil Rights. The EPA accepted jurisdiction (PDF) of the complaint in early February 2015. The complaint alleges that DENR’s general permit allows industrial swine facilities in North Carolina to operate with grossly inadequate and outdated systems of controlling animal waste and little provision for government oversight, which has an unjustified disproportionate impact on the basis of race and national origin against African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in violation of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the EPA’s implementing regulations. The Center for Civil Rights is co-counseling with Earthjustice (New York) on the case.


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Posted by Elizabeth M. Haddix on Fri. September 11, 2015 3:22 PM
Categories: Environmental Justice

Brunswick County Landfill Case Settles

Clients and counsel celebrate after settling the Brunswick County case

The Royal Oak case resolved on June 16, 2014 with Brunswick County’s approval of the settlement agreement in ROCCA et. al. v. Brunswick County.


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Posted by Elizabeth M. Haddix on Fri. September 5, 2014 4:32 PM
Categories: Brunswick County, Community Inclusion, Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination

State of Exclusion: Profile on Moore County

State of Exclusion: Profile on Moore County

The UNC Center for Civil Rights continues its series of county level profiles on the legacy of racial segregation, focusing this time on Moore County (PDF). Building on last year’s statewide State of Exclusion report (PDF), this series includes prior reports on Lenoir (PDF) and Davidson (PDF) counties; all are available at www.uncinclusionproject.org. Profiles of additional counties will follow in the coming weeks, each highlighting particular aspects of that county’s history, ongoing impacts of exclusion, and progress toward full inclusion of all residents.

Moore County, in the southern part of the Piedmont of North Carolina, is the center of the Sandhills region, known today primarily for its luxurious golf resorts, especially Pinehurst, home to this year’s U.S. Open Golf Tournament. Despite significant strides, Moore County remains nearly as deeply divided as described by the New York Times in 2005, the last time it hosted a U.S. Open. Most basic amenities have been extended to the excluded communities nearest the wealthiest golf resorts, but when looking at the county as a whole, racial and economic segregation persists. This report focuses on the impact of racial segregation on affordable housing, public education, environmental justice, and access to municipal services. The UNC Center for Civil Rights continues to represent several excluded communities in the county; the history of the Center’s work there informs the report, but like prior reports all conclusions are based upon publically available data.


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Posted by Peter Hull Gilbert on Fri. June 6, 2014 4:07 PM
Categories: Annexation, Community Inclusion, Education, Environmental Justice, Fair Housing, Moore County, Race Discrimination, Segregation, Voting Rights
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