Blog Posts: Environmental Justice

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

NC Court of Appeals Allows Deposition of Former County Manager in Brunswick Environmental Justice Case

On April 1, 2014, the North Carolina Court of Appeals dismissed Brunswick County’s consolidated appeal of two trial court orders compelling the County to produce former County Manager Marty Lawing for deposition. This appeal is the second of two filed by the County, both of which have now been dismissed by the Court of Appeals. The first appeal involved the County's motion to dismiss the case, which the trial court denied.


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Posted by Bethan R. Eynon on Tue. April 1, 2014 9:38 AM
Categories: Brunswick County, Environmental Justice, Fair Housing

Environmental injustice in NC extends its unhealthy reach across North Carolina, especially in African American communities

This post was originally posted on the Progressive Pulse by Tazra Mitchell of the North Carolina Budget and Tax Center at the N.C. Justice Center on Thursday, February 28, 2014.

Place Matters

Imagine living in a community that includes the most undesirable and hazardous amenities a place has to offer such as a waste transfer station, a sewage treatment plant, and several landfills. Now, imagine being represented by county officials who decide to provide water and sewer services to an animal shelter but not to the residents—who happen to be more than three-quarters African American. And, these facilities primarily serve the majority-white residents in adjacent communities. Unfortunately, the residents of Royal Oak in Brunswick County don’t have to imagine this; they face this reality every day.


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Posted by Peter Hull Gilbert on Wed. March 5, 2014 3:22 PM
Categories: Brunswick County, Community Inclusion, Environmental Justice, Race Discrimination, Segregation

Data shows clear disparities between majority minority communities and the surroundings

This post was originally posted on the Progressive Pulse on Monday, February 24, 2014.

Place Matters

The previous post in this series, Place Matters, laid out the importance of place-based strategies to address inequality across North Carolina. Geographic solutions must be guided by precise data to target specific solutions to particular communities. The State of Exclusion report (PDF) is a first step in using available statewide data to identify specific communities and the issues they face.


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Posted by Peter Hull Gilbert on Wed. February 26, 2014 2:10 PM
Categories: Community Inclusion, Education, Environmental Justice, Fair Housing, Race Discrimination
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