• EPA launches civil rights inquiry into DEQ’s permitting of biogas systems on hog farms

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch January 14, 2022 The Environmental Protection Agency is opening an investigation into whether state regulators violated civil rights law when last spring, they granted permits to four industrialized hog farms that are installing anaerobic digesters to produce biogas for renewable energy. The investigation is in response to a complaint against the NC Department of Environmental Quality filed by the Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing several community groups. SELC alleges that when DEQ granted the general permits to the Smithfield-owned farms, the agency failed to protect the surrounding communities from air and water pollution. A disproportionate share of the hundreds of families who live around the hog operations in Duplin and Sampson County are Black and Latino. Under a federal civil rights law, known as Title VI, entities that receive federal funds can’t from discriminate on the basis of race, color, or national origin —intentionally or unintentionally. “We are excited that the EPA decided to investigate this complaint.  As a ‘watch dog’ for those most negatively impacted by the hog industry, we consider the investigation of this complaint as a step in the right direction.  Nevertheless, we also understand that there is much more work to be done,” said Robert Moore, president of the Duplin County Chapter of the North Carolina NAACP, in a prepared statement. The SELC complaint met the administrative requirements for the EPA to proceed; next the agency will determine whether the complaint has merit. DEQ has 30 days to respond to the EPA. If the EPA finds the underlying issues of the complaint are valid, the case would initially go to mediation, which is legally required. Parts of the SELC complaint to the EPA are similar to one it filed to the state Administrative Office of the Courts. Earlier this week, Administrative Law Judge Donald van der Vaart ruled that DEQ legally permitted industrialized hog farms to install the digesters on their waste lagoons. Van der Vaart previously served as DEQ secretary under then-Gov. Pat McCrory, and was known for his anti-regulatory stances. The SELC’s state filing did not address civil rights laws. This is the EPA’s third civil rights inquiry into DEQ’s handling of industrialized hog farms since 2014. That year, under DEQ Secretary John Skvarla, the Waterkeeper Alliance, NC Environmental Justice Network and REACH (Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help) filed a complaint alleging that the state’s general permitting process for swine farms disproportionately burdens communities of color. The EPA ordered the parties into mediation, but in 2016 — under van der Vaart’s tenure — those talks broke down after DEQ brought members of the N.C. Pork Council and the Pork Producers to a confidential mediation meeting. In turn, Elizabeth Haddix and Mark Dorosin, who at the time worked for the UNC Center for Civil Rights, filed a retaliation complaint against the agency. In 2018, under Secretary Michael Regan, DEQ reached a settlement with the UNC Center for Civil Rights and its clients. The key points included air and surface water monitoring, greater public participation and transparency, and new complaint and violation point systems. Regan is now the EPA administrator. Read the article on NC Policy Watch


    Continue reading
  • Environmental lawsuit challenges NC biogas production from hog waste

    By: Arturo Pineda, Carolina Public PressOctober 22, 2021 A complaint about pollutants from hog farms filed last month with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency alleges that the N.C. Department of Environmental Quality’s issuing of biogas permits to four hog farms will have a disproportionate impact on communities of color in the surrounding area.  North Carolina environmental and civil rights advocacy groups argue that if the biogas operations are allowed to operate, pollutants from the operations will affect the communities of color surrounding the hog farms.  Biogas production is…


    Continue reading
  • Pollution from N.C.’s Commercial Poultry Farms Disproportionately Harms Communities of Color

    By: Aman Azhar, Inside Climate NewsOctober 13, 2021 The legislation aimed at regulating North Carolina’s huge and largely unregulated poultry industry seemed modest in scope, requiring commercial chicken farms to submit waste management plans to environmental regulators so the public would know where millions of tons of chicken “litter” ends up.  But as the legislative session in Raleigh came to a close in July, the bill had moved not an inch—and no one was surprised. “We’re unlikely to see any poultry related legislation passed in the short run,”…


    Continue reading
  • How the Meat Industry is Climate-Washing its Polluting Business Model

    By: Caroline Christen, DeSmog BlogJuly 18, 2021 In February last year, the head of a leading global meat industry body gave a “pep talk” to his colleagues at an Australian agriculture conference.  “It’s a recurring theme that somehow the livestock sector and eating meat is detrimental to the environment, that it is a serious negative in terms of the climate change discussions,” Hsin Huang, Secretary General of the International Meat Secretariat (IMS), told his audience. But the sector, he insisted, could be the “heroes in this discussion” if it…


    Continue reading
  • REPORT: “Bird’s-eye View – Impacts of NC Poultry Production on People and the Environment”

    Poultry rules the roost in North Carolina. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, poultry farming is now North Carolina’s #1 agricultural commodity, and with that rise to the top comes a rise in the problems it brings to communities. Clean Water for NC’s report, Bird’s-eye View: Impacts of NC Poultry Production on People and the Environment, gathers research on the social, environmental, and health impacts of NC’s poultry industry. In North Carolina, the number of poultry farms has dramatically increased since the 1997 state moratorium on new hog farms. Poultry operations often house…


    Continue reading
  • The North Carolina hog industry’s answer to pollution: a $500m pipeline project

    By: Michael Sainato, The Guardian December 11, 2020 Elsie Herring of Duplin county, North Carolina, lives in the house her late mother grew up in, but for the past several decades her home has been subjected to pollution from nearby industrial hog farms. “We have to deal with whether it’s safe to go outside. It’s a terrible thing to open the door and face that waste. It makes you want to throw up. It takes your breath away, it makes your eyes…


    Continue reading
  • Could defeat in nuisance lawsuits herald a reckoning for the NC hog industry?

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch November 24, 2020 In an extraordinary concurring opinion, a Reagan-appointed judge offers searing indictment of industrialized hog farming  Shortly after Smithfield Foods lost its third consecutive hog nuisance case in federal court, company CEO Ken Sullivan wrote a letter. In it, Sullivan reassured the company’s employees and contract growers that while Smithfield faced tens of millions of dollars in damages to neighbors of the offending farms, as well as untold legal fees, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals would bend the arc of justice back their way. “Since the early stages of these cases, we’ve believed North…


    Continue reading
  • Proposed new poultry farm in Chatham County: 750,000 birds, taxpayer-funded — and lots of secrets

    By: Lisa Sorg, NC Policy Watch September 28, 2020 Although not the farmer, Sen. Tom McInnis of Richmond County owns the land A proposed poultry farm near Goldston in Chatham County could raise nearly 750,000 birds each year near an important waterway, yet many of the details are secret even though taxpayer funds are bankrolling much of the construction and it’s being built on a state senator’s property, a Policy Watch investigation has found. The USDA’s Farm Service Agency is in charge of the loan. The amount is not specified in public documents, but federal policy caps guaranteed operating loans at…


    Continue reading
  • Keeping an Eye on the impacts of Factory Farms

    SIGN UP FOR FACTORY FARM WATCH DIGEST! CWFNC’s newest project addresses the under-regulated poultry industry and its threat to drinking water and community health. Poultry operations are spreading across the state at an alarming speed, while our state agencies downplay their risk to both people and the environment. These farms negatively impact the health of nearby residents, pollute the air and water, and neglect the safety of their workers. Alongside preexisting efforts by Environmental Working Group and the Waterkeeper Alliance, we will push for better permitting, transparency, and enforcement to help mitigate this issue for North Carolinians.  Advocacy groups and investigative journalists have released a number of eye-opening reports and news articles to call attention to the dangers of industrial animal operations and how this impacts each and every one of us. Here is a collection of recent news and reports:  REPORTS: UNDER THE RADAR  NC Regulators have Ignored the Decade-Long Explosion of Poultry CAFOs, which create 5 million tons of nutrient-laden poultry waste a year (4.8 times more nitrogen & 4.1 times more phosphorous waste from poultry than from pigs). EWG, Feb 13, 2019 Investigation: Counties With Meatpacking Plants Report Twice the National Average Rate of COVID-19 Infections Counties with or near meatpacking plants have almost twice the rate of known COVID-19 infections as the national average, according to a geospatial analysis by the Environmental Working Group. EWG, May 14, 2020 NEWS: Nearly a billion birds producing five million tons of waste per year While hog farms and their waste are monitored by DEQ, poultry farms remain under the jurisdiction of the agricultural department, which has limited knowledge of their whereabouts. NC Policy Watch, May 19, 2020 DEQ lists progress on environmental justice, swine farms; critics say enforcement essential NC DEQ released a draft of a violation point system that can be used to better gauge animal farms' permit compliance as well as the first version of an anonymous compliant tool. NC Policy Watch, May 15, 2020 ‘They didn’t tell us anything’: North Carolina poultry plant workers say Butterball isn’t protecting them from COVID-19 Up to 52 workers at the Duplin County Butterball plant tested positive, but the company and NC government won’t confirm the number of cases, leaving communities at risk, confused, and demanding transparency. Southerly Magazine, May 1, 2020 FACTORY FARMS: A PANDEMIC IN THE MAKING. Most recent pandemics have been the result of zoonotic viruses “spilling over” to humans from animals, in many cases through domestic livestock right here in the U.S. US PIRG, Apr 24, 2020 If you’re interested in staying updated on our project and the latest poultry-related news, click the button below! SIGN UP FOR FACTORY FARM WATCH DIGEST!


    Continue reading