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NC Environmental Justice Network Responds to Senate Budget Provision on Animal Waste Permits

·         The Senate budget provision extending the existing Swine General Permit is a blatant attempt by industry to block even limited measures to protect people and the environment and should be strongly opposed.

·         The premise underlying this provision (that DEQ failed to follow proper procedure in revising and issuing the permit) is false. DEQ exceeded the statutory minimum requirements of notice and public input, holding day-long, in-person public sessions in different areas of the state, followed by ample opportunity for written comments, some of which were incorporated into the final permit.  Industry representatives fully participated in that process. Their effort now to extend the old permit is not about a flawed process; it is their attempt to circumvent the proper process because the industry didn’t get everything it wanted.

·         This proposal also undermines the well-established statutory process for an aggrieved party to challenge a permit through the Office of Administrative Hearings, a process that the industry has already begun to pursue through the Farm Bureau’s petition.  Apparently, as indicated by the Farm Bureau’s quote to the N&O today, industry prefers legislative intervention rather than to make its case before an unbiased judge. These actions do not support democracy, but rather are an abuse of power and represent total disregard for the rule of law, equity, fairness, the environment and the health and well-being of the most vulnerable North Carolinians.

·         As it did in 2017 and 2018 with its Farm Act amendments, the legislature has made itself complicit in the racial discrimination caused by the Swine General Permit, which formed the basis of the Title VI complaint filed against DEQ in 2014. In response to that complaint, the EPA warned DEQ of its “deep concern about the possibility that African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans have been subjected to discrimination as the result of NC DEQ’s operation of the Swine Waste General Permit program.” The improvements DEQ made to the 2019 permit, although incremental and long overdue, failed to address that discrimination.  Now the legislature threatens to take such disregard a step further.

·         It is time for North Carolina’s executive branch to step up and make this multi-billion-dollar industry replace its racially discriminatory system of hog waste disposal with environmentally superior technologies. And it is time for the legislature to quit sacrificing North Carolinians of modest means for the wealthy and powerful multi-national pork industry.