NC Environmental Justice Network, Rural Empowerment Association for Community Help (REACH), Waterkeepers Alliance, and Winyah Rivers Alliance have filed a constitutional challenge to state laws limiting nuisance suits against industrial hog operations, contending these laws violate due process and property rights under the state Constitution.    

This lawsuit challenges House Bill 467 and Senate Bill 711, which passed over the governor’s vetoes in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Those bills deprive North Carolinians of their constitutional rights by limiting environmental nuisance remedies and claims. After North Carolina’s pork industry began facing and then losing high-dollar lawsuits related to pollution and foul odors, state lawmakers passed new legal protections for the industry. These protections restricted the ability of people who live near industrial hog operations to sue over pollution, odor and other problems using “nuisance” laws.

The suit states, “These laws not only violate the state constitution, but also have disparate impacts on low-wealth and non-white North Carolinians, who disproportionally live where North Carolina has permitted industrial hog facilities to develop and operate.” The organizations, filing suit on behalf of their members who live near industrial hog facilities, contend that, among other harms, the stench, noxious gases, and particulate pollution from these operations deprive residents of their right to use and enjoy their property. African Americans, Latinos and Native Americans in North Carolina are about twice as likely as whites to live within three miles of an industrial hog operation.

As the second largest pork producer in the United States, the hog industry has been and is still an integral component of North Carolina’s economy. Before the industrialization of the hog industry, most North Carolina producers raised small numbers of hogs, typically fewer than 25, on diversified farms where hogs were one of several products. Over the last 3 decades, however, the industry has undergone a major shift. Though the number of producers in the state has declined, the hog population has increased substantially from about 2 million in 1982 to nearly 10 million currently, where the 9.5 billion gallons of waste they produce annually is stored in open cesspools and applied, usually by jet-powered sprayers, on nearby land. Read more about the impacts of industrial agriculture.

We thank our dedicated lawyers at the Julius L. Chambers Center for Civil Rights for their hard work on this double-decade fight for environmental justice.

See the constitutional challenge.