The NC Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) recently denied a motion by the NC NAACP and NC Environmental Justice Network (NCEJN) to intervene in the N.C. Farm Bureau Federation’s contested case regarding the 2019 Swine General Permit. October 2nd, the day after the permit was to take effect, the two social justice organizations appealed the OAH denial to Wake County Superior Court, and moved for a stay of the OAH proceedings pending the court’s decision on their appeal. Following the State House of Representatives’ recent controversial vote overriding the Governor’s veto of the state budget, a provision extending the 2014 General Permits until December 2020 came one step closer to becoming law. The 2014 Swine General Permit is even less protective of the environment, and its failure to contain any language that addresses discrimination was the basis of a federal civil rights complaint filed with the EPA. The 2019 permit similarly fails to include any protections to address the permits racially discriminatory impacts.
“We stand together not only on behalf of all our members who are directly harmed by the antiquated swine waste system DEQ continues to allow with this General Permit,” said NC NAACP President Rev. T. Anthony Spearman, “but also because we share a common mission: to end racial discrimination and promote environmental justice and equity in North Carolina.” The 2019 Swine General Permit covers all operations with more than 250 hogs which use the “lagoon” and sprayfield system of waste disposal. Research shows that people who live where those operations are most concentrated are disproportionately Native American, African American and Latinx. Over the last year, five juries have found that the horrible odors, flies, buzzards, traffic and pollution from those operations substantially and unreasonably interfere with neighbors’ rights to use and enjoy their homes.
“DEQ knows that there are waste technologies available that would alleviate many of the harms these swine operations cause to the communities that live near them, as well as to the environment,” said Naeema Muhammad, NCEJN’s Co-Director, “and it also knows that, because of where these facilities are concentrated, they have a racially discriminatory impact on low-wealth communities of color. Yet DEQ issued that General Permit without any provision to address that impact.” Ms. Muhammad added, “DEQ staff told us that they would not deny a permit or otherwise regulate to address race discrimination, but that can’t be right under state and federal civil rights law.” The OAH denied the groups’ motion to join the OAH case claiming that they have no “direct interest” in the permit, and that the OAH has no jurisdiction over constitutional claims. NCEJN and NC NAACP have appealed both issues to Wake County Superior Court.