Last May, numerous EJ organizations submitted a letter to the EPA regarding the implementation of the Renewable Fuel Standard e-RINs for wood biomass, landfill gas, and factory farm gas. The letter is available here: No-e-RINs-for-Biomass-Landfill-Gas-or-Factory-Farm-Gas-Letter-final-2.

Today, along with other EJ organizations and voices, NCEJN spoke at the EPA public hearing about the proposed Renewable Fuel Standards. Below is what was said in the 3-minute intervention:

Good morning. My name is Rania Masri – Co-Director at the NC Environmental Justice Network. We work with communities impacted by CAFO’s harmful practices.

EPA’s decision to provide a pathway for electricity produced from so-called “biogas” will harm NC communities already overburdened with pollution from many sources. We urge the EPA not to create a pathway for factory farm methane gas to generate e-RINs. Do not subsidize the cost of methane digesters for CAFOs.

North Carolina is second in the country in hog production. In Duplin and Sampson counties, hogs outnumber people by 30-to-1. Most of the 2,100 industrial hog operations use an outdated cesspit and sprayfield system: billions of gallons of hog feces and urine are flushed into open-air pits and then sprayed onto nearby fields and onto people’s homes. The lagoons in Duplin and Sampson counties hold enough waste to cover 15 football fields.

But you know this. You’ve read the reports. The reports that CAFOs pollute the air and drinking water, and that NC families living near CAFOs have higher rates of anemia, kidney disease, infant mortality. Perhaps you’ve even met with the families who have not been able to drink their tap water and continue to dig deeper and deeper wells. Or you’ve heard of families who cannot feel safe within their homes – because the hog feces and hog urine are constantly sprayed at their home doors and seep into their kitchens and living rooms.

The evidence is clear. Rather than work to stop this horrendous level of pollution, these changes will aggravate them! These changes will entrench the harm.

Take Smithfield Foods, the largest hog producer. Instead of implementing cleaner technology at its operations, it is spending $500 million to expand its harmful cesspit and sprayfield system to build its first large-scale swine waste-to-energy project.

This so-called biogas is dirty energy.

The EPA is not doing enough to protect us from CAFO pollution, and now this industry will gain even more profits for its pollution. At the NC state level, the main policy-making and enforcement bodies have regularly prioritized the hog industry over people-of-color communities. Do not join them in doing so.

We need the EPA to be stronger, to be more vigilant in protecting frontline communities, rather than create further opportunities for more pollution. We ask you to not allow the greenwashing and encouraging of factory farm biogas. Do not allow communities to be regarded as disposable.

Michael Regan began his tenure at the EPA publicly committing to Environmental Justice. He said: “you have my word that there is no higher priority for me than ensuring that all people in this country have clean air to breathe, clean water to drink, and the opportunity to live a healthy life.” Remember the communities that live near CAFOs. Be true to those words.