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Hog Farms and Environmental Injustice

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The meat industry routinely seeks to site large farms in poorer areas that need the few jobs they provide. As with other polluting industries, this means they target people of color. In North Carolina, hog farms are the culprit. They are really nasty, both to people and the environment. Now that North Carolina is ruled by the Republican extremists that will transform our nation the next time they control all branches of government, said government is openly working with agribusiness in unprecedented ways to intervene in lawsuits filed to settle these violations.

Negotiations between community advocates and North Carolina’s environmental agency over charges that lax oversight of hog farms disproportionately harms African-American, Latino and Native American communities broke down recently after the Department of Environmental Quality attempted to bring industry representatives into what were supposed to be confidential mediation proceedings.

“I’ve been a civil rights attorney for a long time, and I’ve never seen anything like this,” said Elizabeth Haddix, attorney at the University of North Carolina’s Center for Civil Rights, which is representing the complainants along with the nonprofit law firm Earthjustice. “Having the regulated industry barge in – despite our clear opposition but with DEQ’s support – insisting that they have a right to be at the table to resolve a race discrimination case against DEQ could not be more telling or offensive.”

Back in 2014, the DEQ under the current administration of Gov. Pat McCrory (R) issued a general permit covering more than 2,000 of the state’s industrial hog operations, allowing them to continue flushing the animals’ waste into open pits and spraying it onto nearby fields — even though the practice has led to water contamination and subjects nearby residents to terrible odors and health-damaging air pollution.

And how is this specifically a racial issue?

[T]he proportion of [people of color] living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation is 1.52 times higher than the proportion of non-Hispanic Whites. The proportions of Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation are 1.54, 1.39 and 2.18 times higher, respectively, than the proportion of non-Hispanic Whites … In census blocks with 80 or more percent people of color, the proportion of the population living within 3 miles of an industrial hog operation is 2.14 times higher than in blocks with no people of color. This excess increases to 3.30 times higher with adjustment for rurality.

Like the Louisiana budget and the Flint lead poisonings and the whole mess that it Kansas, Republicans aren’t hiding what their national governance will look like if they win in 2016.

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