One person's economic gain is another person's health problem:
The state is failing low-income communities with large African-American and Native American populations by allowing polluting industries to concentrate in their counties, a group of residents said Wednesday as they demanded that an environmental justice advisory board do more to advocate for them.
Opponents of Enviva, a company that produces wood pellets by the ton for export, the proposed Atlantic Coast Pipeline, coal ash disposal sites, and industrial agriculture said the DEQ is watching out for industries and not the people who live near those operations.
Environmental justice issues have plagued minority communities since the dawn of the industrial revolution, and very few improvements have been made to this day. Government has, for the most part, ignored the formula industry uses in site selection (cheap land, powerless people). And in many cases has actually taken an active role in the unfair process, via zoning and permitting practices. While I do support both Governor Cooper and Michael Regan, I also support this message:
At a news conference after the meeting, William Barber III, an advisory board member who works with The Climate Reality Project and North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign, said DEQ should be required to consider the cumulative impacts of “extractive industries” before granting permits, and should start with the wood pellet industry.
Belinda Joyner, a Northampton County resident, told the advisory board that it wasn’t by accident that Enviva, the Atlantic Coast Pipeline route, and a hog farm ended up a few miles from one another in the economically distressed county that is majority African-American.
“Go back and tell DEQ that they have failed us as people, as a community,” Joyner told the advisory board. “We need somebody who’s going to be there for us and not against us.”
“They had three different hearings in three different counties,” Joyner said. “It’s amazing how we got the same result in all three counties.”
Just to be clear, it's not a coincidence. It's a pattern, and one that can be easily detected by studying the history of pollutive industries. The actions of the state's environmental regulators serve as a template for local governments to follow, and the message we're sending them is the wrong one.
I'm not sure who was arrested Friday night, but my friends at the Dogwood Alliance have been very active in pushing the Governor and his administration to do better:
Our mission and focus is to protect the diverse communities and forests of the Southern U.S. from the impacts of destructive industrial logging. We are committed to working in solidarity with and to help amplify the voices of the people who are negatively impacted by extractive and polluting industries. We recognize that it is often the most vulnerable among us, including people of color, who are disproportionately impacted by environmental degradation and pollution.
Because of this, communities of color are some of the strongest advocates for environmental protection. We work in partnership with many diverse organizations, including social justice groups and communities on the front-lines of environmental justice hot spots in the Southern US.
Social and economic justice is at the core of our organizational values. Community health and well-being means having equitable rights, which include protection of—and access to—valued resources. As an environmental organization, we do not believe that environmental protection is ever a valid justification for policies or actions that result in discriminatory outcomes based on race, ethnicity, class, religion, gender, gender identity etc. We believe that our Southern culture is stronger, healthier and more beautiful because of its diversity.
Just a note about rural areas not making the headlines: Enviva isn't chopping down and processing trees in the Research Triangle Park area, or near the Chapel Hill/Carrboro rural buffer. They're doing it in communities most of you have never heard of, and that includes wetlands that are major ecosystems and water "purifiers," that help control flooding and filter man-made toxins. It's a nasty business all around, and the very last one we should allow considering climate change.