The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality has reached a settlement agreement with a coalition of community-based environmental groups to improve regulatory oversight of industrial swine operations. The agreement marks the resolution of civil rights complaints filed against the state environmental agency in 2014 and 2016.
“The agreement underscores DEQ’s commitment to strengthening environmental protection and public engagement in communities that are impacted by industrial swine facilities,” says DEQ Secretary Michael Regan.
Under the agreement, which resolves complaints filed under the federal Title VI anti-discrimination law, DEQ proposes to make several modifications to the state’s animal operations general permit to provide closer regulatory oversight and stronger measures for environmental protection. The general permit is up for renewal this year. DEQ will seek public input from stakeholders and other interested parties within the next month.
In response to the settlement, North Carolina Pork Council released this statement, “We have always maintained, and now the parties agree, there were no violations of the civil rights law in the permitting of hog farms in North Carolina. It is without question that this is the proper conclusion to this unfounded allegation. We look forward to working with N.C. DEQ and other stakeholders in regard to the many rules and regulations that apply to our farms.”
DEQ will also design and implement an air quality study in Duplin County and expand its existing water quality monitoring program in Sampson and Duplin counties. The new monitoring will help the state determine if environmental impacts are occurring in the region and if so, how to best eliminate those impacts. In addition, DEQ will develop a more robust Title VI program governing all DEQ activities, including a method to assess potential community impacts related to agency decisions.
After completing the new measures, DEQ will review the outcome of the general permit renewal process, the monitoring data collected, and the results of an assessment of community impacts to determine if additional action is needed.
A copy of the signed agreement can be viewed here.