What’s Going On With the NC Farm Bill?

6/26/2018

Last night Governor Roy Cooper vetoed SB711, a dangerous bill that would greatly limit the constitutional right of North Carolinians living near industrial hog farms to seek justice in the courts for nuisance and pollution of their air and water. The General Assembly will vote later this week on whether or not to override Governor Cooper’s veto.

This is when we need your calls more than ever. Will you make a quick call to your state representative now to make sure Governor Cooper’s veto of SB711 stands? If you don’t know who your representative is, you can use the “Who Represents Me?” tool on the NC General Assembly website here, and find your representative’s phone number here.

 

The Facts About SB711:

  • This bill was drafted to protect Smithfield Foods, an out-of-state industrial hog operation owned by Chinese business interests, from a lawsuit brought by neighbors of industrial hog farms in Eastern NC. The intention is to protect a foreign corporation from liability where rural communities of color are disproportionately impacted by operations they own or control through contracts.
  • This bill is not about protecting farmers, it’s about protecting profits. All of the pending lawsuits are against Smithfield through its subsidiary, Murphy-Brown. The only entity paying damages (or potentially liable) in these cases is Smithfield. While some of the facilities are operated by contract growers, the only defendant in the lawsuits is Smithfield.
  • SB711 allows only neighbors within half a mile of an industrial farm to file a lawsuit, but the claim must be brought within one year of the establishment of the operation. Since there’s been a moratorium on new hog CAFOs (Confined Animal Feeding Operations, also known as large industrial animal operations) since 1997, new operations are not being established. This prevents any neighbor from being able to pursue a nuisance suit. This runs contrary to nuisance theory (and general statute of limitations) where the claim arises when the harm actually occurs, not when the potential for harm begins.
  • This is not to mention neighbors of industrial farms who live more than half a mile away, who will have no longer have any standing to sue for nuisance. Water pollution moves animal waste hundreds of miles downstream, and odor and bacteria are carried by the wind, so neighbors farther than half a mile from hog farms will continue to be effected.
  • SB711 would also severely limit local governments’ ability to regulate large agriculture operations – including poultry plants.

You can still take action. If your state representative voted YES on SB711, ask them to support Governor Cooper’s veto. If your NC House Representative voted NO on SB711, call and thank them for supporting North Carolina homeowners, and ask them to stand strong to support Governor Cooper’s veto of this dangerous bill.  Here’s how some of WNC’s House Reps. voted on SB711:

Chuck McGrady (Henderson): No

Cody Henson (Henderson, Polk, Transylvania): Yes

Kevin Corbin (Cherokee, Clay, Graham, Macon): Yes

Jonathan C. Jordan (Ashe, Watauga): Yes

Michele D. Presnell (Haywood, Madison, Yancey): Yes

Susan C. Fisher (Buncombe): No

John Ager (Buncombe): No

Brian Turner (Buncombe): No

Tim Moore (Cleveland): Yes

Mike Clampitt (Haywood, Jackson, Swain): Yes

Josh Dobson (Avery, McDowell, Mitchell): Yes

And for the record, here’s part of the statement Governor Cooper released after his veto:

“North Carolina’s nuisance laws can help allow generations of families to enjoy their homes and land without fear for their health and safety. Those same laws stopped the Tennessee Valley Authority from pumping air pollution into our mountains…Giving one industry special treatment at the expense of its neighbors is unfair.”

 

Thank you for standing up for North Carolina homeowners and for clean air and water in the state we love.


Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

Press Release: Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

Press Release: Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Duke Energy Request to Raise Energy Bills Would Hurt Working Families, Limit Energy-Efficiency in Western NC

Media Contact:

Eliza Stokes

Advocacy & Communications Associate, MountainTrue

E: eliza@mountaintrue.org; P: 828-258-8737 ext. 218

Jan. 10, 2018

Macon County– On Tuesday, January 16, residents of Western North Carolina will have the opportunity to gather at the Macon County Courthouse in Franklin to voice their opinions about Duke Energy’s proposed rate hike. Duke Energy Carolinas, which serves 2.2 million customers across the state and much of Western North Carolina, has requested approval to raise residential energy rates by 16.7% and to increase their revenue by approximately $647 million. The rate hike is being requested soon after the company rose energy rates by 5% in 2013.

Public interest advocates call the request an attempt to pass Duke’s coal ash clean up costs to the public, which they say would discourage energy-saving measures and be especially harmful for low-income families. The North Carolina Utilities Commission, the body that decides whether or not to approve Duke’s request, will receive the public testimony.

The rate hike would increase a typical residential customer’s bill by $18.72 per month, and would raise energy bills for residential customers more than for industrial and commercial customers. The rate hike would also include a 66% increase of the base energy charge from $11.80 to $17.79, discouraging energy saving measures by customers.

“Working families in Western North Carolina know that when you’re struggling to pay the bills and the mortgage and to put food on the table, you learn to be careful about how you use electricity,” says Robert E. Smith, a former Board Chair of the Jackson-Macon Conservation Alliance. “But with Duke Energy’s new mandatory fee, all families would be charged a minimum of $17.79 per month – about $213 per year – even if they never turned their lights on.”

Public interest advocates believe this rate hike would leave residents of North Carolina’s far western counties, many of whom already face a harsh economic reality, with another unneeded financial burden. Counties including Jackson, Macon, Swain, Graham, Cherokee, and Clay have been named Tier 1 counties by the North Carolina Department of Commerce for 2018, meaning they face the highest level of economic distress in the state. According to the NC Department of Commerce’s 2018 County Tier Designations, Graham County has a median household income of less than $34,000, with 22% of families living below the poverty line. Swain County has a median family income of $36,103 and a 24.5% poverty rate, while Yancey County has a median household income of $36,418 with a 21.7% poverty rate.

Over half of Duke’s rate hike – a total of $336 million would be used to pay for the company’s coal ash cleanup costs. Before proposing the rate hike to the NC Utilities Commission, Duke sought to have these costs covered by its insurance provider, but was refused. Due to past actions, the insurance company stated that “Duke failed to take reasonable measures to avoid and/or mitigate the damage resulting from coal ash disposal.” In 2015, three Duke Energy companies including Duke Energy Carolinas plead guilty to nine criminal environmental violations for their failure to protect NC waterways from coal ash pollution. More recently, it was revealed that Duke was aware of the harms of coal ash beginning in the 1980’s, but did not begin to take precautions.

The NC Utilities Commission hearing will be held Tuesday, January 16 at 7 pm at the Macon County Courthouse located at 5 W. Main St. Courtroom A, Franklin, NC, 28734. Those who plan to speak should arrive at 6:30 pm.

MountainTrue is the oldest grassroots environmental non-profit in Western North Carolina. With offices in Hendersonville, Asheville, and Boone, we work in 23 counties to champion resilient forests, clean waters and healthy communities in our region. MountainTrue engages in policy advocacy at all levels of government, local project advocacy, and on-the-ground environmental restoration projects. Primary program areas include public lands, water quality, clean energy, land use/transportation, and citizen engagement. For more information: mountaintrue.org.

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Western North Carolina is blessed with more than 1.5 million acres of public land, including Nantahala-Pisgah National Forest, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway and several state-owned parks, forests and natural areas. These public lands support the headwaters of our rivers, beautiful mountain vistas, one of the most diverse temperate forests on the planet, and a thriving economy in tourism, crafts and recreation.
During its 30-year history, WNCA (now MountainTrue) has twice prevented logging in the Asheville Watershed, first in 1990 and again in 2004. Eventually the City of Asheville placed a conservation easement over 17,356 acres of the watershed.

First Franklin Green Drinks a Success

The Macon County Chapter of the Western North Carolina Alliance is sponsoring a Franklin Green Drinks!

Green Drinks is a time for local folks to get together and socialize, have a drink, talk about environmental or social justice issues, and just have a great time with one another.

Our first Green Drinks was Tuesday, June 21. Over 20 people were in attendance! We had a presentation by Sunny Himes of the Greenway Invasives Project, updating us on the activities and projects of Franklin’s ever-popular Greenway along the Little Tennessee River; and it prompted great conversation!

We hope you will join us for the next Franklin Green Drinks, happening the 3rd Tuesday of every month at the Rathskellar in Downtown Franklin.