Environmental activists rallied Friday in downtown Raleigh because they say North Carolina legislators and regulators are not protecting rural communities and people of color enough from industrial and agricultural pollution.
About 40 people gathered in front of the Legislative Building and then marched two blocks to the headquarters of the state Department of Environmental and Natural Resources. The protesters were connected to the North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, which was holding its 15th annual justice summit in Whitakers through Saturday.
Network executive director Gary Grant said the group is worried about legislation the General Assembly has passed recently. Minority communities should be treated equally with other parts of North Carolina on clean air and water when it comes to setting standards for approving environment permits, Grant said.
"We just want them to know we are not asleep, that we are wide awake and we're watching and we want our communities protected just as well as the gated communities," Grant said.
The Republican-led legislature approved and Gov. Pat McCrory signed into law bills this year that environmental groups says are bad for groundwater supplies and local governments that want to enact environmental rules that are tougher than state law. Regulations permitting landfills and dump trucks carrying trash also were eased slightly. Some protesters are worried about upcoming rules to regulate fracking, a process to capture natural gas.
The network grew from local opposition in the early 1990s to hog farm operations in two northeastern counties. Grant said animal waste generated from those operations contribute to health problems of residents and are a nuisance.
The event was billed as a "rally to end environmental racism" because they allege state policies and permits allow industries to pollute without regard to the health of residents or their property values.