On the heels of deciding in our favor on the General Assembly’s unconstitutional maps, a unanimous North Carolina Supreme Court has ruled the state Attorney General can continue using a hog company’s penalty payments for environmental grants instead of for schools.
The decision came last week in a case challenging the 2001 settlement of damages claims against corporate hog farms prior to that time. A rightwing think tank’s former executive filed the challenge in 2016. This is a mark of how long factory hog farms have been defiling our state’s environment and threatening public health. That settlement more than 20 years ago, reached on behalf of the state by then-Attorney General Roy Cooper, provided for polluters’ payments to be awarded by the state for environmental restoration and protection projects.
Under what is known as the Smithfield Agreement, nearly $37 million has been invested in over 190 projects, including wetland restoration, stormwater remediation, and other mitigation programs. Since the program’s inception, 240 abandoned hog waste lagoons have been closed, and 31,000 acres of land and wildlife habitat restored or conserved.
The lesson to pro-polluter lawyers should be to drop their transparently political attempts to manipulate the legal system in support of the right to pollute without limits. Sadly, they’re unlikely to take that lesson to heart.