N.C. Bill to Shield CAFOs’ Liability Would Curb Rights for Hundreds of Thousands
WASHINGTON – North Carolina legislators are rushing to pass a bill that would severely restrict the traditional property rights of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians suffering from the pollution and stench of factory farms, an EWG investigation based on satellite imagery revealed.
EWG's interactive state map shows that more than 60,000 residential parcels, housing an estimated 160,000 North Carolinians, are within a half mile of an industrial-scale hog or chicken farm or the open-air pits that hold the liquid manure of millions of swine. Because pollution and odors from factory farms, known as CAFOs, can reach much farther, the legislation could abridge the rights of many more people.
The user-friendly map lets residents search for CAFOs or waste pits near any address in the state. It reveals the staggering scope and scale of the threat to citizens’ rights from the legislation to limit damages from so-called nuisance suits to paltry amounts – a brazen special favor for the swine industry, including the Chinese-owned Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world.
Despite bipartisan outcry that the measure is an unconstitutional attack on long-held property rights, on April 10 the state House voted 68-47 to approve House Bill 467 by Rep. Jimmy Dixon, R-Duplin. The bill now moves to the Senate, where a nearly identical bill is in the agriculture committee.
“The simple truth is that many lawmakers elected to represent the interests of North Carolinians are trying to snatch away their property rights at the behest of a multibillion-dollar corporation controlled by the Communist Chinese government,” said EWG President Ken Cook.
Proponents have provided no estimate of the number or location of residential property owners in the state whose rights to relief from farm pollution would be sharply limited, if not eliminated, by the bill. But the EWG map and analysis reveals the extent of the legislation’s attack on North Carolinians’ rights.
EWG researchers identified and mapped more than 60,000 residences statewide within one-half mile of CAFOs or manure pits. Based on U.S. Census figures for average household size in each of county, those residences are home to an estimated 160,000 North Carolinians. Studies show that the health effects, pollution and stench from factory farm can carry three miles or more, so simple math suggests that the bill could impact 360,000 residences and an estimated 960,000 people.
Should the legislation become law, the biggest benefactor would be Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world. Language removed from the House bill, but still in the Senate version, would retroactively apply the damages cap to nuisance suits brought by hundreds of North Carolinans against against Smithfield. Donors associated with Smithfield and other Big Pork interests other have contributed heavily to the of campaign coffers of Dixon, the bill’s primary sponsor, as well as to every other House member who voted for HB 467.
Smithfield is owned by WH Group of China, whose 2013 purchase of Smithfield was financed by the Communist Party-controlled Bank of China. An investigation by PBS Newshour and The Center for Public Integrity concluded that the Chinese government exercises management control of WH Group.
“No one knows for sure how much control the Beijing regime has over WH Group and Smithfield Foods,” said Cook. “But the legislation is certainly consistent with how property rights and pollution control are handled in Communist China. First they take away clean air and clean water, then without notifying those affected they take away the legal right to do anything about it.
“If this bill becomes law, you have to wonder which polluting industry will get legal immunity from North Carolina’s legislators next,” Cook aded. “And how many more thousands of North Carolinians will be deprived of their access to justice if the legislature turns the state over to polluters?”
As a courtesy to Smithfield’s Chinese bosses, here is a Mandarin translation of Cook’s statement:
没有人确切知道北京对万洲国际 (WH Group) 和史密斯菲尔德食品 (Smithfield Foods) 有多少控制权。但这个北卡罗来纳州的立法与共产主义中国如何处理财产权和环境污染是一致的。首先他们夺走清洁的空气和水并且不告知受影响的人，接着他们就会剥夺受影响的人对此事的合法权利.