It usually happens a few times every legislative session: at some point during their annual stay in the state capital, North Carolina lawmakers come to a bellwether moment or two at which they provide a full expression of who they are and what they stand for. Sometimes, these moments are about race; sometimes they are about human rights or civil liberties; sometimes they are about basic questions of environmental sustainability; and sometimes they are about the clash of human beings and corporations.
Recently, we arrived at one such moment that arguably relates to all four categories. It happened when lobbyists for one of the state’s most powerful and frequently destructive industries prevailed upon conservative leaders in the state Senate to insert some significant new law changes into a previously innocuous bill. The changes would alter the relationship between industrial hog factories (“farms” seems much too genteel of a term to describe these massive and grim operations) and the mostly powerless people of limited means (many of them people of color) who tend to live nearby.
As Policy Watch environmental reporter Lisa Sorg has reported here, here and here, legislators are seeking to make it much more difficult for individuals and families injured by the overpowering and life-degrading output of these massive, corporate-controlled operations – the stench, the airborne fecal matter, the insect swarms, the buzzards, the truckloads of hog carcasses – to bring common law nuisance suits against the multinational corporations that control them. The action is in direct response to a series of lawsuits brought against the pork giant, Murphy-Brown, a subsidiary of the Chinese corporate behemoth known as the WH Group. [Read more…]