All state agencies would have to consider environmental and public health justice when deciding on whether to approve publicly funded projects, according to a bill filed today by State Rep. Pricey Harrison, a Democrat from Guilford County. House Bill 784 would also require the agencies to deny permits for these projects if they would disproportionately burden low-income neighborhoods or communities of color that are protected by Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Although many state agencies — transportation, commerce, cultural and natural resources — touch on environmental justice, the bill singles out the NC Department of Environmental Quality because its decisions most often affect these underserved communities.
HB 784 would direct DEQ to deny a permit application for a solid waste facility, such as a landfill, on environmental justice grounds, as defined by federal law.
The state’s solid waste rules already require DEQ to consider cumulative impacts on environmental justice communities for these types of permits. However, DEQ can still approve the permit — and has done so — even if it finds there are environmental justice concerns.
The legislation also would require DEQ to similarly weigh these concerns for major air permits, known as Title V permits. Examples of Title V permit holders are Duke Energy, UNC Chapel Hill’s power plant, Enviva’s four wood pellet facilities, Chemours, and 3M in Pittsboro.
Under HB 784, DEQ and any commission with permitting authority would have to hold at least one public hearing in the overburdened community, provide 60 days’ notice and include in a hearing officer’s report a response to community input. The hearing requirement would be in addition to other legally required public participation.