The NC NAACP announced yesterday it will open a federal civil rights investigation into Governor Pat McCory’s and the Department of the Environment and Natural Resources’ (DENR) handling of the Dan River coal ash spill last month.
The Rev. William Barber told a crowd of more than 100 McCrory, DENR and Duke Energy protesters gathered in front of the Governor’s mansion that NAACP lawyers are looking into the spill because Duke Energy “gets some federal contracts.”
“The (1964 Civil Rights Act) says if you get federal money, you cannot engage in policies that have a disparate impact,” Barber told the crowd.
“People of color and poor people are the ones so often harmed by these environmental disasters and toxins,” Barber said. “The people who are so often marginalized politically and economically by them do not have a seat at the table in these conversations.”
According to Barber, minorities make up 24.5 percent of residents living within two miles of the Dan River and two of Duke Energy’s coal ash ponds—one in Stokes County and one in New Hanover County— are located in “predominantly communities of color.”
A third coal ash pond is located in Robeson County, the state's poorest, where a third of residents live below the poverty line.
Duke Energy paid no federal income taxes between 2008 and 2012, and while the company paid $3 million in state income tax over the same period, it received $300 million in tax rebates.
Speakers also criticized McCrory—a 28-year employee of the company— and DENR for their lack of action against Duke Energy, and the Governor’s cozy relationship with the energy giant.
They urged the Governor to give details about his financial connections to the company and to shed light on his role with Duke Energy while he was running for Governor in 2008 and 2012.
“No corporation paid more to get Pat McCrory elected than Duke Energy,” said Bob Hall of Democracy N.C., a research and advocacy organization which aims to reduce the influence of big money in politics.
Hall said during McCrory’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns for Governor, Duke Energy put $1.1 million toward helping McCrory get elected.
“The Governor has the authority to direct DENR to take action,” said Amy Adams of conservation group Appalachian Voices, a former DENR employee who has been a vocal critic of the cuts to DENR’s budget and staff since Republicans took control of the General Assembly.
“DENR has the ability to take action with or without the court system. The court has the ability to take action and yet we see no action occurring to remove these toxic sources from our environment.”