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EPA to review NC permit OKs at hog farms collecting gas

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RALEIGH, N.C. (AP) — Federal regulators have agreed to investigate whether the North Carolina Department of Environment Quality violated the rights of minority residents and poor people living near farms where it approved plans to capture gas from hog waste.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency wrote this week saying it had accepted a complaint filed in October by the Southern Environmental Law Center for the Duplin County NAACP and the North Carolina Poor People’s Campaign.

The complaint alleges the state’s water quality permit modifications at four hog farms approved last March contained “inadequate” protections for nearby communities in Duplin and Sampson counties, violating civil rights laws, The News & Observer of Raleigh reported.

Moving forward with the investigation doesn't reflect any decision on the merits of the allegations, the EPA’s External Civil Rights Compliance Office wrote to an SELC lawyer.

The farms are among 19 operations set to provide methane to a natural gas facility near the Sampson-Duplin county line operated by a partnership between Smithfield Foods and Dominion Energy. The farms will capture methane and other gases in a digester and send the product to a processing facility.

A Department of Environmental Quality spokeswoman said the agency was reviewing a letter from EPA.

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