Federal Agency Examines How Coal Ash Sites Impact Minority Communities

Federal Agency Examines How Coal Ash Sites Impact Minority Communities

3:24pm Apr 07, 2016
David Hairston plants a sign on his front lawn in Walnut cove. He grew up near the Duke Energy Belews Creek plant in Stokes County.

Some residents in the Piedmont will get a chance to voice their concerns about coal ash during a public meeting Thursday.

The North Carolina Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights is looking at the potential health effects on communities of color.  

The meeting in Stokes County will include panel discussions with various stakeholders, including residents, environmental groups, and Duke Energy.

The area is home to the company’s Belews Creek Power Plant. It's a rural community and home to a large minority population. David Hairston, who lives near the site, says he thinks companies like Duke Energy capitalize on smaller, less wealthy neighborhoods.

“They put them strategically in these spots because they think those are where they will get the least resistance,” says Hairston. “Those are the people that can’t afford to hire lawyers to fight back.”

Marty Castro, chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, says the testimony collected will be included in a national report that will make recommendations for coal ash disposal and landfill placement.

“When you look at what’s happening in one state versus another, you see remarkable similarities in how these toxic substances are stored,” says Castro. “The makeup of those communities around those substances and those storage facilities, they tend to be people of predominantly color and people of predominantly limited means.”

Castro says the briefing will also address the first coal ash rule published in spring of 2015, the EPA and other agencies’ collaborative work on environmental justice, including those enforced under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

He says the Commission’s report will be delivered to Congress and President Obama in September.

*You can follow WFDD's Keri Brown on Twitter @kerib_news.

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