Sound Rivers is teaming up with conservation organizations and community groups across the state to urge North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein to take action against a biogas project that would harm our air, water and communities.
The Grady Road Project by Align Renewable Natural Gas, a venture created by Smithfield Foods and Dominion Energy, is the first of its kind in North Carolina and will initially consist of 19 hog operations and 30-plus miles of pipeline to pipe the biogas from those operations to a central processing facility. Covering the open waste lagoons at industrial hog operations allows for methane capture. Once captured, the biogas must then be processed at a central facility before it can be injected into a natural gas pipeline.
DEQ is considering modifications to water permits at four separate Smithfield-owned facilities: these modifications include building new lagoons to store untreated hog urine and feces at three Smithfield Foods industrial hog operations, and modifying an existing lagoon at another operation.
DEQ, however, has not considered the pollution from all aspects of the project — especially since Dominion has refused to share critical information about its plans, according to Jill Howell, Pamlico-Tar Riverkeeper.
“DEQ doesn’t know which 19 hog operations are included in the project they are permitting. How can you evaluate all the potential environmental impacts when you don’t know where the pipelines are going?” Howell said. “We want DEQ always to look at cumulative impacts.”
The state currently has a moratorium on building new hog waste lagoons and, as part of an agreement with the state 20 years ago, Smithfield signed on to invest in cleaner technology to protect North Carolina’s communities, air and water. The Grady Road Project falls short of that goal, considering the capped lagoons will create concentrated ammonia in the liquid waste that will continue to be sprayed on fields, which then runs off into our waterways and seeps into the groundwater. Since spraying will continue, so will odor concerns of surrounding neighbors. Capping lagoons also fails to address these facilities’ vulnerability to flooding; the caps do not offer protection from major flooding and hurricanes.
Howell acknowledged that the 19 industrial hog operations in the initial phase are not in the Neuse or Tar-Pamlico river basins, however, in 2018, Smithfield announced the company planned to cap lagoons at 90% of its North Carolina, Missouri and Utah facilities over the next 10 years, and, in North Carolina, many of those industrial hog farms are in Neuse and Tar-Pamlico basins. According to Howell, it’s imperative to intervene now.
“This is the first round. This is our shot to set the tone for how the rest of this goes,” Howell said.
There are opportunities coming up for the public to weigh in and make their concerns heard. Please consider taking action by:
Asking North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein to enforce the terms of the Smithfield Agreement, under which the company promised to install environmental superior technology to manage hog waste when it was economically feasible, by signing the petition here;
DEQ will host a virtual public meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 26, to discuss draft water-quality permits for four of the 19 hog operations producing biogas for the Grady Road Project. Anyone who would like to comment must register online at http://bit.ly/2KI3Uie or call 919-707-3645 by noon on Jan. 26.
DEQ will also accept public comments by email, mail and voicemail until 5 p.m. on Jan. 29. Comments can be submitted in the following ways:
- Email publiccommentsDWR@ncdenr.gov with the subject line “Swine Biogas”;
- Mail to U.S. Postal Service to Ramesh Ravella, Department of Environmental Quality, 1636 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, North Carolina 27699-1636;
- By voicemail at 919-707-9010.