In a unanimous opinion, the North Carolina Supreme Court last week ruled in favor of Sound Rivers and the N.C. Coastal Federation to continue funding Environmental Enhancement Grant programs, as established by the 2000 Smithfield Agreement. It was the second time the N.C. Supreme Court has ruled in Sound Rivers’ favor.
In 2016, Francis X. Deluca, former president of the conservative group Civitas Institute, sued then-Attorney General Roy Cooper for distributing funds under the EEG program, which was set up by the agreement between North Carolina Attorney General’s Office and Smithfield Foods to improve water quality and address pollution from hog operations.
Deluca argued EEG grant funds should be directed instead to the state Civil Penalty Fund, typically used for public school funding. The New Hanover Board of Education later joined the case as a co-plaintiff, claiming it was entitled to these funds.
Since the lawsuit was filed, the case has bounced around the N.C. appellate courts, and Deluca was eventually removed from the case after the court found he did not have the standing to file the lawsuit.
For more than a decade, the EEG program has distributed grants to environmental and conservation groups, including funding for Sound Rivers’ ongoing campus stormwater projects.
We’re glad the case has been resolved and hope the EEG program can continue uninterrupted for the next few years.
The Southern Environmental Law Center represented Sound Rivers in defending the EEG program, alongside the North Carolina Attorney General.
The NC Supreme Court opinion can be found here: https://appellate.nccourts.org/opinion-filings/?c=sc.