New Report Links Smithfield River Pollution to Political Spending
Raleigh, NC – The owner of Smithfield Foods spent $1.4 million on lobbying in a single year, according to a new report by Environment North Carolina The enormous spending came after Smithfield Packaging dumped over 2.3 million pounds of toxic chemicals into North Carolina’s waterways in 2012.
“Spending millions on lobbying and campaign contributions shouldn’t give polluters a free pass to dump toxins into our waterways,” said Liz Kazal, Environment North Carolina Field Associate. “We need to do more to ensure that the streams that flow into places like Jordan Lake and the Deep River are protected.”
Environment North Carolina’s report links discharges of toxic chemicals as reported in the EPA’s Toxics Release Inventory for 2012 with federally reported campaign contributions and lobbying expenditures for 2014.
Major findings of the report include:
- Smithfield Foods dumped 2,339,770 pounds of toxic pollution into North Carolina’s waterways.
- Smithfield Packaging Company spent $1.4 million dollars on lobbying and $204,006 on 2014 campaign cycle.
Right now, polluters are lobbying their allies on Capitol Hill to derail EPA’s plan to restore Clean Water Act protections to 135,907 miles of streams in North Carolina. Loopholes in the law currently leave the waterways that feed the drinking water for 4.7 million North Carolinians at risk.
"From the coal ash spill last year to leaking hog farm lagoons, our waterways need further protections now more than ever," said Representative Pricey Harrison of Greensboro. "Closing loopholes in the Clean Water Act will ensure that our treasured rivers and streams get the protections they deserve."
North Carolina’s environmental health and beauty are not the only factors falling through these loopholes. Small businesses that rely on clean water are also at risk to feel the impacts of disaster to our waterways.
"We rely on clean water to attract our clients," said Banks Dixon owner of Frog Hollow Outdoors. "When there is contamination to our waterways, it can lead to fish kills and other catastrophes that force us to cancel trips. There is a direct correlation between the health of our rivers and the health of my business."
Environmentalists and small businesses are not the only groups concerned about the link between corporate spending and polluting industries.
“When powerful special interests spend millions to influence our elections and lobby decision makers, they drown out the voices of everyday North Carolinians.” said Dan DeRosa, NCPIRG Advocate. “We need reforms to stop the flow of big money into politics.”
Other environmental groups have weighed in to support the new Clean Water rule.
"Closing the various loopholes in the Clean Water Act is an imperative and positive step by the US EPA to ensure that the waters of North Carolina, as well as the nation, are better protected. North Carolina has experienced recent attempts by big polluters to exploit these loopholes and allow public health threatening and environmentally damaging chemicals, many of which are carcinogenic, to enter streams, rivers and lakes all across the state,” said George Matthis River Guardian Foundation President. “We support these efforts and encourage the public to express their desire for better protection of our valuable water resources for current and future generations via EPA's new rule."
“It’s clear that North Carolina’s polluters have deep pockets, but thousands of North Carolinians have raised their voices in support of doing more to protect all of our rivers and streams,” Kazal said. “It’s time for Congress to listen to citizens, not the polluters, and let the EPA finish the job to protect our waterways.”
Environment North Carolina is a statewide, citizen-based, environmental advocacy group working to protect clean air, clean water, and open spaces. Find out more at www.EnvironmentNorthCarolina.org.