A bill that would soften 1995 protections for neighbors of hog farms passed a senate vote Wednesday.
The bill, among other things, would allow hog farms to get approval to rebuild or change the use of existing structures without getting the permission of neighbors. The bill applies to buildings and structures that were built prior to a 1995 law that required buildings to be a certain distance from homes, schools and churches.
Sen. Charlie Albertson, a Duplin County Democrat, said the change would not have any adverse effects on the environment, especially since farmers would not be able to increase the size of their operation.
"If I saw anything that I thought was going to be harmful to the environment, I would not be supporting this bill," Albertson said.
Environmental groups say the bill gives hog farm operations the ability to permanently avoid reforms that went into effect 13 years ago. It shuts neighbors out of possible changes to a hog farm. Simply housing a different group of hogs in a building could have a noticeable effort on emissions and odor, said Joe Rudek, senior scientist with the Environmental Defense Fund.
"The industry would be getting a back door for new farms," Rudek said. "They would be able to change the very nature of the farm by raising new animal types."
The bill must still pass another Senate vote before moving to the House. The bill is HB 822.