In a recent report, the NAACP singled out a few North Carolina coal-fired power plants as among the worst in the country in terms of environmental justice.
The group looked at the 378 coal plants in the United States by combining emissions of pollutants – particularly sulfur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide – the population within three miles of the plants, and the median income and percentage of minorities living nearby.
75 plants were identified as having a "disproportionate and considerable impact on people of color and low-income people."
Four are located in North Carolina, tied for the fifth most of any state. Illinois has the most plants that meet those criteria, according to the report, and Duke Energy is described as the seventh-worst of any utility company.
The report characterizes the problem as such:
Communities of color have been forced to contend with land appropriation, toxic working conditions, polluted neighborhoods and other conditions that have a detrimental effect on their environments and socioeconomic opportunities. It was in the 1960s and 1970s, mainstream audiences who were galvanized into action by the publication of Silent Spring, and who responded with “not in my backyard” when faced with environmental hazards that would impact public health and private property. While white middle-class communities were often successful in combating these threats, “the path of least resistance became an expressway leading to the one remaining toxic frontier--people of color communities.” However, in 1982, a community battle against a controversial polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) disposal landfill, in rural Warren County, North Carolina, mobilized hundreds of African Americans in civil disobedience and led to over 500 arrests. The fight was widely cited as the spark which ignited the Environmental Justice Movement.
The Progressive Pulse points out that three of the four plants have closed since data used for the report was compiled, and that the fourth is set to close next year: Progress’ WH Weatherspoon coal plant near Lumberton closed in 2011; Progress’ Lee coal plant near Goldsboro closed this past September; Duke’s Dan River coal plant in Rockingham County closed this year; Progress’ LV Sutton coal plant near Wilmington is scheduled to close in late 2013.