Court rules funds rightfully belong to enviro groups

Sunrise over a marsh in Pamlico Sound.  (© Mark VanDyke)

On Friday, April 3rd, the North Carolina Supreme Court delivered a victory for North Carolina and environmental nonprofits, holding that grants awarded under the 2000 agreement between the Attorney General for the State of North Carolina and Smithfield Foods, the largest pork producer in the world, can continue to fund important projects in the state, including land conservation, water quality restoration, and stormwater upgrades. The court held that the grant funds are not penalties, so there is no requirement  to turn them over to the Civil Penalty and Forfeiture Fund. 

Under the agreement, Smithfield committed to pay $2 million per year for 25 years to the state of North Carolina for such projects. This program is a small part of the agreement, which is meant to address the environmental damage caused by industrial hog operations and to rehabilitate the hog giant’s image after the devastation of Hurricane Floyd. 

SELC intervened in the case on behalf of Sound Rivers and the North Carolina Coastal Federation to defend the grant program. Both Sound Rivers and the Coastal Federation received grants from the environmental enhancement program under the agreement.

This decision is a victory not only for our clients, but for environmental nonprofits throughout the state who benefit from this program, and for the air and the water of North Carolina and all of us who depend on them. 

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