Press Release | April 23, 2024

Community, Advocacy Groups Ask NC Agencies for Clear Goals on Environmental Justice 

DURHAM — In a series of comment letters, community and environmental groups called on North Carolina’s cabinet agencies for meaningful action, not vague rhetoric, in drafting their goals to advance environmental justice across the state. 

Governor Roy Cooper signed Executive Order 292 on Oct. 24, 2023, ordering cabinet agencies to draft and publicize goals for addressing environmental justice within their own work, as well as reestablishing the Environmental Justice and Equity Advisory Board as the Environmental Justice Advisory Council, or EJAC. 

On behalf of more than 30 environmental and community groups, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Coalition for Social Justice, and the North Carolina Conservation Network sent letters to each cabinet agency, offering detailed feedback on the goals each department drafted. 

Click here to access the letters for the Departments of Administration, Adult Corrections, Commerce, Environmental Quality, Health and Human Services, Information Technology, Military and Veterans Affairs, Natural and Cultural Resources, Public Safety, Revenue, and Transportation

Although each department’s goals are unique, our overarching recommendations include: 

  • EJAC must develop its analysis of the cumulative impacts of environmental injustices to better identify and define “environmental justice communities” for operations across agencies; 
  • Cabinet agency goals should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound; 
  • Cabinet agencies cannot go through the bureaucratic motions with only public comment periods— they must meaningfully involve impacted communities in their work; 
  • EJAC must craft and recommend consistent training across agencies that includes participation with impacted community members and specifically addresses the environmental justice topics identified in Cooper’s order; 
  • Cabinet agencies may not pass off pre-existing directives or legal requirements as a new goal. 

This work is complex, and addressing the long legacy of environmental injustice in our state is the work of a lifetime, not a few months. We uplift the many agencies who acknowledged their own limitations and reaffirmed their willingness to learn. The goal of these letters is to push the agencies to continue collaboration with advocates, researchers, and, most importantly, the communities at the heart of the environmental justice movement. 

More than 30 groups signed in support of the letters, including the North Carolina NAACP, North Carolina Environmental Justice Network, Environmental Justice Community Action Network, West End Revitalization Association, 7 Directions of Service, Warren County Environmental Action Team, Partners for Environmental Justice, CleanAIRE NC, Toxic Free NC, The Lilies Project, Down East Coal Ash Environmental & Social Justice Coalition, NC Black & Green Network, North of the River Association, Winyah Rivers Alliance, NC FIELD, EVHybridNoire, UNC Environmental Justice Action Research Clinic, Wake Forest Environmental Law and Policy Clinic, North Carolina Sustainable Business Council, Emancipate NC, McDowell Local Food Advisory Council, McDowell Partnership for Substance Awareness, Dogwood Alliance, Coastal Carolina Riverwatch, the Center for Biological Diversity, North Carolina League of Conservation Voters, NC Sierra Club, Neighbors for Better Neighborhoods, and Waterkeeper Alliance. 


Southern Coalition for Social Justice, founded in 2007, partners with communities of color and economically disadvantaged communities in the South to defend and advance their political, social, and economic rights through the combination of legal advocacy, research, organizing, and communications. Learn more at 

 NC Conservation Network is a statewide network of over 60 environmental, community, and environmental justice organizations focused on protecting North Carolina’s environment and public health. 

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