From Fracking to Coal Waste, NAACP Confronts Environmental Racism in North Carolina

The organization that spurred the south’s “Moral Mondays” movement announced this week it is launching a civil rights investigation into the disproportionate public health hazard that fracking and coal ash pollution pose to poor communities and people of color in one North Carolina county.

The NAACP probe is specifically aimed at uncovering environmental racism in Stokes County but has broad implications for a state whose coal waste contamination and just-greenlighted fracking tests have garnered nation-wide attention—and concern.

“We wish we didn’t have to but we are committed to doing so, to investigate and really bring justice around this issue of coal ash and about fracking, and about the injustices of these industries that operate without any regard for the human rights of the people who are impacted by this pollution,” declared Baltimore-based Jacqui Patterson, director of the NAACP Environmental and Climate Justice Program, at a Wednesday news conference at the Rising Star Baptist Church in Walnut Cove, North Carolina.

The NAACP will be working with the organization’s North Carolina and Stokes County chapters to pursue the investigation.

“Health and environmental justice are two fights we must engage in. Extremist policies that undermine healthcare and environmental protections cost lives, and therefore are immoral and a violation of our most sacred values regarding equal protection under the law.” —Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, North Carolina NAACP

The initiative was revealed just days after environmental regulators issued the state’s first ever contracts to launch fracking tests at select locations. One of those sites is in the majority-black community of Walnut Tree—located in Stokes County, which is more than 90 percent white.

That fact alone is raising concerns that people of color will be disproportionately impacted by the numerous hazards associated with a potential fracking sites—including dangerous pollution of drinking water.