Friday, July 20, 2007

Enviornment 7-20-07

Existing hog lagoons would be phased out and new ones would be difficult to build under legislation approved this week by the House Agriculture Committee. These open pits - which store hog waste that is later sprayed on fields - are smelly health hazards that have made living conditions deplorable for neighbors of the farms. The state has had a moratorium on new lagoons for the past 10 years, but replacing them with new, cleaner technology is expensive. Senate Bill 1465 (I cosponsored the House companion, House Bill 1254, sponsored by Carolyn Justice), proposes a $2 million a year cost-sharing program to help farmers pay the cost of replacing the pits with more environmentally friendly systems. It also would create a pilot program to use methane from the lagoons to generate electricity. The bill is supported by farm, industry, and some environmental groups and would represent a major step forward after years of trying to find better ways to handle hog waste. The deal will protect farmers' investments and livelihoods while also starting to clean up the state's waters and soil. North Carolina is the nation's second-largest hog farming state with 10 million animals and $6.7 billion in yearly sales. The Environmental Justice Network and several of the Riverkeeper organizations feel the bill does not go far enough and want a permanent ban and phaseout of existing lagoons. Rep. Earl Jones and I sponsored such legislation, House Bill 1822, but it never had any traction given the opposition of the industry.

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