Hello, my name is La’Meshia Whittington Kaminski and I am the Democracy Campaigner for Friends of the Earth.
We have just heard from community leaders about some of the impacts brought by Hurricane Florence.
Such as the 7 million gallons of untreated swine feces that were unleashed into floodwaters and waterways, which can cause kidney problems, vomiting, fatigue, stomach problems, skin infections and other issues.
The coal ash releases from 5 Duke Energy coal ash dumps in the Neuse River, which have caused arsenic levels to be nearly 18 times higher than the state safety standard for drinking water.
It is clear to see that communities who are most impacted by this destruction are disproportionately low-income communities and communities of color who are already are burdened by decades of pollution.
So we are here to say that Hurricane Florence, and Matthew before it, are not just natural disasters. They are the logical outcome of a society that believes certain people and lands are expendable. And this is unacceptable.
The destruction that we are witnessing is the product of a broken political and economic system. A system based on the political marginalization of poor and minority communities, along with a government that is captured by powerful, polluting interests.
It is this broken system that prevented North Carolina from tackling climate change and stopping pollution at its source. It is this broken system – and not Mother Nature — that has given rise to the unspeakable suffering we see today.
That is why the organizations before you today demand not only immediate resources for disaster relief, but real solutions that address the root causes of this disaster.
First, as the General Assembly convenes, North Carolina is in a strong financial position to provide survivors, their cities and counties with the supplemental financing for hurricane recovery. We have a record $2 billion in our Rainy Day Fund and a $500 million unappropriated balance from the state’s final budget. However, there is a legislatively imposed limit on the Rainy Day Fund that states annual expenditures cannot exceed 7.5% of the previous year’s operating budget. We demand that the House and Senate override this legislative limitation on the rainy fund in order to fully fund Florence Recovery needs.
Second, we demand that corporations, especially those whose irresponsible behavior exacerbated this disaster, contribute their fair share to the recovery and to our state’s health long-term. Smithfield Foods, Murphy Farms, DuPont, Duke Energy, and Dominion Power must make a significant financial contribution to the state’s Disaster Relief Fund. If the Governor and the state are calling for donations from the public, these corporations should be first in line. We also demand that the General Assembly roll back the corporate tax cuts scheduled for January 2019 to ensure that these companies are paying their fair share of the long-term recovery.
Third, Smithfield Foods, Murphy Farms, DuPont, Duke Energy, and Dominion Power have for decades been putting profit over people. This General Assembly and elected officials back home have given them the political cover they need to put toxic industrial sites in our backyards at the expense of black, brown and working class people. We demand that these companies commit to and present viable plans to the community to remove concentrated animal feeding operations, hog lagoons, and coal ash deposits.
Finally, the organizations before you are ready to make our own commitments. We pledge to not only continue our community-based relief and recovery efforts, but to be vigilant for those who would seek to profiteer from this disaster, or use it as a way of worsening racial and economic disparities, or rolling back democratic, environmental and labor rights.
We also commit to fix the broken economic and political system that made this Hurricane so much deadlier and dangerous than it should have been.
That means fighting the [six] deeply unconstitutional amendments up for vote this November, including an amendment [to reduce the income tax rate to a maximum allowable rate of 7%] which would prevent the state from raising resources for long-term recovery, and an amendment [to require voters to provide photo identification before voting in person] which would further marginalize people in the political process.
It also means helping to build towards a Just Recovery in North Carolina. Now is the time to rebuild our communities in a way that creates thriving local economies. [Economies] that provide dignified, productive and ecologically regenerative livelihoods. Ones that give communities the ability to rebound and be resilient after climate disasters.
*note, editing for distribution of the statement on 10/10/18 is indicated in brackets