North Carolina is rightly famous for its stunning mountains, unique shoreline and rolling Piedmont farmlands. The NC Sierra Club has worked since 1970 to protect air, water and land across our state from a wide range of pollution sources, such as industrial smokestacks, coal plants, and factory hog farm waste lagoons.
Our current priorities include:
- Agricultural waste and waterways: North Carolina is the second-largest pork producer in the country. From unreported septic lagoon spills to groundwater contamination to unbearable fumes from the lagoon-and-sprayfield system of waste management, factory hog farms are tainting the air and water of our rural communities. We work with environmental and social justice allies to push for better, more advanced management of hog waste and the adoption of clean, renewable energy alternatives to biogas from farm waste ponds.
- Offshore drilling: We've been involved for years in the fight against offshore drilling. As part of the Don’t Drill NC coalition, we've pushed back against federal plans to allow seismic blasting and offshore drilling along our coast. Our most recent success was the Trump administration's 10-year moratorium, announced in 2020, on offshore oil development. We continue to work with allies to safeguard our coast from this threat and encourage offshore wind development instead.
- Moving "Beyond Coal": The Sierra Club has long advocated for a transition away from dirty fuels. In North Carolina, we've zeroed in on Duke Energy's coal plants, where coal ash has been historically dumped in unlined, leaking pits near waterways. We've partnered with the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign in our state to help close down dirty, antiquated coal plants. The campaign was a major player in demanding action after the 2014 Dan River coal ash spill, which resulted in passage of the NC Coal Ash Management Act, and, eventually, a legal settlement that called for Duke Energy to excavate all its North Carolina coal ash pits to move the ash to lined storage.
- Airborne toxins: Our volunteers and staff work with local allies to keep an eye out for threats to clean air in North Carolina communities. In recent years, we rallied against proposed permits that would have allowed methyl bromide, a widely banned neurotoxin and powerful ozone depleter used in insect fumigation, to be released with minimal regulations near residential areas in Wilmington and nearby rural areas. As a result of two years of community pushback led by the N.C. Sierra Club, the N.C. Division of Air Quality developed regulations for existing and future permits to use the chemical.
- Wood pellets: Multinational companies have zeroed in on North Carolina as a favored producer of timber that can be processed into wood pellets, which are burned to supply energy in other countries, notably Great Britain. But this multibillion-dollar industry - falsely touted as a "green" alternative to other carbon-emitting energy sources - is built on the destruction of our forest habitat and biodiversity, and on the backs of low-income communities of color where pellet factories are usually located. We're working with environmental and social justice allies to stop the industry's greenwashing and urge our state government to regulate it more strongly.