EPA Accepts Civil Rights Complaint in Delaware Over Factory Farm Gas Plant



Media Contact:

Julie Wilson
Communications Manager
Socially Responsible Agriculture Project
(512) 665-8195

September 11, 2023 

Washington, D.C.—On September 8, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) accepted a Civil Rights complaint filed against Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) and Sussex County, Delaware, for discriminating against the local community when reviewing permits for a proposed factory farm gas and composting facility in Seaford, Delaware. 

EPA agreed to investigate whether DNREC discriminated against the Black, Hispanic, Latinx, and Haitian community on the basis of race, color, and national origin, and the Spanish and Haitian Creole speaking community with limited English proficiency. EPA said it will also investigate whether DNREC is complying with their “general nondiscrimination obligations,” and has a “public participation policy and process that is consistent with Title VI and other federal civil rights laws.”

EPA said while it will not formally investigate Sussex County, it’s considering initiating a compliance review to determine whether the county is also complying with Title VI.

Socially Responsible Agriculture Project (SRAP) and Sussex Health and Environmental Network (SHEN), American Civil Liberties Union of Delaware (ACLU-DE), Delaware Poor People’s Campaign (DE-PPC), and Delaware State Conference of Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP-DE), who filed the Complaint on behalf of communities of color and limited English proficiency persons, applaud EPA for making a sound decision that upholds the Biden administration’s commitment to environmental justice.

“Today, EPA has hit reset on Delaware’s race to the bottom of civil rights compliance measures,” said Elisabeth Holmes, SRAP senior counsel. “Access to information and public participation are central to a functioning democracy. We hope EPA’s decision will result in stronger protections for people discriminated against because of their race, color, national origin, and language.”

DNREC and Sussex County violated the rights of the local community by failing to provide adequate information and opportunities for public participation during the factory farm gas permit process, ignoring the needs and socioeconomic distinctions of the predominantly Latinx, Haitian, and Black community.

The factory farm gas facility will truck 250,000 tons of poultry waste from surrounding areas into Seaford annually to produce methane gas, adding more pollution to a community already overburdened with air and water pollution. 

“Environmental justice can only prevail when civil rights are advanced and protected, including the right to information and public participation in matters like these,” said Mike Brickner, ACLU-DE executive director. “Moving forward, we must continue to be vigilant so that the needs of our various communities—especially communities of color—are addressed. Environmental racism cannot be upheld by any institutions in Delaware.” 

Given the significant environmental injustices the factory farm gas facility would create, we call on DNREC to revoke the permits and stop the project immediately. 

About SRAP
For more than 20 years, SRAP has served as a mobilizing force to help communities protect themselves from the damages caused by industrial livestock operations and to advocate for a food system built on regenerative practices, justice, democracy, and resilience. Learn more at sraproject.org

About SHEN
SHEN is a coalition of stakeholders in Sussex County working to ensure a clean, healthy environment for current and future generations. Learn more at shen-network.net

ACLU-DE preserves and advances civil liberties and civil rights in the State of Delaware as enshrined in the United States and Delaware Constitutions through education and advocacy without consideration of political association. ACLU-DE is committed to advancing equity in our communities and ensuring the government is responsive, accountable, and transparent to the people of Delaware. Learn more at aclu-de.org

About DE-PPC
DE-PPC is a chapter of the National Poor People’s Campaign: A national Call for Moral Revival, which was founded by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1958. The mission of the DE-PPC is rooted in a moral analysis based on our deepest religious and constitutional values that demand justice for all in Delaware. Learn more at poorpeoplescampaign.org/committee/delaware/

The mission of NAACP-DE is to secure the political, educational, social, and economic equality of rights in order to eliminate race-based discrimination and ensure the health and well-being of all persons. Our vision is to ensure a society in which all individuals have equal rights without discrimination based on race. Learn more at dscbnaacp.wixsite.com/de-state-conf-naacp