While hurricanes like Florence are technically “natural” disasters, the Carolinas are experiencing the ways that the distinctly human-made problems of social and economic inequality reinforce and aggravate storm damage. Exhibit A is the catastrophic breaches and spills from the enormous manure “lagoons” located on North Carolina’s many factory-scale hog farms.
In the industry, these farms are known as Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations, or CAFOs, but nobody with a nose passing within a few miles of one would say that food is the thing in large concentrations. Torrential rainfall and floodwaters from Florence caused dozens of lagoons to overflow, releasing a toxic stew of contaminants harmful to human and ecological health, including E. coli and other bacteria.
The residents of the surrounding communities put most directly at risk are disproportionately poor or people of color. These communities have long suffered from neighboring CAFOs’ woefully antiquated waste disposal practices.
Critically, though, civil courts have provided them the opportunity to fight back and obtain some measure of justice.
This op-ed originally ran in The Hill.
Did you read the fine print when you signed up for your credit card, a loan on your car, or a new checking account? Chances are, you missed an important provision called a "forced arbitration clause." This provision says that if the bank or credit card company has made a mistake it refuses to correct, or even cheated you out of money, you cannot sue to attempt to get your money back. Instead, you must pursue your claim in a secretive, privately run forum called "arbitration." In contrast to the courts, the arbitration process is full of pitfalls that discourage people from bringing claims, has rules that disadvantage consumers, and, for the few consumers who prevail, provides inadequate compensation. And that's exactly why banks and lenders force you to use it.
It's also why last month, the Consumer …
The natural gas industry’s campaign against increased federal oversight of shale gas development has recently produced a spurt of “dirty science” minimizing the environmental risks of hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking.”
The University at Buffalo, the branch of the State University of New York where I teach, recently launched its new “Shale Resources and Society Institute” (SRSI) by issuing a report last month giving the “first quantitative data review of Pennsylvania’s regulation of hydraulic fracturing.” The report examined state environmental law violations during 2008-2011, a period when drilling in Pennsylvania shale increased substantially. A press release from the university – widely quoted in the national news – quoted the lead author’s description of the findings: “now we have comprehensive data that demonstrates, without ambiguity, that state regulation coupled with improvements in industry practices result in a low risk of an environmental event occurring in shale development, and …