Two coastal non-profits dedicated to preserving water quality have filed a motion to intervene in the case between Attorney General Josh Stein, in his official capacity, and a private citizen and coastal school system over environmental program funding that the plaintiffs say should go to the public school fund.
The money in question stems from a $65 million agreement in 2000 between hog farmers in the state and the AG’s Office.
Civitas Institute President Francis De Luca is the plaintiff in the case, joined by the New Hanover County Board of Education.
De Luca is suing the state attorney general over the 2000 agreement between Smithfield Foods, and its subsidiaries, and the Attorney General’s Office, under which the companies were to pay $65 million for environmental grants to be used at the attorney general’s discretion. The lawsuit says the funds should instead go to the state public school fund.
On Thursday the North Carolina Coastal Federation and Sound Rivers filed notice that the two organizations seek to join the case, on the defendant’s side.
Both bodies have been recipients of grants from the AG’s office in the past and, in their motion, said, “The Grant Recipients are seeking to intervene in this action as a matter of right and to participate fully as parties in defense of the Attorney General of North Carolina’s past and future distribution of payments resulting from the July 25, 2000 agreement between the Attorney General and Smithfield Foods Inc. and its subsidiaries.”
The AG’s office consented to the motion while the plaintiffs did not, according to the non-profit’s filing.
Of the group’s sought involvement in the case De Luca said, “So they don’t do anything about the water in Wilmington, but they are all over making sure they get money which should go to schools,” referring to the GenX issue with the water quality in the Cape Fear River due to a chemical byproduct in the water from Teflon production.
The most recent action in the case came in June when a Superior Court judge denied the AG’s motion to dismiss the case and ruled that the attorney general could not spend any more of the funds until the case is decided.
In a release following the decision De Luca said, “We are confident we have a good case and the court’s favorable decisions this week have validated that. The North Carolina Constitution and previous Supreme Court rulings are abundantly clear about how these funds should be allocated and the North Carolina attorney general will be held accountable to the law.”
In July of 2000, Smithfield Foods, and its subsidiaries, entered into the agreement to pay $15 million to North Carolina State University up front for research into technologies for more efficient, environmentally friendly disposal of hog waste, and agreed to pay $2 million annually for 25 years to a fund that the state attorney general, then Mike Easley, would control for the purpose of funding what the suit calls supplemental environmental programs.
For the last 16 years the fund has been administering grants at the discretion of the state attorney general – Easley and then Roy Cooper, who of course is now governor.
With Stein’s election to attorney general in November the case transferred to him.
The case will likely go to summary judgment later this month.