The African-Indian-American Community of Warren County. Siting of Hazardous Waste Facility in Warren County, North Carolina

Term Paper, 2020

10 Pages, Grade: 1.3

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Table of Content



Background of the Case Study Area

Theoretical Framework & Analysis




One important pillar of the world now is human rights. As much as it is important in the activities of politics, they have become a structure of an international order. Every human being deserves not to be deprived of his life absolutely, but also without any prevention of having access to the conditions that necessitates a distinguished life as a matter of his/her fundamental human right. Most scholars and activists consider human rights to be universal, indivisible, interdependent and interrelated and this was evident in the Vienna Declaration of 19931 while other international instruments have also adopted the positions that all human rights, which include economic, social rights as well as civil and political rights, are necessities for individuals to self actualize in society2. There is an interaction between environmental law and human rights laws as they both consider the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities over natural resources used by them. As a result of the interaction, it has become necessary for environmental assessments in the use of these natural resources. Most of the projects linked to the exploration or use of natural resources have resulted in significant abuse of the rights of many local communities which often leads to forced displacement, loss of access to essential sources of livelihood, and destruction of historical assets3. A case of the Siting a Hazardous Waste Facility in Warren County, North Carolina and the theoretical foundation and trends in human rights (especially on property and climate change) will be used to examine the degree of infringement of the inhabitants’ right.

The following questions will guide the study.

Specific Questions

a. What caused the dissenting by residents of Warren County of the siting of the waste landfill site creating an emergence of injustice?
b. What were the forms of natural resources injustice experienced by the people of Warren County?

Background of the Case Study Area

Formed in 1979 from no-longer-extant Bute County, Warren County is located along the Virginia-North Carolina line in northeastern Piedemont. Warren County is a county in the U.S. state of New York. As of the 2010 census, the population was 20,9724 The county seat, Warrenton was established in the same year as the county and the county is named in honor of General Joseph Warren, an American Revolutionary War hero of the Battle of Bunker Hill. The lands that got to be Warren County were domestic to noteworthy populaces of Tuscarora, Haliwa, and Saponi Indians. Inland movement English settlers placed these Indian groups under severe pressure in the first decades of the eighteenth century. The county was also host to one of the largest free black populations in antebellum North Carolina. The plantations in the Warren County area were among the most prosperous in North Carolina until after the Civil War when the agricultural economy failed to recover. Within the early 2000s Warren County remained generally rural, with an economy fundamentally based in agriculture and light industry.In warm-weather months, individuals from North Carolina and Virginia travel in critical numbers to Kerr Lake and Lake Gaston, two man-made lakes that are in part found within the county and offer openings for boating, swimming, fishing, and other exercises. The range has moreover kept up a solid commitment to protecting its noteworthy architecture from the early nineteenth century; Warrenton's memorable area is recorded on the National records of Notable Places.

In 1982 inhabitants of the overwhelmingly African-Indian-American Warren County, North Carolina, started to dissent the development of a perilous landfill near Warrenton in which the state arranged to bury 400,000 cubic yards of soil contaminated with polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)5. The contamination happened when a disposal contractor deposited roughly 12,850 gallons of PCB-tainted liquids along 210 miles of roads in fourteen counties in North Carolina in 1978. Before long after the spill was found, the state procured a 142.3-acre tract of land on which it proposed building a 19.3-acre landfill to bury the waste. Dissidents of the Warren County location filed two claims at the Court in 1979 in their endeavors to stop plans for the landfill6. During this period, the Warren County site, chosen from the ninety site considered, had largely African-American residents of various countries in the county. Two years after the filing of the court cases, the district court ruled against the landfill opponents. Surprisingly after the ruling, protest began receiving widespread national attention. This lead to local police and soldiers from the U.S Army base at Fort Bragg were called in to curtail the protests.A total of 523 people ere arrested in this regard, including local congressman Walter Fauntroy and some members of the United Church of Christ Commission for Racial Justice7. This lead to the call by Fauntroy and other protesters to make a request for an examination of the relationship between the location of the landfills in Southeast and the demographics of host communities. This led to the publication of the well-known 1983 USGAO study. Four years later, the United Church of Christ (UCC) Commission for Racial Justice published a national study examining the siting of hazardous facilities and waste sites. There was a significant relationship between race and siting of landfill sites in the minority communities.

Theoretical Framework and Analysis

Many experts have made an attempt to define what “Natural Resource” is. This led to non-definitive definitions and non-binding internationally. Some definitions by international organisations and scholars are explored in this paper. An example from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) suggests that 'natural resources are natural assets (raw materials) occurring in nature that can be used for economic production or consumption’8. Similarly, the World Trade Organization (WTO) also defines natural resources as 'stocks of materials that exist in the natural environment that are both scarce and economically useful in production or consumption, either in their raw state or after a minimal amount of processing’9. The above definitions by the two organizations suggest, natural resources can be said to include but not limited to land, water, oil, petroleum, minerals, wood, forests and wildlife. The scarcity of these resources usually put nations in strict protective mood in securing and protecting them for the benefit of the people now and in the future. Other bodies have shifted the definition to the benefits (which can be excludable, non-excludable, subtractive and non-subtractive) derived by humans through consumption. Excludability occurs when others are obstructed from using by the people in charge. Non-excludability occurs when it is challenging for the person in charge to control the use of the natural resources. On the other hand, the enjoyment of natural resources can reduce others the chance to enjoy it (example as indicated in the Warren County case above) whereas in other cases, the enjoyment does not reduce others the chance to use it.

Although natural resources are important for the social well being of the people, often times citizens or residents are excluded from using or benefiting or enjoying the benefits of the use of the resources hence the development of human rights and sovereignty theories to protect the people in areas where conflicts are likely to rise. A substantive juriprudence linking the right to property and indigenous peoples’ rights to lands and natural resources was developed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR)10. The IACtHR recognized that possession of the land is adequate for indigenous peoples lacking formal title to obtain official recognition of their rights to property to land and natural resources. Collective ownership of natural resources is common among many societies. This common ownership of natural resources comes with property rights which are mostly invested in the community. The highest of authority is vested in the state hence the state has a mandate to enact laws that restrict or limit the illegal use of the community resources. There are occasions where laws passed by the state rather makes it possible for private intrusion on community property. These are not bad however when there is a lack of consent by those who should benefit, or own the land, then it becomes troubling. The US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recent concept of justice is environmental justice and defines it is “The fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, colour, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies’’. This can be achieved when inhabitants enjoy the same level of protection from environmental and health hazards and equal; access to the decision-making process to have a healthy environment in which to live, learn, and work’11. In their work Climate Justice; The international momentum towards climate change, Boom et’al12 indicate that, ‘’environmental justice has underpined a global shift in legal theory, law making and litigation where injustices are being caused through environmental mismanagement, against people and communities with little power’’. Many of the proposed human rights instruments proposed usually do not outline actions to deal with litigation issues of natural resources. In light of the lack of specific reference to property rights on natural resource, regional right organisations have enacted laws to deal with the violation of those rights. In the Case of Dogan and Others v Turkey, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) examined whether the forced eviction of the concerned villagers constituted a violation of the right to property. Similarly in the Warren Court Landfill case, the opposition was to restrict the siting of the landfill site and further seek for a participatory process with government from the courts. However, on two occasions, the court ruled against their request. There has been several opposition by residents seeking to protect indigenous rights in calling for environmental protection or climate action either against government and governments aside the Warren Country incident in the US. For example, climate litigation has occurred in the US where plaintiffs have sought compensation under local tort laws. Such request were targeted at American oil, power and coal companies.Also in March 2015, Saul Luciano Lliuya, a farmer from the Andean region of Peru, issued a letter of demand on the German utility company RWE seeking a US$21,000 financial contribution related to the costs of prevention of glacial lake flooding, landslides and likely inundation of his village and destruction of his property13. It is note worthy to share that, Warren County resident opposition and demonstration as part of early opposition to property rights that seek to protect the environment has paved the way for climate and environmental justice inspiring residents, lawyers, civil society organizations to bring claims in other jurisdiction.

The reason for Residents opposing the Landfill Site at Warren Country and its Environs.

In early 1978, a contractor deposited roughly 12,850 gallons of PCB-tainted liquids along 210 miles of roads in fourteen counties in North Carolina. Several observations were made during this period calling for action against this acts. An action by the government was urgently needed to curtail this action by companies. In sharp contrast and long after the spill, the state procured a 142.3-acre tract of land on which it proposed building a 19.3-acre landfill to bury the waste. This raised concerns by the residents of Warren County causing them to file two claims at the Court in 1979 in their endeavors to stop plans.

Forms of Natural Resource Injustice Encountered by the people of Warren


Land are intrinsically connected to resource rights. For example, in Yttkye Axa and Sawhoyamaxa, the IACtHR highlighted that members of tribal and indigenous communities have a right to the natural resources they have traditionally used within their territory, as it is a right attached to their right to own the land they have traditionally used and occupied for centuries14. In the case of Warren County, the rights of the indeginous people were abused by the court ruling twice against its by not offering them right to consent to the siting of the landfill site. Another major violation that the people suffered is the pollution of their environment. It is believed that these toxic PCB-tainted liquid contaminated the environment of the people of Warren County. Other forms of abuse in terms of excludability was experienced by the people of Warren County as those in charge and in authority caused an obstruction by allowing waste disposals of toxic nature to be dumped in their community thereby depriving them of their livelihood as Warren County was noted as an agriculture growing area. This may have accounted for the shortfall in agriculture produce in subsequent years.


Natural resources like land are meant to benefit the people and not for humans to suffer from pollution of it. There is an overwhelming call for climate action and justice. This responsibility is on governments to see to combat climate change and protecting the environment in the manner that respects human rights. It is important for global regimes to provide some guidance on legal procedures for synchronizing human rights norms into design, approval, finance and implementation of climate change projects.


1. Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, 5, U.N. Doc.A/CONF.157/23, 32 ILM 1661 (12 July 1993) (adopted at the 1993 World Conference on Human Rights) [hereinafter Vienna Declaration].

2. ICESCR, supra note 35; Protocol of San Salvador, supra note 25; see International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination AgainstRacial Discrimination, G.A. Res. 2106 (XX), arts. 1, 2(3), 5(e), 660 U.N.T.S. 195 (Dec. 21, 1965);

3. Gilbert, J. (2018).Natural resources and human rights. Oxford: University Press.




7. lnter-American Commission on Human Rights (2009), Indigenous and Tribal Peoples' Rights over lheir Ancestral Lands and Natural Resources: Norms and ]urisprudence of the Inter-American Human Rights System, OEA/Ser.LN/II. Doc. 56/09 (2009);

8. SA3 9P20141015

9. Case of the Ytikye Axa Indigenous Gommunity v Paraguay, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment. Series C No. 125 (2005), paras 124, 137; Gare of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Gommunity v Paraguay. Merits, Reparations and Costs,Judgment. Series CNo. 146 (2006), paras 118, 121


1 Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. 1993

2 ICESCR, 1965

3 Gilbert, 2018





8 Gilbert 2018

9 Gilbert 2018

10 IACtHR 2009


12 Boom et’al, 2016

13 The Peruvian government announced in 2014 that climate change had reduced Peru’s glaciers by 40% over the previous four decades:

14 Case of the Ytikye Axa Indigenous Community v Paraguay, Merits, Reparations and Costs, Judgment. Series C No. 125 (2005), paras 124, 137; Gare of the Sawhoyamaxa Indigenous Community v Paraguay. Merits, Reparations and Costs,Judgment. Series C No. 146 (2006), paras 118,121.

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The African-Indian-American Community of Warren County. Siting of Hazardous Waste Facility in Warren County, North Carolina
University of Erfurt  (Willy Brandt School of Public Policy)
Public Policy
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african-indian-american, community, warren, county, siting, hazardous, waste, facility, north, carolina
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Stephen Tete Mantey (Author), 2020, The African-Indian-American Community of Warren County. Siting of Hazardous Waste Facility in Warren County, North Carolina, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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