Celebrating Thirty Years of Grassroots Action 1984-2014  

BREDL Reflections
BREDL video clips BREDL Reflections
- short videos of BREDL reflections

BREDL Merchandise

BREDL 30th Anniversary Merchandise was available online at BREDL Shop

BREDL In the News
30th Anniversary

Read The Jefferson Post article:
Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League turns 30

Read The Mountain Times article: Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League turns 30

Read the Watauga Democrat article: Blue Ridge Environmental Defense celebrates 30 years

In March of 1984, fifty merchants and homemakers, farmers and teachers met at the Mission House of the Holy Trinity Church to organize the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. Today we are a league of more than sixty local  chapters that have served communities in Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Tennessee. Our work continues to be guided by the founding principles of earth stewardship, public health protection, environmental democracy and social justice.

On March 15, 2014 The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. The League, which is active today on a broad range of environmental justice issues across the Southeast, is releasing an archival history on its website in honor of its thirtieth year of grassroots action including successful campaigns watchdogging nuclear waste and hazardous waste dump facilities, asphalt and other polluting industries, and the energy sector, including nuclear, coal, natural gas and biomass thermoelectric generating plants. As BREDL looks back on thirty years of community grassroots organizing, its chapters and members are working harder than ever to protect water, air and environmental quality on the current issues of fracking, coal ash, air pollution, waste management and other concerns about environmental injustice in communities across the South.

Please consider making your annual membership dues, or a tax deductible donation, for $30, $60, or $90 to BREDL this year, in honor of thirty years of community-based action. Donations can be made online or by check. Thank YOU for being part of the legacy of grassroots victories that we celebrate in 2014!

BREDL Timeline

NEW! Browse the Archives on our Interactive Timeline

BREDL Moments

Successful Solid Waste Campaigns in North Carolina

The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League has worked on solid waste and recycling initiatives since the 1980’s, working with over twenty of our community-based chapters to prevent the citing of more than forty commercial mega-dumps, primarily in North Carolina. Our policy position on solid waste is that publicly owned and operated landfills are an advantage to a county, whereas commercial for-profit megadumps are merely “dumping for dollars” to benefit the industry, but with little benefit to the community. For example, empty space in a county landfill is an asset, while empty space in a commercial megadump is a liability. Also, dump companies get more money for bringing in semi-hazardous waste to a megadump, thereby threatening local water quality and public health.

BREDL’s work on waste issues began in 1988, when three chapters from Ashe, Wilkes, and Madison counties began hosting a series of contests known as “Cash for Trash,” where people won cash prizes for bringing recyclables to local recycling entrepreneurs. The Madison chapter, Madison Environmental Alliance, published a study showing that curbside recycling was an economically viable venture for the county, which helped to win recycling pickup in Madison and other nearby counties.

BREDL’s campaign against megadumps had its first major victory in 1999, with the Greene County Chapter, Safety Today (NEST) who defeated the expansion of a Waste Management megadump in Guilford County eleven times between the 1990’s and early 2000’s. NEST prevented the Piedmont Regional Landfill from being expanded in Oakridge, NC, though over a decade of activism, including legal strategies, huge demonstrations, and a series of direct actions targeted at local government.

Another chapter that has accomplished great success in its county is PC PRIDE, the Person County People Rising In Defense of Ecology, by starting a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF) in their county, which played a beneficial role in the community by employing individuals with disabilities to work in the recycling program. PC PRIDE also achieved a major milestone in 2005 when it prevented the expansion of the commercial megadump for its fourth and last attempt in Person County.

Between 2005-2006, BREDL prevented commercial megadumps with six of our chapters in seven counties across NC. These chapters are the Duplin Citizens for a Safe Environment, Fight Forsyth/Stokes Dump, Camden Citizens Action League, Scotland County of Tomorrow, Save Our Abundant Resources in Richmond County, and Friends of the Green Swamp in Columbus County. The state passed new legislation protecting eco-sensitive areas from commercial megadumps, such as parks and wetlands, after years of citizen actions, demonstrations, and including resolutions by local county boards and coordinated strategies at the community level.

Today, BREDL’s work to protect communities from companies that dump for dollars continues with our chapters EnvironmentaLee, PC PRIDE, Pee Dee WALL, Piedmont Residents in Defense of the Environment, as well as newly organizing groups in Virginia, to prevent the transfer of coal ash and fracking waste going to landfills in NC and VA.

From our Archives

Between the Lines - Recycling July 1989
Between the Lines - Solid Waste Incineration April 1990
Blue Ridge Rural Recycling Report November 1990
Between the Lines - Solid Waste Landfills October 1991
Flyer - CACTUS-Don't Be Dumped On February 1992
Flyer - CACTUS-Solid Waste Workshop April 1994

Honoring BREDL's Founder, Janet Marsh

In 1984, when the Department of Energy announced that Ashe County, NC, was being considered as the site of a high-level nuclear waste dump, Janet Marsh organized her friends and neighbors, holding the first meetings at the Holy Trinity Church of what would become the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League. At the time, she was raising young children and farming in Glendale Springs, and shared concerns about the Federal Government's plans with other parents, farmers, teachers and merchants in the area. A study group was formed, and the example that has served as the model for BREDL and its chapters was born. Janet served as BREDL's Executive Director for over two decades, 1986 until 2012. Since July 2012, Janet has acted as strategic advisor to the BREDL Board Executive Committee.

In her early adult life, Janet was a successful teacher and a rising star in the educational establishment of North Carolina. Blinded by a congenital disorder in her twenties, Janet's career was cut short. Nevertheless, she founded the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League to fight a national nuclear waste dump near her home in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The community group was successful in stopping the dump, and the fight brought together the founding members of BREDL. The principal organizers, recognizing an ongoing need, stayed together to form a 501(c)3 nonprofit. The community organizing strategies, vision, and tactics which helped win BREDL's first victory guide us today. Today BREDL is a league of more than fifty community-based chapters serving the Southeast with the founding principles of earth stewardship, public health protection, environmental democracy and social justice.

A woman who shouldered much responsibility without fanfare, Janet poured herself into the organization she founded. Under Janet's leadership, BREDL has received numerous awards and accolades including the Sierra Club Legal Defense Fund National Award for Environmental Activism in 1989, CHEJ National Award for Outstanding Work in 1993, the NC Governor's Conservation Achievement Award for air quality protection in 1999, and the Bob Sheldon award in 2014, in honor of BREDL's thirtieth anniversary. Most recently, an interview with Janet appeared in the May 2014 issue of All About Women, a lifestyle magazine that recognizes women in leadership in the high country of western North Carolina.

The Janet Marsh Honorary Fund was conceived in 2012 to honor Janet's work and accomplishments. Contributions to the fund will benefit the organization while honoring the woman who gave so much to make our world better, one community at a time. Donations to the fund can be made online at http://www.bredl.org/membership.html. All donations to BREDL are tax-deductible.

Janet is a role model to many activists and organizers in the environmental justice movement. She serves on the board for the Center for Health, Environment, and Justice, and has achieved countless grassroots victories since her life's work began in 1984. Janet continues to inspire people with her tireless dedication and belief that, "One person speaking alone may not be heard, but many people speaking with one voice cannot be ignored."- Janet Marsh

"Don’t Hog our Air and Water" and the Swine Action Team (SWAT)

The "Don’t Hog Our Air and Water" campaign spanned the Piedmont and Coastal Plain of North Carolina from 1992-2001 and sought to preserve family farms and to regulate intensive livestock operations. There were several major issues with corporate hog farms. The hog industry would dig open pits and dispose of dead hogs. The industry would also pump from the waste lagoons and spray onto industry owned fields, known as Spray Fields. Odor would be bad and there were issues with storm water runoff pollution. During the flooding from Hurricanes Fran and Floyd, brown colored waste water could be seen flowing in the rivers and to the ocean. Some hogs were tied to trees in an attempt to not have them wash away. For years, BREDL staff, chapters and allies conducted original research, direct action and media campaigns to expose the health impacts and concerns of local residents in communities that were directly impacted by the air pollution, water run-off, and odor from nearby hog farms. Claude and Bonnie Ward and Denise Lee were key organizers in the campaign. Environmental Justice was a concern as most of these corporate hog operations would be located in poor and minority communities.

After mounting pressure from environmental groups and concerned citizens, the state and industry finally agreed to clean up the corporate hog farm operations. While the state has not followed through with all of its promises, things have gotten better. What’s better? The hog industry built retainer ditches on spray fields to reduce pollution of waterways. Also, the industry changed their feed, which has eliminated a lot of the odor and is keeping the hog houses cleaner. What needs to be understood is that this movement was proof that we can make a difference. Through the diligent efforts of many communities and organizations, this form of abuse and negligent disregard for the health and environmental effects could have been worse. This is clearly proof that grassroots environmental groups and concerned citizens can make a big impact.

Highlights and timeline of the campaign:

-In 1992, a community group of approximately 100 members in a 12-county area was formed, known as the Alliance for Responsible Swine Industry (ARSI), organized with help from BREDL staff member Claude Ward. ARSI was concerned with current methods of fecal waste disposal by corporate hog farms in lagoons 30-40 feet deep often at depths above the water table, as well as sprayed directly onto the farm. ARSI began proposing regulations for hog farms at NC Dept. of Environmental Management hearings.

-BREDL, ARSI, and other environmental groups organized a rally in front of NC legislative building on Feb. 21, 1995, drawing approximately 2,500 protestors under the slogan “Don't Hog our Communities, Don't Hog Our Health.”

-With communities beginning local groundwater testing projects, and groups pushing for stricter regulations by the General Assemble, ARSI and BREDL co-sponsored a “Hog Summit” in New Bern in 1996. The following year, BREDL formed a Swine Waste Action Team (SWAT) which utilized original research, aerial photography of violations, and a direct action campaign to stop hog factories.

-In January, 1998, BREDL’s Swine Waste Action Team (SWAT) carried out its first full-scale direct action event. Displaying aerial photos of overflowing hog waste lagoons to prove that this failed method must be completely phased out, SWAT held a press conference at the Charlotte hotel where the American Farm Bureau Federation was having its annual meeting. People whose homes were near hog factory lagoons spoke about the intolerable conditions. To punctuate the news, a sixty foot long banner was flung from the eighth floor of the hotel which said, “Don’t Hog Our Air and Water.”

-In February 1999, at a meeting of the NC Environmental Management Committee in which BREDL presented comments on the proposed rules on hog waste, community organizer Denise Lee made a strong statement by presenting the Commissioners with a bucket of raw hog waste, and suggested that they "Get used to this." Lee told the commission that the current rules were not only inadequate but an insult. See comments by Denise below.

-The Raleigh News & Observer ran a story on January 22, 2000, announcing that the State was set to erase the neglected lagoons. Industry representatives and state leaders agreed that the abandooned lagoons must be eliminated.

BREDL comments on USDA-EPA Draft Unified National Strategy
December 14, 1998

Denise C. Coleman, USDA, NRCS
PO Box 2890
Washington, DC 20013-2890
email: denise_c.coleman@usda.gov

Re: AFO Draft Strategy

I am here representing the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, a non-profit grassroots environmental organization with over 25 North Carolina Chapters.

Why am I commenting in the state of Colorado instead of my own state which is the 2nd highest producing state for hogs and has experienced the fastest growth in swine production in the United States, even with a moratorium in place. A state that experienced possibly the most devastating, environmental disaster, from an Intensive Hog Operation? Because, the EPA AND USDA failed to schedule a "Listening Session" in my state. One must wonder if politics played a major role in that decision.

Why are we skeptical of the process? It is because of the fact that EPA has been conducting backroom meetings and cutting cushy deals for the National Pork Producers that promotes self-monitoring in exchange for a slap on the wrist for any violations noted by assessment teams appointed by the hog industry.

As a result of decisions made by EPA and USDA we, citizens of North Carolina, question the sincerity and the motives of these Federal Offices.

I have pictures taken of Anson County, NC Intensive Hog Operations showing irrigation on non-existing crop fields, runoff of waste and the deliberate placing of a pipe to drain a sprayfield into a roadside ditch. None of which NC Division of Water Quality would issue a notice of violation.

Self-monitoring does not work. North Carolina has virtually been under self-monitoring of Intensive Animal Operations. The results have been a spill of 25 million gallons of hog waste into surface waters, contaminated water wells, odors which make living nearby unbearable, and decreases in property values and an over permitting of hog operations.

Inspection reports in NC Division of Water Quality files tell of hogs being tied to trees to save them from drowning due to flooding. Growers telling the state "My lagoon is above freeboard, my fields are wet, I am spraying but the waste won't pool because the spray field is on a hill and it runs of very quickly..." Self monitoring results in manipulation of standards and a one sided interpretation of the situation.

A factory by any other name is still a factory. Intensive Hog Operations are not farms. They are factories that are capable of emitting huge amounts of pollution via air, through spills or through over saturation of spray fields and runoff.

Liability for problems from Intensive Livestock Operations should be shared by both the grower and the owner of the livestock. Performance bonds should be required that could meet any costs from potential environmental or social-economic impacts. No subsidies or tax credits should be given for complying with rules involving manure and odor management. Recently in the news we read about how even though pork is bringing less at market, that the reduction is not shown on the supermarket shelves. Yet, the USDA has seen fit to bail out this greedy industry through corporate welfare.

Rules and regulations adopted should address odor problems.

Strategies should include Environmental Impact Statements. In the Pee Dee River Basin Management Plan compiled by NC Division of Water Quality, it notes numerous counties along the basin were producing more animal waste than what crops could possibly uptake. Yet, more intensive hog operations were sited. These operations have added to the overload of nutrients in the soil.

We are concerned with the allotted time for implementation of effective regulations. The time frame proposed is much to long. The hog producers and growers have known for years of the problems connected with intensive hog operations. As early as 1990, the impacts from intensive hog operations have been of a concern to citizens of North Carolina. Not only has the state government but federal agencies have turned their heads and allowed business as usual. Enough is enough.

Citizens of North Carolina have identified the open lagoons and sprayfields as the most important problems of the state's animal factories. What has North Carolina done to address these concerns, they have studied them over and over and over again. These studies have been inconclusive by design.

The proposed USDA-EPA Draft Unified National Strategy is too weak.

Confidentiality that would not allow the public access to pertinent information regarding deficiencies at Intensive Livestock Operations is unacceptable. There should be no confidentiality clauses in any EPA rules that allow information to be withheld from the public such as the language in the agreement between EPA and the Nation Pork Producers Council. Strategies adopted should address this concern.

A national moratorium on siting and permitting new operations and expansion of existing Intensive Hog Operations should be implemented immediately until the problems surrounding factory animal operations and rules are in place that are protective of citizens rights, and the environment.

Full local zoning should be restored to communities. Strategies need to address this concern also. North Carolina counties are still limited as to zoning of Intensive Hog Operations.

The siting of new operations or requests for expansions of any Intensive Livestock Operations should include a public notice and public hearings.

Hours of operation at ILO's are 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. Many of the problems experienced by surrounding neighbors from ILO's is on the weekends when there is no one to call for assistance or notify of concerns or complaints. The strategy should address this also.


1. Establish a moratorium on any new permits and expanding factory animal operations until existing facilities have effective permits in place and standards are upgraded to the point the public and the environment is protected.

2. Ensure that local citizens are able to participate fully in the decision as to whether a factory animal operation is allowed to locate in their community. Allow citizens the opportunity to help decide what pollution controls are needed on factory animal operations to protect their communities. Only individual site-specific permits can accomplish this.

3. Strict water quality monitoring and tough enforcement of the rules must be carried out. In North Carolina groundwater contamination near animal factories is increasing. Eight-eight percent of hog operations had at least one water quality violation, but the state has been unwilling to take enforcement action against the majority of them.

4. Ban open lagoons and spray fields.

5. Prevent manure from running off the land.

6. Hold corporations that own livestock animals responsible for paying the costs of waste disposal and cleanup.

7. Adopt air regulations for ILO's. Only a handful of states currently regulate air pollution from ILO's.

Please don't allow "EPA" to stand for "EVERY PERMIT APPROVED."

Respectfully submitted,

Denise Lee
Community Organizer, BREDL

"Don't Hog our Air"

Listen to Lou Zeller sing Don't Hog our Air"

Zombies Protest TVA Nuclear Reactors at Bellefonte

Challenging the Nuclear Industry in Tennessee and Alabama:
A Brief History of BREDL's BEST/MATRR Chapter

An exploratory meeting was held in Chattanooga, TN in February 2008 after a number of citizens became concerned over Tennessee Valley Authority's announcement that the two old cannibalized Bellefonte nuclear reactors in Alabama were going to be reactivated and that eventually there would be two more. As we deliberated on actions, someone at the meeting suggested we become a BREDL chapter and so it came to be. We called ourselves BEST—Bellefonte Efficiency & Sustainability Team. Later we added MATRR to our name for Mothers Against TN River Radiation named after our new website http://www.matrr.org/.

While filing legal contentions and speaking at NRC scoping meetings, BEST made a lot of noise in the media about Bellefonte 1 and 2 labeling them 'zombie reactors'. We objected both to the shady way in which the NRC was allowing the zombie reactors to come back to life and the reasons why reviving Bellefonte was unwise from design, age, and environmental perspectives. When the TVA Board announced they would vote to approve construction at their next board meeting, a press conference including zombies was held and an opposition letter was delivered to TVA. Zombies were barred from attending the board meeting though one slipped in. Currently, Bellefonte is being held on a back burner. As costs and safety concerns rise, we expect it will never be built though continued vigilance is advised.

BEST/MATRR hosted a Know Nukes Y'all seminar for nuclear activists in the Southeast June 2012, and established March Fukushima Fallout events in several cities. We continue to speak out at every TVA Board meeting and have made appearances at city and county governmental meetings. BEST/MATRR is working to stop the relicensing of TVA’s Sequoyah Nuclear Plant and the completion of Watts Bar 2. In January, 2014, we had a meeting with Commissioner William Ostendorf of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.

Brown's Ferry Nuclear Unit 1 has received many safety violations including the latest red finding, the only one in the nation. BEST/MATRR began a Citizens Radiation Monitoring project testing for radiation levels both upwind and downwind of the plant. Data collected indicate high radiation counts downwind that require further investigation to determine sources. A report titled "Radioactive Emissions and Health Hazards Surrounding Browns Ferry Nuclear Power Plant" was published in 2013 along with a training manual on our website. In February 2014, a Radiation and Statistics for Action Training Workshop was held to further the gathering of radiation data. BEST/MATRR is also launching a "Make Radiation Visible" Campaign asking that radiation release information be revealed in real time and that emissions be colored so people are informed. The petition to the Nuclear Regulatory is available at https://www.credomobilize.com/petitions/make-radiation-visible/

Read the Chattanooga Times Free Press article about the Chattanooga protest: Protesters ask TVA to stop building nuclear reactors

Zombie Protest

The Relocation of Hyde Park Neighborhood in Augusta, GA

Since the 1940s, industrial contamination has plagued residents of Hyde Park in South Augusta, Richmond County, GA. Even though the wood processing plant has been shut down and scrap metal from a junk yard has been removed, negative health and environmental effects continue. The relocation of the Hyde Park neighborhood has a history that dates back almost forty years, when the region became listed as a Brownsfield site by the US EPA due to high levels of toxic contaminates in the soil, water and air. BREDL became involved in the relocation process in the late 1990's when Rev. Charles Utley, a long-time member of the Hyde Park Association, began working as a volunteer for BREDL in the Georgia and South Carolina region on energy justice, and later as a member of BREDL's community organizing staff in 2003. Through the Association and with the support of BREDL, Rev. Utley helped to bring together thirty pastors to take action on the Hyde Park injustice. They realized the immediate need of relocation from this environmentally contaminated hazardous waste site.

People in Hyde Park were living in a "witches-brew of chemicals" such as arsenic, zinc, iron ore, lead, cadmium, mercury, PCB, creosote and other horrors, which turn into worse toxins as they merge in the water, air and the soil. They contaminate gardens, playgrounds, wells, homes, inside and out. One resident reflected, "there is a cloud of contamination hovering over the entire community." This contamination produces a heartbreaking array of illness including cancer, lupus, arthritis, asthma, muscle disease, miscarriages, birth defects, premature babies, lesions, and heart conditions. In 2009 a documentary was made in the community titled "Hyde Park Desperate…Determined" that exposes the history and predicament of its residents.

Under the weight of all this suffering, this proud and resourceful community came together to form strong partnerships with private and public organizations, multicultural environmental groups, state and federal agencies, doctors, anthropologists and analysts. They have created and implemented a plan of full relocation for the entire community of 150 families. This plan requires the cooperation and assistance of many to be successful. It serves as a guiding light for other communities trapped in similar situations. In 2012, the relocation of 152 families to be moved from the Hyde Park neighborhood began as a Brownsfield Project. While half of the homes have been evacuated and residents relocated, another half are still waiting for the government's promise of relocation to be fulfilled.

On September 3, 2014, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League called upon officials in Augusta to take immediate steps to move residents living in the contaminated neighborhood to safer housing. In a letter addressed to Mayor Deke Copenhaver, BREDL requested that the city use funds already appropriated to protect the health and safety of approximately sixty families still living in Hyde Park and, as soon as possible, locate additional funds to complete the project. To illustrate the plight of residents, the League produced a seven-minute video essay entitled "Waiting in a Cesspool" which tells the story of those who have been left behind and is drawing regional and national media attention. The video essay can be viewed at http://www.BREDL.org. Our written request to the Mayor of August states, "The residents of Hyde Park seek only justice and fulfillment of promises made. We are appealing to you to use the power of your office to protect public health and safety. We started this project, let's finish it."


WRDW Sept. 2014 News Report: View WRDW Report about Hyde Park Relocation

In 1969 the Richmond County Health Department advised residents of Hyde Park their well water was unsafe because of industrial pollution. Four decades later, relocation of the community was finally approved. However, only half of the 130 families have been moved to safety. The video essay, “Waiting in a Cesspool” tells the story of those who have been left behind. Hyde Park residents seek only justice and fulfillment of promises made.

Hyde Park - Desperate Determined Documentary Trailer
Documentary by Bryton Entertainment


Anatomy of a Win
- How We Beat Fibrowatt

By Betty Tesh, Citizens' Alliance for a Clean, Healthy Economy (CACHE)

In June, 2008, Fibrowatt, LLC, announced that Surry County had edged out Wilkes as one of three NC counties selected by the company to host a bio-mass-fueled energy plant. The announcement came as a surprise to most of the county, but even more so to the citizens of Elkin, since the proposed site was less than a mile from the city limits and hardly a stone's throw from the Yadkin River. However, many Elkin-ites breathed a sigh of relief: Having recently lost a major industry, they were concerned about unemployment and a shrinking tax base. A power plant seemed, on the surface, to be an excellent neighbor.

Little did we know that the power plant would turn out to be a poultry litter incinerator! We also later learned that the element of surprise is a trademark of Fibrowatt, whose methodology includes making early contact with county officials, selling them on promises of jobs and other economic benefits while keeping under wraps the negative impacts of poultry incineration. In addition, the company convinces the elected officials that secrecy is necessary because other counties are vying for the deal.

Later that summer, Claudia Thiel, a resident of Elkin, asked a member of the Town Board if the plant were actually a good deal. He assured her that he and other invitees of the company had toured Fibrominn in Benson, MN, and he was convinced Fibrowatt would be a valuable addition to the county's dwindling industry base. She had nothing to worry about, he told her. All over town, other citizens were being similarly comforted by elected officials. The message from both town and county was - This is a great opportunity.

In August, 2008, at the urging of Barry Carlton, Claudia met with Barry and Sam and Betty Tesh to discuss their concerns about poultry litter incineration. From that group of four, CRED (Coalition for Responsible Economic Development) was formed. Letters to the editor of the local paper and word of mouth soon increased membership.

The first thing CRED did was work on an in-depth study of all available information on bio-mass burning, the use of poultry litter for fuel, and the background of Fibrowatt. Only when that material was fully researched and documented, CRED issued a call for a community meeting in March, 2009.

Over 100 curious Elkin and Surry County residents attended. Hank Thiel presented a power point presentation, and many people asked questions. When Dr. Hal Stuart, a much-respected, retired physician spoke passionately about his concern for the health of the community, many in the audience were convinced for the first time that Fibrowatt was not a good deal, and wanted to learn more.

Following the community meeting, CRED continued to work on the economic impact of such an industry. However, Sam Tesh, as Co-Chair of BREDL, was growing increasingly concerned about the environmental impact of Fibrowatt, as well as the possibility of a lawsuit resulting from opposition to the company. In the end, the group agreed to divide. CRED would continue to work on economic issues, and the new group would begin taking a more activist stand about the environmental impact.

With the assistance of the BREDL staff, Citizens' Alliance for a Clean, Healthy Economy (CACHE) was formed in June, 2009, for the purpose of defeating the proposed Fibrowatt facility. It was clear by this time that agreements between the county and the company had been made without clear notification to the public and without the commissioners doing due diligence on the health costs to those living near the incinerator.

However, when citizens tried to approach the commissioners with information, the commissioners turned a deaf ear, saying, in effect, that the plant's coming was a done deal. Indeed, the commissioners had already purchased the proposed site as part of their incentives plan for the company.

CACHE members began attending county meetings regularly. At each meeting, a CACHE member would speak against the incinerator during the Open Forum period. One of the best-attended meetings was for the re-zoning of the proposed site from Farming to Heavy Industry. Speakers were told they could not use the word Fibrowatt. No matter how compelling or well-researched our information, the commissioners either ignored our speakers or treated them rudely. The vote was unanimous to re-zone the land.

One of our strongest strategies after that was a letter-writing campaign. Hardly an issue of the local paper came out without a letter from some CACHE member. When non-CACHE begin writing letters in support of our position, we knew our campaign was being successful. We discovered that more and more people were aware of what Fibrowatt was and were questioning the judgment of the county in inviting this industry to the area.

In October, 2009, three of our members were threatened with arrest simply because they were wearing badges identifying them as members of CACHE at a downtown festival sponsored by the local Chamber of Commerce. They obediently removed the badges, but reported the incident to the local paper, which carried a front-page story on the event. Many people who had been indifferent to our message reacted strongly to this attack on our First Amendment rights and began listening to what we had to say. We received an apology from the town and the police department, but not from the Chamber of Commerce.

After many requests for a public hearing, we were finally granted a public meeting at Surry Central High School. It was a farce. We were told not to disseminate printed material; our speakers were limited to 3 minutes and one question of the Fibrowatt representative while he was given almost unlimited time; the commissioners were rude and inattentive ( At one point a commissioner put his head on the table and pretended to sleep, and another commissioner told a person to sit down and shut up when he requested a follow-up question of the Fibrowatt representative.)

To refute claims by elected officials that our organization was anti-business and negative we entered a float in the 2009 Elkin Christmas Parade which carried a positive message. The theme was CACHE'S Christmas Dreams for Elkin and we had children sitting around a Christmas Tree, holding up dream clouds with things like Increased Tourism, More Vineyards, and Downtown Re-vitalization written on them. We even won a judges' prize!

In January, 2010, when former Elkin resident Hal Weatherman wrote on his blog and published a letter in the local paper outlining his vision for an improved town, we jumped on the idea of having him speak at a banquet. He agreed and in February, 2010, spoke to about 140 people presenting innovative ideas on how Elkin could improve the economic situation without inviting a polluting industry.

At about the same time, Dr. Wells Steward, a member of the local Chamber of Commerce, became concerned that the local chamber had gone on record in support of Fibrowatt. He decided to poll the membership. After the poll was completed, Dr. Steward discovered that 94% of the members were opposed to the incinerator. His poll forced the CEO and the local Board to withdraw their support.

Shortly thereafter, Susan Stewart and others decided to submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act for all commissioners' correspondence regarding Fibrowatt. This request would prove to have a major impact.

Feeling the pressure from CACHE and with the election for his seat coming up in November, 2010, one of the commissioners offered the motion that the county withdraw the incentive package previously offered to Fibrowatt. Although the motion was approved unanimously, the next morning the chairman sent an email to the company saying ...don‘t worry, there are a few hurdles to get over...

Surprisingly, the commissioners scheduled a meeting in Elkin. Knowing that an Open Forum was usually scheduled for each meeting, CACHE encouraged people to attend and speak. When the chairman announced that he had requested the Elkin police be present and that the board had decided not to have an Open Forum at this meeting, most of the crowd walked out (under the watchful eye of the police), while openly expressing their disdain.

During the spring of 2010, Susan Steward had been designing a petition for the residents of Elkin to indicate whether they supported the town's decision to provide water to the site, or opposed it and how they felt about the proposed incinerator. She and other town residents began to take the petition door-to-door.

Also, Dr. Bill Blackley continued to research the health effects of incineration and created a Power Point presentation based on his research. He had also worked to get the North Carolina Academy of Family Practice Leadership and the Council on Public Health to go on record as opposing incineration. His research, along with Jeanette Stingone's paper Waste to Energy Conversion in North Carolina: Potential for Environmental Injustice was invaluable that spring in convincing people that poultry litter incineration was harmful.

At the same time that Dr. Blackley was preparing his report and the Stewarts had been reading the documents provided by the county under the Freedom on Information Act, Elkin native Lucy Chatham had been collecting research on impact of incinerators on local communities.

All four were scheduled to speak at the May, 2010, meeting of the Surry County Commissioners. However, at the very beginning of the meeting, before those presentations could be made, the commissioner from the Elkin area moved that the county cease any further discussion with Fibrowatt. He said he was doing so because the company had not answered his questions, nor the concerns voiced by CACHE. The motion passed unanimously, effectively bringing an end to a two-year battle.

This was our success story. Some counties won quickly; some are still fighting. If your county faces danger from a proposed or existing industry, we have come up with a list of what worked for us.

1. Get BREDL staff to help you organize and strategize.
2. Start a letter-writing campaign to local papers.
3. Do your research and have a presentation that is factual and well-documented. Don't exaggerate the danger...the truth is frightening enough.
4. Plan a community meeting to present your message.
5. Attend county and/or town meetings. Speak when given the opportunity. Have a succinct, well-researched message.
6. Blanket the community with yard signs.
7. Keep the media informed. Have a sound bite ready for interviews.
8. Use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain correspondence from elected officials.

Related Documents
CACHE'S A Visions Banquet Program
CACHE Flyer: Did You Know?
CACHE Flyer: Eight Reasons
Fibrowatt Cartoon


In the summer of 2000, BREDL was offered the gift of a 52 acre nature sanctuary on the French Broad River overlooking the town of Marshall, 30 miles northwest of Asheville. The former owner is Jubilee Community, an independent church with special interests in education and spiritual growth. Ginny Lentz, a member of our Madison Environmental Alliance chapter, is a member of the church and is familiar with BREDL's mission. She thought BREDL would best be able to use the land for environmental education purposes. On November 21, 2000 Jubilee transferred the land to the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League.

In October 2000 Ginny took us to visit the Nature Sanctuary in Marshall. In the twilight of the day, we hiked to the summit of the land overlooking the French Broad River. We were inspired by the view and excited about the possibilities for the future. The BREDL Board of Directors later passed a proposal for the site that encompasses the use the property for the betterment of Madison County and western North Carolina over a twenty year time period. During this time we are working to ensure that the site is preserved as a nature sanctuary for the use of hikers and visitors. Ultimately, we envision an environmental education center and a rural retreat facility located at the Nature Sanctuary for the usage and enjoyment of future generations.

Today, BREDL is working with local and regional volunteers and members of our chapter, the Madison Environmental Alliance, to secure the site, maintain trails and build campsites. We are enlisting the help of local civic groups and church groups to assist with groundskeeping and small improvements such as flower and tree plantings. We also foresee the observance of annual events at the sanctuary by such groups. We think this type of community involvement would help to protect the site from misuse by vandals and litterbugs. Many civic, religious, and non-profit groups utilize meeting places away from the daily routine in order to provide a space for creative thinking. We foresee a rural retreat center at the Sanctuary located on the bluff overlooking the French Broad River. It would be constructed with overall preservation of the Sanctuary in mind.

Environmental Education Center

Our plan for an environmental education center will be realized over the twenty year period. The center will have experiments and displays on environmental issues. The sanctuary will be a site for scientific instruments for the gathering of data on air pollution. For example, BREDL founder Janet Zeller has already petitioned the NC Division of Air Quality for an ozone monitor in Madison County. The Sanctuary is a perfect location for this ozone monitor which would contribute to knowledge of nitrogen oxide pollution and smog in the mountain region. Wind energy is an abundant renewable resource. Small-scale, environmentally-friendly electric power at the center would provide a model for educating people about this pollution-free natural resource. The data collection process itself could be used for public education on wind energy.

We plan to contact the French Broad Electric Membership Coop to enlist their cooperation and support in the Wind Project. Should the site prove a good one, a series of wind mills could provide electricity to Marshall and the surrounding community. BREDL is committed to carrying the project forward to its maximum potential. We wish to establish at the Sanctuary a wind energy data center funded by the DOE and private sources to determine the viability of the location for a system of wind-powered electric generators.

Solar power is the force which moves the wind and the rain. The Nature Sanctuary has a south-southeast facing slope which has excellent solar energy potential. Buildings at the site used for gatherings and for education will be designed to take advantage of this natural resource. The use of active and passive solar technology and windpower on year-round structures could result in a retreat center which is self-sufficient or even a net generator of electric power. This progressive and environmentally forward-looking project combined with education at the Sanctuary would remove doubts about the practical, economical use of efficient, renewable, pollution-free energy technologies.

Vision for the Future

For thirty years BREDL chapters have fought toxic dumps, incinerators, fossil fuel production and other dangerous facilities. The Sanctuary offers an opportunity to develop the environmental education of our Earth Stage program and the positive approach of our alternative energy project. We envision providing hikers and picnickers with an unspoiled natural environment; we envision providing school children and elected leaders a demonstration of the advantages of wind and solar energy; and we envision creating for our organization and for other groups a retreat center which demonstrates simplicity of lifestyle and offers a sanctuary for the spirit.

Victory Against ThermalKem Hazardous Waste Incinerator

Northampton County, a rural county in the northeastern region of North Carolina, was the site of a major environmental grassroots victory for the League in the early 90's, after an intense campaign to prevent the siting of a hazardous waste recycling facility to be located in Gaston, NC off of I-95. In December 1989, every resident in Northampton County got an "invitation" to a public meeting being held to announce a huge economic development possibility. The meeting was a typical dog-and-pony show. The state had tried unsuccessfully to site the incinerator, this was to be a "private" siting- company stated they would not come where they weren't wanted. It was clear that groundwork had been laid for some time. In early January 1990, a new BREDL chapter had formed- the Northampton Citizens Against Pollution (NCAP).

In a controversial county commission vote in 1990, ThermalKem was invited into Northampton County. Later that year, it was revealed that due to opposition in the Gaston area, and the potential for anti-incinerator candidates to be elected to the county commission, the town of Woodland in the southeastern part of the county was "inviting" ThermalKem to locate there. The siting attempt in Woodland created much division and dirty political dealings. The whole town board was in support of the project. A proponents group sprung up "People for Responsible Opportunity" (PRO). Its membership was heavily supporters of the pro-incinerator county commissioners and Woodland town board, as well as members of three families who were later found to have sign options with ThermalKem for 1.33 million dollars. Therese Vick discovered the options on her first trip to review records at the Governor's Waste Management Board. The Town annexed the optioned property, jokingly called "Three Mile Island" because it was three miles from the town limits.

In 1991, pressure increased with the company applying for their environmental permits. There were a plethora of "clean slate" candidates running against the pro-incinerator town board. At the first of two required public hearings, citizens forcefully volatilized their opposition by repeatedly chanting NO! for the duration of the hearing. Seventeen local residents were arrested-leaders were singled out. The protesters were known as the "Woodland 17." Later, District Attorney David Beard refused to prosecute the group. The second public hearing was scheduled for the day before the town board elections, an obvious ploy to disrupt the electoral process and possibly have people arrested so they could not vote. With the help of BREDL, NCAP decided that the best strategy was not attending the hearing- to have an old fashioned election celebration. John Runkle recorded testimony and presented it at the hearing on NCAPs behalf stating their concern that they were being set up. There were dozens of law enforcement officers there. The next day, the "Clean Slate" ticket won the day.

At the first Woodland Board meeting in January 1992, ThermalKem was immediately un-invited. The company-going back on their promise of not going where they weren't wanted- immediately began legal action against the town. There had been changes at the state level also- Jim Hunt was elected as governor, and was not the advocate for the company that his predecessor Jim Martin had been. 1992 was fraught with election challenges and lawsuits, while the permitting droned on.

In May 1993, dozens of activists were arrested in front of the White House protesting hazardous waste incineration. They included four from North Carolina: Janet Marsh, founder and then Executive Director of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Denise Lee and Therese Vick, on staff with BREDL, and Billie Elmore, founder of NC WARN. Also in 1993, Governor Hunt and the legislature disbanded the controversial Governor's Waste Management Board long regarded as a schill for the hazardous waste industry and transferred the budget to a state pollution prevention program. In June, US EPA announced intentions to overhaul its hazardous waste regulations. On September 16, 1993, ThermalKem announced that it would no longer be seeking to build a hazardous waste incinerator in Northampton County.

Reflections by NCAP member, Brenda Bevan Remmes

Three days before Christmas in 1989 our rural community that was disproportionately low-income and black was approved by then-Governor Jim Martin as the location for a hazardous waste incinerator. The newspapers announced the land deal had been sealed and the county commissioners had already voted their approval.

As a community we were completely taken off guard. Overwhelmed by the timing of the announcement and our own lack of information concerning the decision, we found ourselves completely dependent on the fervor of a few who took it upon themselves to quickly mobilize opposition. When more than 500 people showed up at a rally two days after Christmas, we realized we had the beginning of something powerful.

Ours was not the first attempt to site a hazardous waste facility within North Carolina and we learned quickly as members of other communities rallied to help us. Everyone directed us to BREDL and when we called, they came. They came across the state, more than 350 miles, and stayed for as long as we needed help, at no cost to us. Elected officials would call them outsiders.

That was our first lesson in media spin. The outsiders consisted of two people. We learned quickly because we had the experience of other communities to rely on. The lessons which we learned and I have used again and again with community groups during the past twenty years are:
• There is no silver bullet. It all depends on who gives up first.
• Law suits alone won’t win the battle.
• Keep the media involved. Push your side of the story every day.
• Your story has to continue to be unique, of broad interest and entertaining.
• People are more apt to support you on moral issues rather than environmental issues.
• If the public views you as a victim, instead of the aggressor, they’ll side with you.
• Elected officials can be swayed and/or replaced by a majority of the voters.
• There are a lot of angles to consider: media, legal, education, fund raising, local and state government policy and motivational.
• You have to support the people working beside you. People will join in at different levels. Some will never come to a meeting, but they’ll write checks. A few will emerge as your researchers, others as your public speakers. Some will relish the rallies. Others will sit at home and write letters on call-in to local talk-shows.
• Don't push or try to guilt anyone into doing more than they’re comfortable doing.
• You're in it for the long haul. Pace yourselves and persist in your belief that you will be the last one standing.

We stopped the siting of the hazardous waste incinerator. It took three years, but in the end our most important lesson was that people do have power. We came together, young and old, black and white, professional and blue collar, the wealthy and the poor for a common cause. We became friends. For three years we became a community in the truest sense of the word.

- Brenda Bevan Remmes

Monitored Retrievable Storage Facility Stopped

The Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982 required the Secretary of Energy to report to Congress by June 1, 1985 on the need for and feasibility of a monitored retrievable storage facility (MRS) and specified that the report was to include five different combinations of proposed sites and facility designs, involving at least three different locations. Environmental assessments were required for the sites. It barred construction of an MRS facility in a state under consideration for a permanent waste repository.

DOE selected a preferred region of the country for the MRS. Within this region, DOE then chose 11 potential sites for evaluation: Paducah, KY; Yellow Creek, MS; Hartsville, TN; Barton, TN: Oak Ridge, TN; Clinch River, TN; Phipps Bend, TN; Cherokee, SC; Savannah River Site, SC; Barnwell, SC; and Perkins, NC. The Perkins site in North Carolina is in Davie County on the Yadkin River approximately seven miles from Mocksville.

On April 25, 1985, three possible sites were selected by DOE – all three in Tennessee. Clinch River Breeder Reactor site in Oak Ridge, TN and the other two possible sites were the Hartsville Nuclear Plant site and the Oak Ridge Preservation.

Janet Hoyle, co-chairman of BREDL, met with environmentalists from six states at a conference in Knoxville, TN, in November, 1985. After examining the activities and plans of the DOE, participants found the proposed MRS facility to be untested, unnecessary, and unsafe.

On Feb. 5, 1986, a federal judge issued an injunction to stop progress on the proposed nuclear waste processing facility in Tennessee. A U.S. District Judge ruled that DOE was in violation of federal law when it selected the Tennessee site because DOE did not consult with Tennessee as directed by the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. This put the MRS on hold for 15 months.

In March 1987, after more than a year of legal action in the federal courts, the DOE submitted its final proposal to Congress for the construction of an MRS facility at the Clinch River Breeder Reactor Site in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

An interim storage facility proposed by the U.S. Dept. of Energy was to be sited at the abandoned Clinch River Breeder Reactor site in Oak Ridge, TN. It was designed to package and store bundles of spent uranium from commercial and defense reactors until they were shipped elsewhere for permanent storage. It was designed to hold 15,000 metric tons of high level nuclear waste and cost $2 billion.

Following considerable public pressure and threat of veto by the Governor of Tennessee , 1987 amendments to the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act – passed by Congress Dec. 1987 - “annulled and revoked” the DOE Tennessee proposal.

See the BREDL Fall 85/Winter 86 newsletter for more details.

BREDL Chapter: People for Clean Mountains, Clean Jobs, and Clean Economy

People for Clean Mountains was formed in April 2013 and became a chapter of BREDL at that time. Our immediate goal upon forming was to prevent the development of a biomass facility proposed for Little River Valley in Transylvania County, NC. Working with BREDL, PCM was able to achieve this goal with Transylvania County’s Board of Commissioners passing a 12 month moratorium on biomass facilities in July 2013. PCM’s strategy in defeating the biomass facility included educating the community, raising awareness, providing opportunities for community members to speak out and fostering a relationship with our local government in order to establish an open line of communication between elected officials and their constituents. BREDL’s guidance and support through this process helped make the difference in our success. Our county is now in the process of passing a Polluting Industries Ordinance to further protect our community from industries like biomass. In December 2013, PCM was honored with the Environmental Award from The Pisgah Chapter of the North Carolina Sierra Club for our efforts in stopping the proposed biomass plant. We have also been featured in an article of The Biomass Monitor, a publication by The Energy Justice Network.

PCM’s motto, “Clean Mountains. Clean Jobs. Clean Economy.” has been a part of our vision since our first meetings in 2013. We continue to work to bring this motto to reality through efforts to create better recycling programs for our community and by offering education opportunities for our community and surrounding areas. For 2014, we have identified four main objectives, they include: recycling, composting, solar energy and energy efficiency (through weatherization). Through public education opportunities and working with our local government, we hope to implement programs in these areas that will bring “Clean Mountains. Clean Jobs. Clean Economy.” to fruition.

In August 2013, PCM held presentations for both our county officials and community at-large with Institute for Local Self-Reliance, highlighting business and job opportunities through potential businesses in the recycling industry. PCM continues to encourage our county and the city of Brevard to work with ILSR to bring jobs to our community through composting and recycling. Also in 2013, PCM hosted public workshops highlighting recycling and solar energy in an effort to create public awareness of both the economic and environmental aspects of better recycling and clean energy. As we look toward the future, PCM will continue to work in our community to make these opportunities available and make fulfill our commitment to “Clean Mountains. Clean Jobs. Clean Economy.”

Fighting Asphalt Plants - Protecting Communities

From day one BREDL and its chapters have fought against industries that put profits over people, and against elected representatives that are more interested in lining their pockets than representing their constituents. A common thread in all these fights are issues like environmental justice, air and water pollution, and a plethora of health risks. And no battle was ever won without the concerted effort of a community, because at the end of the day industrial polluters and greedy politicians have to realize that there is no foe as powerful as an aroused citizenry.

Like biomass plants and waste incinerators, asphalt plants pose a serious threat to those who find themselves living in their proximity. Mixing gravel and sand with oil derivatives, asphalt plants produce the material we use to pave roads and parking lots. However, while making asphalt these industries release millions of pounds of highly toxic chemicals into the air. These fumes include carcinogenic substances like arsenic, benzene, cadmium, formaldehyde, and volatile organic compounds and are responsible for a number of health risks: higher cancer rates, increased respiratory problems, damage to the central nervous system, and severe skin irritation.

For BREDL the issue of asphalt plants first surfaced in 1994 when “Citizens for Responsible Growth” in Orange County, NC, became concerned about their air quality. In the following years many more communities in North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and elsewhere joined our fight to either close existing asphalt plants near residential areas, to push through stricter air quality controls in their communities and states, or to stop new asphalt industries from coming into their counties. In total 19 BREDL chapters focused on this issue over the years.1

While not all our fights were successful, some stand out as a beacon of hope for those who are still struggling to protect their citizens, both young and old, from polluting asphalt plants:

In 1997 BREDL organized local opposition to an asphalt plant proposal in an unzoned community in Watauga County, NC. The permit was denied on the basis of public health protection, a first in North Carolina, and resulted in an eight month statewide moratorium on all new asphalt plant permits.

An asphalt plant proposed for Flat Creek in an unzoned area of Buncombe County, NC, was also defeated in 1997. North Buncombe Association of Concerned Citizens and BREDL joined forces to uncover and publicize the track record of the asphalt company. The campaign raised serious doubts about the company's ability to operate a plant within state regulations and the proposal was dropped.

In 1998 our accomplishments included getting North Carolina to develop a better analysis of fugitive toxic air emissions and to expand the Toxic Air Pollutant program to all operating and proposed asphalt plants. In September BREDL staffer Lou Zeller presented new information about asphalt plant emissions to North Carolina’s Environmental Management Commission. In 1999 the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League received the Governor's Conservation Achievement Award for Air Conservationist of the Year!

In 1999 we mounted three simultaneous asphalt plant permit challenges, all in the mountain region. Also, working with a national network of activists to oversee asphalt plant testing by the EPA, we monitored asphalt plant emissions tests in California and Massachusetts. These tests form the basis for EPA guidance for estimation of fugitive, or ground-level, emissions of volatile organic compounds and other asphalt plant toxins.2

In 2000 a third asphalt plant proposal was defeated in Watauga County, NC.

In 2001, the BREDL chapter “Ashe Citizens Against Pollution” in Ashe County, NC, stopped an asphalt plant when the county commission upheld the Polluting Industries Ordinance they had fought for in 1998-99 after a challenge by Tri-County Paving Inc.

In 2006, BREDL chapter “Be Safe Not Sorry” (BSNS) stopped an asphalt plant from opening right in the middle of a neighborhood of residences, farmers raising horses and cattle, churches, day care centers, and campgrounds. BSNS also helped to create the polluting industries ordinance that has protected us ever since.  As one of its members fondly recalls: “I still remember the meeting room jammed full of citizens, standing on their feet and cheering and applauding our commissioners when we won our campaign!” 

These are our success stories, the result of many hard fought battles, all of which are testimony to the power of grassroots organizations. Other communities and BREDL chapters are still fighting the good fight and eventually they, too, we will be successful. From Pineola, Boone and Jefferson to Bethel, Columbus and elsewhere: never give up!

1 BREDL chapters with a focus on asphalt plants: Citizens for Responsible Growth (Orange County, NC); Neighbors Against the Cullasaja Asphalt Plant (Macon County, NC); Ashe Citizens Against Pollution (Ashe County, NC); Foothills Action Committee for the Environment (Polk County, NC, and Spartanburg County, SC); Pineola Concerned Citizens (Avery County, NC); Citizens Against Pollution (Watauga County, NC); Citizens Against the Asphalt Plant (Henderson County, NC); Rowan Citizens Against Pollution (Rowan County, NC); Wythe Environmental Action Group (Wythe County, VA); Neighbors for a Cleaner Colfax Tomorrow (Guilford County, NC); Alleghany Citizens for Environmental Safety (Alleghany County, NC); Rutherford County Citizens Against Pollution (Rutherford County, NC); Be Safe Not Sorry (Alamance County, NC); Mitchell County Citizens for Clean Air (Mitchell County, NC); Watchdogs in the Southeast (Guilford County, NC); Iredell Citizens Against Asphalt Plants (Iredell County, NC); Citizens for Positive Growth (Salem, VA); Horry Environmental Action Team (Horry County, SC); Burnsville Air Report Card (Yancey County, NC).

2 BREDL published a minority report in 2001, along with environmental groups from Massachusetts, Missouri and Minnesota, that studied the impact of hot asphalt plants on public health that were overlooked by the EPA’s own test report, noting the failure of the EPA to protect communities from such fugitive emissions. The report can be found on BREDL’s website at http://www.bredl.org/pdf/MinorityReport-asphalt29jan01.pdf

BREDL Asphalt Plants webpage

Solite Hazardous Waste Incinerators Stopped

Carolina Solite – Aquadale, NC

In the 1980’s, Carolina Solite began burning hazardous waste at its facility in Aquadale.

Stanly Countians Opposed to Toxic Chemical Hazards (SCOTCH) formed in 1989. In the early 90s, SCOTCH was a BREDL affiliate, briefly becoming a chapter in the mid-90s, before going their separate way.

In 1991, SCOTCH and the Clean Water Fund of NC filed a federal lawsuit. They reached an agreement with the company in 1993. After a brief hiatus, Carolina Solite began incinerating hazardous waste again.

In February 1993, BREDL’s Denise Lee and SCOTCH’s Jo Ann Almond attended an EPA meeting on boiler industrial furnace regulation. No representative from EPA Region 4, which covers North Carolina, was invited.

In August 1993, BREDL, Anson Co. CACTUS, SCOTCH and Greenpeace held a press conference on the steps of the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management in Raleigh. BREDL’s Denise Lee and Greenpeace’s Scott Brown proceeded inside where they met Mike Kelly, Deputy Director of the Division. The activists gave out three huge pink slips to Bill Myer, Director of Solid and Hazardous Waste Mgt, Mike Kelly and Jill Burton. They were symbolically "fired" because of job performance regarding the Carolina Solite cement plant in Aquadale, NC, with an arsenic concentration 2 to 6 times greater than the statewide average. (More about this can be found in a previous BREDL Moment)

BREDL ran four radio ads advertising a Nov. 4, 1993 Public Meeting regarding Carolina Solite.

In July 1998, the state of North Carolina settles a case with Solite over Air Quality Violations. A year later, Solite, Inc. and Oldover Corporation in Stanly County, NC were issued a Notice of Violation on July 14, 1999 for exceeding limits set down in the July 15, 1998 settlement agreement between them and the NC Division of Air Quality.

On September 3, 1999, BREDL requests EPA to pull Solite, Inc.'s operating permits. BREDL citied fugitive emission problems throughout Solite’s operating history. BREDL stated, “With the clear-cut evidence of present contamination of the air, soil and water it is criminal for the EPA or the State to allow the continued operation of Carolina Solite. Solite is a public health threat not only to citizens in Anson, Stanly and Union counties but the entire state. We ask that the EPA pull all state and federal operating permits for Solite and Oldover, Inc. immediately. “

September 13, 1999 - The North Carolina Division of Waste management confirmed that enforcement actions against Solite, Incorporated may be pending.

On Nov. 4, 1999, Giant Cement Holding Incorporated, based in Summerville, SC, announced that it would be bought by Cementos Portland, based in Spain, for $343.4 million. At the time, Giant Cement was the country's 15th-largest cement producer. It was the parent company of Solite, Incorporated.

On Sept. 20, 1999, the NC Division of Waste Management signed a Compliance Order with Administrative Penalty for Solite, Inc. of $52,499.00. The fines assessed included violations for failing to mark hazardous waste control piping which the state emphasized as "posing potential risk to the employees and state regulators who come in contact with the equipment." The events occurred on March 18, April 28 and June 14, 1999.

On October 12, 1999, after learning of NC Dept. of Health and Human Services health investigation around the Solite facility, BREDL chapter Anson County CACTUS requests Carolina Solite investigation include Anson and Union Counties.

On October 28, 1999, BREDL and the EM-POWER! Project of Communities for a Better Environment of California held a training with concerned citizens on how to conduct a Bucket Brigade in their neighborhoods. The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) and Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) conducted a Toxic Tour of polluted neighborhoods in the Piedmont. Solite was included on this toxic tour.

On October 29, 1999, North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services sends out a public health letter to citizens living near Solite, Inc.

On February 15, 2000 NC Department of Human Health Services Stakeholders Meeting in Raleigh. The meeting is one of a series of ongoing meetings to gather input on the tests to be conducted by the state on soil, water, and air samples taken near the Carolina Solite hazardous waste-burning aggregate kiln in Aquadale, NC. Present were state employees from the NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources, NC Division of Epidemiology, NC DHHS, US Environmental Protection Agency, representatives of Carolina Solite, Inc., citizens' organizations representatives from BREDL and NC WARN, and members of CACTUS and SCOTCH who live within ten miles of the plant.

On March 1, 2000 - AIR MONITORING FINDS ELEVATED ARSENIC LEVELS NEAR SOLITE PLANT - State officials plan to intensify health and environmental monitoring near Carolina Solite Corporation after finding elevated arsenic levels in the air near the Stanly County plant, which makes lightweight aggregate for concrete blocks. The N.C. Division of Air Quality (DAQ) found arsenic concentrations in the air near Solite ranging from 2.0 to 6.4 times the average statewide concentration, based on the first three months of a long-term air monitoring study.

On May 8, 2000 - BREDL comments on Carolina Solite Sampling Plans and Air Modeling. In their letter to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, BREDL said, “The Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League cannot, in good conscience, support the environmental sampling or current toxic air pollution modeling at Carolina Solite in Stanly County while the facility continues to operate. The people of Stanly, Anson, and Union counties deserve a complete aggressive plan of action to protect their health and to safeguard the area's environmental quality. “

In June 2000, following a meeting involving concerned citizen groups and NC agencies, Carolina Solite – Aquadale agreed to stop burning hazardous waste. Signed agreement on June 2, 2000.

Virginia Solite – Cascade, VA

On November 5, 2001 – BREDL submits comments on the Clean Air Act Title V permit for Virginia Solite Cascade facility. In our comments, we requested a public hearing be held.

On January 10, 2002, VA DEQ holds a Public Hearing at the Brosville, VA Library. Upon seeing the hearing announcement in the local newspaper, over 20 residents attended. Several residents remained in the parking lot after the meeting to discuss the facility with BREDL. Soon after, Piedmont Residents In Defense of the Environment (PRIDE) formed. Subsequently, VA DEQ held a meeting with PRIDE in the Lynchburg, VA DEQ office on May 9, 2002.

In July 2002, BREDL and PRIDE filed a Clean Air Act Section 505 petition with the U.S. EPA regarding the Title V permit. PRIDE also commented on the hazardous waste permit.

In January 2005, Solite Corporation notified the Virginia DEQ that the facility at Cascade would be closed.

More Details: BREDL Solite Campaign

Virginia Road Warriors: U.S. 58 and I-73 Fights

VAR Fights I-73 Through Roanoke, Franklin and Henry Counties

In May, 2001, the CTB approved building a new-terrain Interstate 73 that would have traversed a 72-mile corridor in southwestern VA, resulting in significant, irreversible adverse effects on natural, scenic, and ecological resources, including impacting 3,370 acres of forest habitat and more than 52,000 linear feet of stream and associated riparian corridors, exposing over 2000 households to noise and air pollution, adversely impacting thousands of acres of natural habitat and farmland, fragmenting and disrupting wildlife corridors, destroying terrestrial and aquatic wildlife habitat, stimulating sprawl development, and exacerbating air pollution and greenhouse gases. VAR's numerous administrative and legal interventions to prevent approval of I-73 during the period 2000-10 resulted in the re-routing of I-73 to avoid the Southeast Roanoke Historic District, a resource identified by VAR and its partners in the affected community and recognized by the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places.

MHA Fights U.S. 58 Four-lane Through Mt. Rogers National Recreation Area

On May 21, 1992 the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved U.S. 58 Alternative 2A. Alternative 2A would have relocated U.S. 58 and made it four-lanes through the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area in southwest Virginia. It would have cut through 7.7 miles of National Forest land, destroyed the popular Hurricane campground, and crossed the Appalachian Trail.

On June 20, 1992 the Mountain Heritage Alliance formed in Smyth, Grayson and Washington counties. In July 1992, with 23 people present, MHA voted to become a BREDL chapter. MHA worked closely with members of another BREDL chapter Graysonites for Progressive Change.

MHA believed that Alternative 2A would cause irreversible social, cultural and physical changes; unacceptable air, water and noise pollution; condemnation of private land; the encouragement of outside-controlled commercial development; and serious degradation of the Mount Rogers NRA.

MHA Chairman Tom Davenport wrote an overview of the issue for the Spring 1994 edition of Affinity, an environmental newspaper in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. In part, he wrote, “A significant showdown between the promoters of economic development and the conservators of environmental values is approaching a climax in the rugged mountainous region of southwest Virginia. The battlefield is the Mount Rogers National Recreation Area. The issue is a state financed four-lane super highway project, U.S. 58, designed to cut through the heart of the area. The showdown has national significance in that it entails the possibility of rendering protected public lands vulnerable to the caprice of a state agency.”

MHA launched a nationwide campaign to inform the public about U.S. 58. The group coordinated with many state, regional and national groups. The Southern Environmental Law Center represented MHA.

When contacted, several Commonwealth Transportation Board members expressed surprise that they had voted to bisect the MRNRA. MHA concentrated efforts on getting the CTB to take another look at their decision. A new CTB member kept the issue alive; however, he was pushing for the highway to be routed back into his area. MHA insisted that the no-build, interstate route was the only way to preserve the MRNRA and the rural communities’ way of life.

At the same time, MHA was trying to get the U.S. Forest Service and other government agencies to ask VDOT for an Environmental Impact Statement. In December 1992, the U.S. Forest Service and National Park Service formally requested VDOT to do an EIS for the entire Study 2 area. VDOT’s response was noncommittal. VDOT informed MHA that they did not anticipate doing an EIS for the entire corridor. We argued that an EIS was necessary to assure that the cumulative impacts would be addressed.

On June 24, 1993 the CTB unanimously passed a resolution which reaffirmed its decision to reroute and four-lane U.S. 58 bisecting the MRNRA. Meanwhile, in a November 1, 1993 editorial entitled “The dumb road”, the Roanoke Times and World News labeled U.S. 58 as the “A.L. Philpott Memorial Boondoggle”. The Smyth County News wrote two editorials on June 19, 1993 and September 18, 1993 expressing its opposition. The SCN called the U.S. 58 project a “plan that should be returned to the drawing boards.” SCN further stated that the upgrade “makes no sense” and “will damage this local treasure no matter how you cut the cake”.

Not to be deterred, the group continued to target the CTB. The CTB visited the area for their May 1995 board meeting. The feeling was that the board was going to reopen the issue at their board meeting, but they came and went without doing that.

Prior to that, in August 1994, the U.S. Forest Service took a preemptive strike. The agency sent out a scoping notice for the project. During the public comment period, MHA rallied the troops. Over 900 letters were received by the U.S. Forest Service with nearly 99 percent of respondents expressing opposition to the highway project. In addition to our extensive comments, MHA submitted a petition with 3,931 signatures supporting the no-build route. VDOT officials said the Forest Service was premature in beginning the environmental review process because VDOT had not asked for a permit to cross federal land and no funds had been allocated. However, the Forest Service and MHA believed that the environmental studies needed to be done so VDOT would not build U.S. 58 in segments leaving the Forest Service with no options to avoid the federal land.

At its May 8, 1996 workshop meeting, the CTB finally acknowledged the “probability of eventually obtaining approvals to construct along this corridor are extremely unlikely”. VDOT stated that after selecting Alternative 2A, “we began to receive notices of organized and widespread opposition to the decision.” Virginia Transportation Secretary Robert Martinez said, “We can either bang our head against the wall forever …or adopt a different approach.”

On May 9, 1996, the board officially abandoned the Alternative 2A route. The CTB resolution directed VDOT to focus on safety improvements to existing two-lane roads.

Virginia areas once threatened by a four-lane highway now protected by Wilderness and National Scenic Area designations

March 30, 2009 is a date that will long be remembered by former members of Mountain Heritage Alliance. That’s the date when President Barack Obama signed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009 (Public law 111-11) into law. This Act, which bundled together 164 separate bills, added 2.1 million acres of Wilderness protection and increased the wild and scenic river system by 50 percent. The Virginia Ridge and Valley Act was included in this bundled bill. Former MHA President Tom Davenport was fortunate enough to be in attendance at the White House for the historic moment. Davenport, from Damascus, VA, provided testimony in May 2007 before Congress on behalf of the Virginia Ridge and Valley Act.

Newly protected areas in Smyth County include the 4,223 acre Raccoon Branch Wilderness Area and the 5,192 acre Seng Mountain National Scenic Area. Had U.S. 58 been rerouted and constructed, this four-lane highway would have been built between these two areas.

BREDL Symbolically "Fires" NC Solid Waste Managers

In August 1993, BREDL held a press event on the steps of the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management in Raleigh.

BREDL, Anson County CACTUS, SCOTCH and Greenpeace "fired" Bill Myer, Director of Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, Mike Kelly, Deputy Director of Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management, and Jill Burton of the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management. All three were presented with poster size pink slips. They were symbolically "fired" because of job performance regarding the Carolina Solite cement plant in Aquadale, NC, with an arsenic concentration 2 to 6 times greater than the statewide average.

Inside, BREDL staffer and CACTUS member Denise Lee along with Scott Brown of Greenpeace presented Mike Kelly with the huge "pink slips."

Outside, "Dr. Smello" (BREDL's Lou Zeller) made an appearance peddling his toxic balm along with his sidekick BREDL staffer Therese Vick.

Bill Myer kept a framed photo of the "pink slip" in his office until he retired. In the corridor near his office, Mr. Myer set up a small chair and table complete with a toy telephone and a nameplate with BREDL staffer Denise Lee's name on it. He would say he had a work station for Denise at the Division of Solid and Hazardous Waste Management.

BREDL Staffers arrested in 1993 WTI Protest outside White House

In 1983 permits were granted for Waste Technologies Industries (WTI ) to operate a facility, one of the world's largest capacity hazardous waste incinerators, in East Liverpool, Ohio. Prior to operation, opposition to the facility increased. On the campaign trail, Al Gore referenced the hazards of this plant. After winning office, the Clinton-Gore Administration announced the Administration would not issue the plant a test burn permit until questions about safety concerns were answered. Greenpeace and Ohio Valley residents sought an injunction to stop the test burn, which had been granted in the final days of the Bush Administration. In March 1993, a U.S. District Judge approved the test burn but suspended further operation citing public health concerns. That decision was overturned by the U.S. Court of Appeals.

On May 17, 1993, Greenpeace, Ohio residents and citizens from all over the U.S. held a protest outside the White House. The protestors cited the Administration breaking their promise.

58 demonstrators were arrested. These included BREDL Executive Director Janet Marsh and BREDL staffers Denise Lee and Therese Vick. They were charged with obstructing traffic on Pennsylvania Avenue. The protesters chained themselves to each other and to a 24-foot mock-up of the WTI hazardous waste incinerator. In addition to the BREDL staffers, actor Martin Sheen was also arrested. After spending a few hours in jail and paying a $50 fine, the arrestees were released.

One day after the protest, U.S. EPA Administrator Carol Browner announced a new policy on hazardous waste incineration and put in place an 18-month "freeze" on permitting. The WTI facility received its full operating permit in 1997.

The 1993 demonstration was organized by Greenpeace.


Background information in the first paragraph is courtesy of Ohio Citizen Action - www.ohiocitizen.org

Video courtesy of Greenpeace.

Video from 1993 WTI Protest

Neighbors for Environmental Safety Today (NEST) members gathered on October 23, 2004 for a Pig Pickin’ Celebration in Oak Ridge, NC.

Neighbors for Environmental Safety Today (NEST) celebrated the end of its fight against Waste Management Inc. that had lasted for over a decade in Forsyth and Guilford counties. In October 2004, the Piedmont Landfill was capped and closed, ending WMI attempts to expand the landfill on 300 acres on the Forsyth-Guilford county line. NEST defeated WMI expansion seven times on the old tract. On October 23, 2004, NEST members gathered for a Pig Pickin' Celebration in Oak Ridge, NC. Several BREDL Board members joined the celebration after the Board's meeting.

The WMI Piedmont Landfill opened July 1990. NEST organized September 1990. Originally, the Piedmont Landfill was to be a Kernersville landfill for local garbage until after it was sited, and then they were permitted to bring garbage from all over North Carolina and 6 southeastern states. It was supposed to last from 23-30 years and it was almost filled in 8 years. Then they cut back on the intake and tried to expand into Guilford County. It was completely filled in 14 years. Throughout the history of the Piedmont Landfill, Waste Management Inc. made several attempts to expand the landfill. Each time, NEST was there to ensure it didn't happen.


December, 1997: Guilford County Planning Board voted 5-3 against Waste Management’s proposal for expansion of Piedmont Landfill operations into Guilford County.

February, 1998: Guilford County Commissioners voted 7-1 against Waste Management’s request for Special Use Permit to operate Piedmont Landfill in Guilford County.

November, 1999: Forsyth County Planning Board voted 6-1 against Waste Management’s request for rezoning in order that they could raise the elevation of the landfill and continue operations.

June, 2000: Forsyth County Planning Board rejected for the 2nd time Waste Management’s request for rezoning to allow them to raise the permitted elevation and continue operation in Forsyth County.

August, 2000: Forsyth County Commissioners rejected Waste Management’s request for continued operation in Forsyth County by a unanimous vote.

October 8, 2003: Guilford Co. NC Planning Board voted 7 - 0 to deny Waste Management's request to rezone property for landfill expansion. WMI appealed to Guilford County Commissioners.

November 6, 2003: Guilford County Commissioners denied by a 7 to 4 vote the request by Waste Management to rezone from Agricultural to Heavy Industrial. This vote effectively stopped the dump from coming into Guilford County.


The original BREDL logo first appeared in the Skyland Post in 1984. The image was designed by Patty Wheeler, a founding member of BREDL, during the campaign to halt the high-level nuclear waste dump in the Southern Appalachians. This logo eventually had to be replaced, as BREDL expanded to reach a broader scope of issues, including other kinds of hazardous waste, air pollution, and toxic chemicals.

The New River logo was designed by Trey Lindsay, a Watauga High School Art student, who submitted this winning design in BREDL’s poster contest for the New River Festival. The New River Festival, held every year by BREDL from 1987- 1993, brought people together in the community for family-style fun, music, food, games, and environmental education and took place in each summer. The image shows the flowing river spilling over its boundaries, capturing a hint of the power and wildness of the ancient stream.

The image of two people uniting their raised hands above a view of a river and mountainous topography was created in the early 1990’s by founding co-president, Susan Sharpe, a local artist from Boone, NC. Susan was also an editor for the “Environmental Times.” The theme of clean water has been central to each BREDL logo, and the circle is representative of the earth, and unity.

The current version of BREDL’s logo is based on an original design from 1987, when students from Appalachian State University submitted their ideas for BREDL’s first logo contest. It was revised in 2000 by BREDL Board Member and Web Master, Mark Barker, and again in 2014, for the thirtieth anniversary.

BREDL Victory: Dissolution of the 8-state low-level radioactive waste compact, which ended the attempt to build a Southeast waste dump.

On Dec. 13, 1980, Congress passed the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Act of 1980. The Act stated that all states are responsible for LLRW generated within its borders. It further stated that states could enter compacts with neighboring states.

Then on Jan. 15, 1986, Congress passed the Low Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act of 1985. State compacts had planned to start excluding waste outside of their compacts once approved; however, Congress stalled. The states with existing disposal sites (Barnwell, SC; Beatty, NV; and Richland, WA) threatened to close them. This Act extended those sites to Dec. 31, 1992. After that, the sites could close or begin to except waste only from within their compacts. Congress also left the door open to review compacts every five years.

A panel representing eight Southeastern states (Southeast Compact Commission) voted on Sept. 11, 1986 to designate North Carolina as the repository for all the region's low-level radioactive waste. The two North Carolina reps voted against it. North Carolina would decide later on a site. This new site would replace a low-level nuclear dump in Barnwell, SC. NC said it has the option of dropping out of the compact, but then would have to develop a site for NC refuse on its own. NC came in first, followed closely by Alabama, Virginia, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida and Mississippi. SC was not considered because it already had a dump (Barnwell).

At the time, BREDL Director Janet Hoyle (now Janet Marsh Zeller) remarked that North Carolina could receive 37 percent of the nation’s nuclear waste for twenty years. North Carolina officials said the state would initiate its own selection process, which meant that all 100 counties were eligible as a potential site. After North Carolina was picked for the 8-state dump, BREDL organized communities and held rallies across North Carolina including rallies in Raleigh, Hamlet and Rutherford County.

In November 1986, groups worked together in the "Don't Waste North Carolina” Campaign, a statewide network which opposed the Southeast Compact Commission selection of North Carolina. Groups included: BREDL, Clean Water Fund, Conservation Council, Sierra Club and Western NC Alliance.

Meanwhile, the North Carolina Low-level Radioactive Waste Management Authority chose Chem-Nuclear Systems, Inc. as the contractor that would build the facility. By November 1989, Chem-Nuclear had narrowed the potential sites to four locations in these counties: Richmond, Rowan, Union and Wake.

Then, on Feb. 21, 1990 in a televised meeting on the North Carolina Public Television Network, the sites were narrowed down to two: Richmond and Wake. During the broadcast meeting, eight activists including BREDL’s Lou Zeller and Janet Hoyle were dragged out of the meeting. The two possible disposal sites: southwest Wake County near Apex and southeast Richmond County near Hamlet (sandy soils).

In 1993, the Citizens Nuclear Waste Watch, a coalition of groups opposing radioactive dumps, was also active across the state. Organizations involved included: BREDL, Center for Community Action, FORRCE-FOR Richmond County's Environment, Generation to Generation, Love Your Mother-Chapel Hill, Moore Force, North Carolina Ground Zero, NC Physicians for Social Responsibility-Triangle Chapter, NC WARN, and Student Environmental Action Coalition-UNC Chapel Hill.

On December 8, 1993, the North Carolina Low-level Radioactive Waste Management Authority met at the Brownestone Hotel in Raleigh to make its final site selection. Outside the hotel, BREDL held a press conference and protest featuring the “Miss Nuclear Waste North Carolina Pageant”. The pageant featured Dr. Smello and two contestants "Sandy Hill" a.k.a. Therese Vick (Richmond) and Matt McConnell (Wake) dressed in a wig and dress as the Apex finalist.

The Authority selected a site in Wake County as the location for the llrw dump to open by January 1996. Nearly 150 people would have to be relocated in Richmond Co., had it been selected. Six years and $60 million was spent trying to find a location.

On March 11, 1994 at a Raleigh press conference several groups (BREDL, NC Conservation Council, Sierra Club, NC Ground Zero, Coastal Alliance for A Safe Environment and Love Your Mother) charged that Governor Jim Hunt and lawmakers were ignoring the crime of building a nuclear waste dump in Apex. The groups also aired radio ads. At the time, state regulators were reviewing a permit application for the project.

Good news came on July 20, 1999 when North Carolina officially withdrew from the Southeast Interstate Low-level Radioactive Waste Management Compact. The bill (SB 247) passed by the NC General Assembly also requires the NC Division of Radiation Protection to review current radioactive management practices and to formulate a plan for complying with federal law. BREDL publicly commended the courage and determination displayed by North Carolina's two Southeast Compact Commission members, Representative George Miller and former Director of the Division of Radiation Protection Dayne Brown.

The Southeast Compact states sued North Carolina for $90 million citing a breach of contract in withdrawal from compact on June 3, 2002. However, on June 1, 2010 the U.S. Supreme Court decided that North Carolina was not liable to the Southeast Compact in their withdrawal from the compact.

Fact Sheets

Don't Waste NC Campaign Fact Sheets

Fact Sheets

Nuclear North Carolina Mega Buck

The Many Talents of Lou

Lou Zeller has brought creativity, leadership and expert critical analysis skills to the League since he first joined with BREDL to stop the high-level nuclear waste dump from being built near his home in western North Carolina. Lou is originally from New York and came south to attend Emory University. He was living in Madison County, North Carolina in 1985 when the federal government focused on his adopted home as a site for a national nuclear waste dump. He organized his community and joined the League staff in 1986. Since then, he has worked on every major League project with community groups in Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Alabama and Georgia.

As Science Director with a background in math and medicine, Lou provides technical assistance to chapters and other staff. He has expertise in technical research and computer modeling. In recent years he has represented the League in lawsuits ranging from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Clean Air Act petitions. Lou travels 30,000 miles a year as a community organizer and has also done international work for the League. He was elevated to the position of Executive Director by the Board of Directors in 2012.

Lou has used his many talents to highlight environmental causes throughout BREDL's history. His gifts in art, music and drama add creativity to all aspects of the League's programs. He often showcases original music at environmental events, known as the environmental hit parade. These songs include "Don't Hog Our Air," "Talkin' Trash Dump Blues," "Ballad of the Watts Farm," and "Talkin' Tarheel Asphalt Blues." Lou also performed two songs in the hit parade that were written and contributed by BREDL members- "Don't Wanna Get Nuclear Wasted" by Wells Edelman from Durham, NC and "No Place For Nuclear Waste" by Mike Jenkins in Union County.

Lou has used his acting talent and theatrical zeal to bring attention to many environmental issues and campaigns throughout BREDL's history. In the 1990's, our Earth Stage Productions was a popular attraction in schools, church groups, festivals, and street fairs in North Carolina, Virginia, and Georgia, serving over 1100 students a month. The programs featured live performances by Lou including his character, "Captain Slow" in The Big Throwaway-A Comedy of Global Impact and in The Compost Chef-A Blend of Science and Magic. During the Earth Stage performances, students would demand that Lou take the earth out of the trash can without prompting, His "Dr. Smello" character operated a radioactive money machine highlighting the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Most recently, in 2013, Lou performed street theatre in Raleigh, NC, in front of the Utilities Commission hearing as "Monopoly Man," bringing attention to rate increases with the Progress/Duke Energy mergers.

Listen to Lou Zeller sing "Don't Hog our Air" and "Don't Wanna Get Nuclear Wasted"

It Takes a Village to Stop a Biomass Plant

We first became aware of plans for the construction of a biomass incinerator in our community in the early summer of 2009, and in all honesty we were rather late. As we learned quickly, being informed in regard to the works of your Industrial Authority, County Commission and City Council is important. As it was, though, we were half asleep when our county commissioners approved the zoning request for the proposed power plant, and although we shared some initial concerns, we were told “you are too late.” By the time the air permit hearings came around, we were finally ready to ask more pointed questions, but the EPD granted the permit regardless of our concerns, and spokespeople for Wiregrass Biomass LLC told us “it’s a done deal”. But was it? The proponents of the biomass incinerator certainly thought so, and in months to come we would hear the slogan “it’s a done deal” time and again, but in the end we proved them wrong.

While 2009 was an awakening for us, 2010 was the year we got organized. We started a broad education campaign, built alliances with various facets in our community, founded Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy (WACE), and decided to join BREDL. As we educated every possible segment of our community (doctors, teachers, parents, retirees, athletes, county commissioners, school board members, the chamber of commerce, etc.) we started to gain traction like a snow ball rolling down a wintery mountain side. Retirees stood before the city council to say that this plant would make our town an undesirable retirement destination; church leaders stood to speak against this proposed plant as members of their congregation were concerned about health risks; parents protested at Board of Education meetings because the plant’s emissions particularly threatened the most vulnerable among us, our children; our local NAACP chapter spoke up because the location for the proposed plant was in a predominantly African-American neighborhood; the American Lung Association in Georgia wrote a letter for us highlighting the health risks associated with biomass incineration; we created a mock-up bumper sticker for our Chamber (“Welcome to Title Town - Try Not To Breathe”); put up a billboard in a prominent location in town; etc.

As WACE’s education campaign became more effective, the situation grew tense, and our Industrial Authority ramped up their public relations campaign to push for the proposed biomass plant. We responded with continued pressure through newsworthy protests, letter-to-the-editor writing campaigns, information booths at community events, regular updates on Facebook and our website, and organized a number of panel discussions with BREDL’s very own Lou Zeller, Bill Sammons (a well-known pediatrician from Massachusetts), Joy Ezell (a wonderful activist from Florida) and others. Going into 2011 it was clear that the tide was changing and that our hard work was starting to pay off. Our local newspaper, the Valdosta Daily Times, named “biomess” one of the top ten stories of 2010, an honor we again enjoyed in 2011.

As it turned out the house of cards for the proposed “biomess” plant was shakier than we realized and quickly fell to pieces in the Spring of 2011. Following months of meetings, protests, and discussions, the public had indeed been educated in regard to the realities of this tax boondoggle, so that support for the biomass plant was wavering on all fronts. Eventually the Executive Director of our Industrial Authority was seeking employment elsewhere, and since Wiregrass Biomass LLC was not able to secure the necessary financing it needed to move forward, the “biomess” issue was finally put to rest in June 2011. Just to make sure, though, we pushed for one more thing before we called it good: a “no biomass clause” for any future lease or sale agreements for the piece of land that was once supposed to house a biomass incinerator. The formerly “done deal” was not only dead now, but we also put a couple extra nails into its coffin.

What are we doing now? Fighting fracking where we live, which in South Georgia comes in the form of the proposed Sabal Trail Transmission Pipeline under the leadership of Spectra Energy. Their plan is to build a 36 inch natural gas pipeline from Alabama all the way to Florida, running right through our county, one of the many tentacles of an insane fracking industry that is besieging neighborhoods and environments throughout the country. And what is our plan? To stop them, with the help of a broad alliance in our region called the “SpectraBusters”.

Michael G. Noll, President
Wiregrass Activists for Clean Energy
Valdosta, Georgia

BREDL Travels to Russia and Japan for Plutonium Fuel Fight

The United States Department of Energy plans to reprocess nuclear warhead plutonium into commercial nuclear power reactor fuel. The site for fabrication of the fuel, also called MOX, is Savannah River in South Carolina. Weapons-grade plutonium now stored at military sites across the nation would be transported to the southeast, made into fuel, and shipped back out to Duke Power reactors near Charlotte, North Carolina and Rock Hill, South Carolina.

American Delegation on Plutonium Fuel
May 21 - June 11, 2000

Center for Safe Energy, a project of Earth Island Institute, sponsored 3 weeks of People's Hearings on MOX plutonium fuel in Russia. A delegation of US activists and experts went to Russia as participants in this education effort. Delegates included Lou and Janet Zeller of Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League, Pat Ortmeyer of Women's Action for New Directions, Don Moniak, Tom Clements of Nuclear Control Institute, Arjun Makhijani and Michele Boyd of Institute for Energy and Environmental Research, and Fran Macy and Enid Schreibman of Center for Safe Energy.

Excerpts from trip emails:

May 24, 2000: Today we are having meetings with citizen activists, local government officials, and nuclear industry representatives. Tomorrow we will speak at the first public hearing on mixed oxide/plutonium fuel in Balakovo. The Balakovo nuclear plant is slated for plutonium fuel/MOX.

May 31, 2000: Today the American Delegation on Plutonium Fuel visited the Beloyarsk Nuclear Power Plant which is 25 kilometers from the City of Ekaterinburg (pop. 1.3 million).

June 2, 2000: Today the American Delegation attended the Public Hearing at Dom Tekniki (House of Technology) in Ekaterinburg. The hearings was organized by Leonid Piskunov, a retired physicist who is very active in the movement to stop plutonium fuel in his home town, and Anatol Lebedev, President of the Urals Environmental Union which is a regional organization of scientists and lawyers.

More about this trip: American Delegation Trip

2000 G-8 Summit / Kyushu-Okinawa, Japan
July 17 - 24, 2000

BREDL's Lou Zeller was in Okinawa as a participant at the NGO Center which was organized by the Okinawa Environmental Network with the cooperation of the Japanese Foreign Ministry.

The G-8 participants' agenda included nuclear nonproliferation, arms control and the reduction of the number of weapons in circulation.

In response to the G8 Summit, NGOs that gathered in the NGO Center Nago on the occasion of Kyushyu-Okinawa G8 Summit added individual appeals to the Joint Declaration. This is the appeal submitted by BREDL and approved by the NGOs:

Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League

We demand that the G8 oppose the use of plutonium fuel in nuclear powered civilian electric generating reactors because:

1) The use of plutonium would employ one of the most toxic substances on earth to generate electricity. Plutonium reduces safety and increases nuclear proliferation risks.
2) Democratic rights would be curtailed because the secrecy and defense measures which the military uses would have to be employed by every electric company transporting plutonium.
3) The toxic legacy of the Cold War should not be transmuted into a plutonium-fueled economy.

As an alternative, we demand that the G8 support immobilizing plutonium in glass logs to isolate it from the environment. Preventing the transport of plutonium to scores of nuclear reactors would reduce the danger and return us to a more sensible nuclear non-proliferation policy. The G8 must not allow plutonium fuel to be the power source of the 21st Century. Delivered before the NGO Joint Declaration Assembly in Okinawa, Japan on July 23, 2000.

More about this trip: G8 Summit Trip

No Plutonium Fuel in Duke Reactors

BREDL Bumper Sticker

The League’s First Victory: High-level Nuclear Waste Dump Stopped!

In the final days of the 97th Congress, they passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act of 1982. The President signed it into law on January 7, 1983. This legislation was designed to provide permanent storage of high-level nuclear waste in stable geologic repositories. Two repositories were to be sited. In 1984, DOE selected potential repositories in twenty-three states. In North Carolina, there were originally twenty rock bodies that met the DOE requirements.

Rock Body County
Henderson GneissTransylvania, Henderson, Buncombe, McDowell, Rutherford
Toxaway Jackson, Transylvania
Caesar's Head Transylvania, Henderson, Buncombe
Rabun Gneiss Macon, Jackson
Cherryville Cherokee, Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba, Cleveland
High Shoals Gaston, Lincoln, Catawba, Iredell
Gastonia Gaston
Mooresville Iredell, Rowan
Landis Cabarrus, Rowan
Churchland Rowan, Davie, Davidson, Forsyth, Yadkin, Guilford, Rockingham, Caswell
Forge Creek Suite Ashe
Martinsville Complex Surry, Stokes
Lilesville Anson, Richmond
Rolesville Johnston, Wake, Franklin, Vance
Castalia Franklin, Nash
Buggs Island Vance, Warren
Wise Warren
Rocky Mount Nash, Edgecombe, Wilson
Butterwood Creek Warren, Halifax
Alberta Warren, Halifax, Northampton

Ashe County, North Carolina and Grayson County, Virginia share the rock body listed as the Forge Creek Suite.

By December 1984, 29 sites in North Carolina were listed as potential sites for a high-level nuclear waste repository.

Concerned about the possibility of their community becoming a site for the high-level nuclear waste dump, on March 15, 1984 fifty citizens of Ashe and Watauga Counties, North Carolina met in the Mission House of Holy Trinity Church in Glendale Springs and formed the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League: A Committee Opposing Nuclear Waste Storage In Ashe County.

In a press release announcing an upcoming May 3, 1984 public meeting, BREDL listed these goals: (1) to eliminate Ashe County from consideration as a potential nuclear waste repository; (2) to monitor the Department of Energy's Nuclear waste Management Program; (3) to inform the residents of the Blue Ridge of any DOE decisions or actions which affect them; and (4) to work with and through our elected repre¬sentatives to achieve League objectives.

Co-Chairpersons Janet Hoyle (now Janet Marsh Zeller) and Linda Taylor both from Glendale Springs focused efforts on research, education and community organizing. They spent time giving presentations to public leaders, community groups and business organizations and attending local festivals and music events.

“Dump Day”, one of BREDL’s first events, was held at Ashe County Park on July 21, 1984. The day’s events included an up-date from DOE, a Bar-Be-Que dinner, live music, dancing, and games for everyone, as well as information. BREDL wanted this to be both an informative and family style day.

A petition drive was started eventually yielding 36,000 names and addresses of residents opposed to the high-level repository. The petition stated our opposition to having a Nuclear Waste Repository in Ashe County.

Some of the BREDL 1984 accomplishments included: Adoption of Nuclear Waste Management as an Episcopal Church Women study/action project, Holding of public organizational meetings leading to formation of the League, Achievement of nonprofit status, Hosting of a county meeting with speakers from DOE, NRCD (Natural Resources and Community Development), and the League, and the presentation of the Ashe County resolution.

In the Spring of 1985, U.S. 5th District Congressman Steve Neal (North Carolina) had this to say, “Janet Hoyle and Linda Taylor, co-founders and co-directors of the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) deserve our thanks for their leadership and initiative on this issue.”

Fighting the Site Must Be a Statewide Effort

One year after forming, BREDL had grown from a small group of Ashe County citizens concerned about the possibility of a nuclear waste dump being located in their county to a highly effective organization of 150 people ably led by Janet Hoyle and Linda Taylor.

However, the League didn’t limit its focus to keeping a repository out of Ashe County. The organization also believed that its mission was to keep such a facility from being located anywhere in North Carolina. To accomplish this, new chapters formed in Watauga, Yancy, Mitchell and Avery counties. The League also helped organize unaffiliated groups in Stokes and Jackson counties.

But the year-old League didn’t want to stop there, either. The League encouraged all 53 counties with potential sites to join forces in pro¬tecting North Carolina against nuclear waste. A coalition of the 53 counties affected by the project is necessary, the League said, if statewide efforts are to be effective. The BREDL newsletter reported, “It is hopeful that organizations, whether they be chapters of the League or not, will be established in each of these counties to work together toward a common goal.”

By May 1986, the DOE was scheduled to narrow the second repository list of 236 sites down to 15-20 for further study.

The repository surface area would have covered 400 acres and contained buildings and waste handling facilities. Including a buffer zone, the repository would have covered 11,000 to 20,000 acres. It would have operated for 30 to 40 years and stored up to 70,000 tons of spent nuclear fuel.

In the BREDL Fall 1985/Winter 1986 newsletter, we reported that on January 16, 1986 two North Carolina sites made it on the DOE list of 12 potential sites for a high-level nuclear waste dump. One North Carolina site was the Elk River Massif northeast of Asheville in parts of Haywood, Madison, and Buncombe counties. The other state site was the Rolesville Pluton, western edge within 10 miles of Raleigh, extending through parts of Wake, Johnston and Franklin counties.

The timetable from the government’s January 1986 Draft Area Recommendation Report listed March 1998 as the target for the President recommendation for the second repository site to Congress.

After the North Carolina sites were announced, opposition continued to grow especially in western North Carolina. On January 7, 1987 NC Congressman Steve Neal introduced H.R. 509 in the U.S. House of Representatives as the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Amendments of 1987. This amendment removed the requirement of a second repository for the disposal of high-level radioactive waste and spent nuclear fuel.

During May 22 – 24, 1987, BREDL organized the Citizen’s Conference on High-Level Nuclear Waste Transportation in The South held at Maryville College in Maryville, Tennessee. The conference brochure mentioned that “Citizens from the 16 southern states will meet to learn about DOE’s nuclear waste management program, about waste transportation on our highways and railways, and about opportunities for states and citizens to participate in decision-making.”

On Dec. 22, 1987 Congress passed the Nuclear Waste Policy Act Amendments Act of 1987. The amendment repealed the 1982 measures for a second repository in the eastern United States. It also amended the Act to designate Yucca Mountain, Nevada as the only site to be considered as a permanent repository for all of the nation's nuclear waste. The Yucca Mountain site was defunded by the federal government in 2010.

BREDL: In the Beginning

In March of 1984, fifty citizens of Ashe and Watauga Counties, North Carolina met in the Mission House of Holy Trinity Church in Glendale Springs. Teachers and farmers, homemakers and merchants listened to the report of the Episcopal Church Women on the U.S. Department of Energy's siting search for a high-level nuclear waste dump in the rain-rich east. Recognizing that the North Carolina mountains were a region at risk, the assembled group organized as the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League (BREDL) to protect their own backyard and those of other threatened rural communities. Original research, public education, and community organizing were the cornerstones of our early all-volunteer organization.

The BREDL creed:
We believe in the practice of earth stewardship, not only by our league members, but by our government and the public as well. To foster stewardship, the Blue Ridge Environmental Defense League encourages governmental and citizen responsibility in conserving and protecting our natural resources. BREDL advocates grassroots involvement to empower whole communities in environmental issues. BREDL functions as a "watchdog" of the environment, monitoring issues and holding government officials accountable for their actions. BREDL networks with citizen groups and agencies, collecting and disseminating accurate and timely information. BREDL sets standards for environmental quality and awards individuals and agencies who uphold these standards in practice.
- So adopted by BREDL Board of Directors July, 1984

At the BREDL annual retreat in Asheboro January 8 - 10, 1993, BREDL board members planned a new structure for its organization. Recognizing communications and networking as areas for improvement, the board revised its structure to encourage regional leadership and organization. This structure is still in use today.

More Info: About BREDL

If you mouseover the photo or caption above, the photo slideshow will pause. Mouseout of the photo area and the slideshow will resume.