In 1992, Noxubee County became the site of a possible toxic waste dump by Federated Technologies, Inc. Since Noxubee is predominantly black and has a high poverty and unemployment rate, many in the county believed that they were the victims of environmental racism. Ed Netherland of FTI had tried to establish the dump in other counties but was always met with overwhelming opposition. However, when he set his sights on Noxubee County, he received support from some and opposition on others, mainly from the environmental rights group Protect the Environment of Noxubee (PEON).
PEON was formed years before for this very reason: to discourage companies like FTI from building a toxic waste site and damaging Noxubee’s environment as well as endangering its citizens. Years before, they successfully discouraged Chem Waste, Inc. from building in Noxubee County when they too proposed to build a toxic waste site. However, making Ed Netherland and FTI leave proved to be a much harder task.
PEON and other citizens who were against the site were basically affluent, white citizens. Surprisingly, the majority of black citizens, especially convicted felon and Democratic operative Ike Brown, were in support of the toxic waste site and believed that whites were keeping jobs and economic opportunities away from them. To garner more support, FTI organized meetings in juke joints to reach the black crowds and in country clubs to reach the white crowds. FTI hired Ike Brown to act as a consultant and received more black support. FTI also received support from the local NAACP. FTI continued to receive endorsements from the Board of Aldermen, Board of Supervisors, and other officials, even officials who were against Chem Waste years before, though many speculated that they were bribed.
Later, United States Polluction Control, Inc (USPCI), one of FTI’s biggest rivals, set their sights on Noxubee County and ended up in a bidding war with FTI. However, blacks believed that the company ignored their interests so it did not receive their endorsement. Out of PEON formed the African American Committee for Environmental Justice (AAEJ), a small group of black citizens that strongly voiced their opposition to the waste dump and to the members of the NAACP who supported it. Unfortunately, it failed to make as big an impact as PEON. In January 1993, PEON and AAEJ held successful public rallies around Noxubee County that gathered a racially mixed audience. This event was obviously a sign of things to come because by June, practically all of the officials who supported Netherland were voted out of office. Ike Brown was later arrested for tax fraud.