Category: Environment

Local and State Springs, Tributaries, Wetlands May Suffer From Pollution if Proposed Rule Is Finalized

Environmentalists are warning that more than 80 percent of Alabamians receive their drinking water from sources that may lose critical protections under a proposed federal rule. The Waters of the U.S. rule was published Thursday in the Federal Register.

The Business Council of Alabama and the Alabama Farmers Federation are among those hailing the proposal, which would greatly reduce the environmental permits required of landowners and developers for discharges of wastewater and runoff of stormwater.

The rule will become final following a 60-day public comment period. Submit comments via the federal rulemaking portal. Read more.

Drummond to Pay $775,000 Penalty to EPA, Jefferson County Health Department

Drummond Company has agreed to pay a $775,000 civil penalty as part of a settlement contained in a consent decree relating to alleged violations of environmental laws at its ABC Coke Plant in Tarrant.

The announcement was made Friday by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Department of Justice and the Jefferson County Board of Health. The consent decree, which was issued the previous day, will not be final until after a public comment period has elapsed.

The health department on Tuesday called the settlement “significant” and said it plans to use its half of the civil penalty to benefit public health in the area that was affected by the air pollution at issue. Stanton indicated that the area affected could extend beyond the city of Tarrant.

“We’ll have discussions with elected officials and others in the area to figure out what kind of projects will help the environment and the public health there,” Jonathan Stanton, environmental health services director, said. “We really want them to be involved in that process and help to guide us as to what they need.” Read more.

Birmingham-Hoover Metro Among Top Areas Predicted to Suffer Economically From Climate Change

Alabama will be among the states most hit in the pocket book by changes due to global warming this century, even as it seems most Trumpian in its opposition to the issue.

The Birmingham-Hoover metro area is among the nation’s top 15 metro areas that will experience negative economic effects from increased heat and extreme weather events and other consequences.

A new county-by-county study by the Brookings Institution shows Alabama counties are among those facing the biggest long-term losses in income by the end of the 21st century. The analysis found that the top 10 states whose economy would suffer most include Alabama and eight others that voted for Trump, who has consistently downplayed or derided the idea of global warming.

In other words, people who are most exposed to climate impacts consistently vote for people who are opposed to doing much to mitigate climate change.

Adding insult to injury, a recent Department of Defense document named Reagan Operations Center in Huntsville and Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery as among the installations currently or in the future vulnerable to climate effects as it assessed “operational risks.” Flooding and damage from stronger, more frequent events such as hurricanes, health and safety effects from increased temperatures, and greater land management issues are among the risks named.

These warnings came just as congressional Democrats prepare to lay out a Green New Deal that envisions economic benefits of policies that would ameliorate the effects of global warming. Read more.

North Birmingham Neighborhoods ‘Have Taken a Beating,’ Work to Unite Over Pollution Concerns

The EPA Superfund cleanup and ABC Coke’s proposed air emissions permit have dominated health concerns of residents in northern Birmingham neighborhoods for months. Now officials and residents of several neighborhoods there are attempting to form a coalition to broaden the concerns to other sources of possible pollution.

The flash point of the new effort is a scrap metal processor’s business license. The license was denied by a unanimous Birmingham City Council vote in March, but the owner successfully appealed the case in Jefferson County Circuit Court, which compelled the city to grant the license.

Catherine Evans, president of the Acipco-Finley Neighborhood Association, and City Councilman John Hilliard led a meeting Saturday of about 30 people, including officers of some other neighborhood associations, to discuss how to proceed after the court decision and how to meet concerns over respiratory illnesses and other health effects possibly related to industrial pollution throughout the largely African-American and low-income area.

Several people at the meeting called attention to the negative health effects of living in the North Birmingham community.
Gwen Webb, president of Inglenook Neighborhood Association, said, “I don’t care what side of town you live on, what organization you belong to, what neighborhood you’re in, we all are affected (by polluted air). I can tell you when I start smelling it, I cannot breathe, and pollution is injustice.” Read more.

EPA Studies Find Air Pollution Is Particularly Dangerous to Vulnerable Populations Such as People of Color and Children

See, Smell Air Pollution? Document and Report It.

EPA Studies Find Air Pollution Is Particularly Dangerous to Vulnerable Populations Such as People of Color and Children

Several recent studies funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirm that air pollution disproportionately affects the health of African Americans and others of color. Three of the studies were highlighted in the December 2018 issue of EM, The Magazine for Environmental Managers. Read more.

LeFleur Still Feeling the Sting From Advocacy Groups’ Condemnation, Responds to Their Criticism

Months after testifying in the North Birmingham bribery trial, the state’s top environmental regulator is firing back at watchdog groups calling for his dismissal or resignation.

Lance LeFleur, director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, accuses environmental advocates of seeking media headlines as a means of raising money to keep their organizations financially afloat.

“ADEM is their target to keeping (them) operating,” LeFleur told BirminghamWatch.

The accusation echoes statements that have become more common from industries that are regulated by ADEM and that say they are bedeviled by negative media coverage. Alabama Power Co., for example, recently stated that “certain organizations continue to push out information intended to scare Alabamians.”

State regulators and advocacy citizens groups have long had their differences, but testimony in a federal pollution trial earlier this year turned it into a full-fledged war.
Read more.

Under Fire for Potential Bias, Panel Starts Vetting Soot, Smog Standards for EPA Political Leaders

Local air pollution expert Corey Masuca is in Washington, D.C., this week as a new member of an EPA panel charged with advising the government on whether new scientific studies warrant maintaining or lowering current standards for acceptable levels of air pollutants known to cause harm to public health.

The EPA Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee is tasked with assessing the health risks of breathing fine particulate matter, known as PM2.5, or soot, one of six pollutants for which it sets national standards under the Clean Air Act. Even at current standards, PM2.5 can negatively affect many people with lung and cardiovascular problems, but recent studies have found it also can raise the risk for dementia, kidney disease and other health problems.

CASAC also is responsible under a separate timetable for reviewing recent science that might affect standard changes for ground-level ozone, or smog. Read more.

Trump’s EPA seeks to remove much of nation’s headwaters and wetlands from protection

President Trump moved today to weaken the federal Clean Water Act by redefining the Obama administration’s Waters of the US rule, known as WOTUS, to eliminate protections for much of the nation’s waterways – a majority, in some estimates.

The action principally would remove oversight for small tributary headwaters that do not flow year-round and for wetlands not clearly connected to flowing streams.

The proposed new EPA rule is expected to be challenged and eventually work its way to the U.S. Supreme Court, where a conservative majority now sits.

Read more.

Utility Filings Show Coal Ash Ponds Are Too Close to Groundwater Reservoirs. Enviro Groups Again Call for Moving Toxic Material.

All of Alabama Power Company’s open coal ash ponds sit within five feet of an aquifer, or groundwater reservoir, in violation of federal standards, recent company filings confirm.

In the wake of the reports, environmental groups are keeping the pressure on the state’s public utilities to move toxin-laden coal ash away from waters next to power plants.

Under the 2015 Coal Combustion Residuals Rule, the locations of all coal ash basins in the nation must meet federal standards for distance from aquifers and wetlands. The basins also must conform to stability, seismic and fault restrictions.
Alabama Power Company has posted results from what is called “location restriction demonstrations” on its website for most of its facilities.

Alabama Power spokesman Michael Sznajderman Tuesday confirmed tests showed there is not a minimum five feet of separation from the company’s ash ponds to groundwater aquifers.

He added, “Alabama Power has evaluated conditions at and around our facilities and we have no indication of any effect on any source of drinking water.” Read more.