Category: Environment

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.

Glenn, Phillips Face State Felony Charges Related to Federal Corruption Trial

The former head of the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s southeastern operations faces six state felony charges, and the former chairman of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission faces three felony charges related to a federal investigation into efforts to stop a cleanup of toxic industrial waste in North Birmingham.

Trey Glenn, who resigned from his EPA post earlier this week, was indicted by a Birmingham grand jury on six felony counts of using his position for personal gain and 14 misdemeanor ethics charges.

Scott Phillips, the former AMEC chair who also was a partner with Glenn in a consulting firm during his tenure with the commission was indicted on three felony counts of using his position for personal gain and 13 misdemeanors.

The indictments were handed down Nov. 9, but the number of charges and their nature was not confirmed until the documents were made available Wednesday in the Alacourt online reporting system.

All the charges relate to soliciting money from Drummond Company, which operates the ABC Coke facility in Tarrant, and contracting with the Balch and Bingham law firm in Birmingham as part of the scheme. Read more.

Birmingham Council Formally Opposes Cahaba Beach Road Project

The Birmingham City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved a resolution opposing construction of a road and bridge project across the Little Cahaba River on Cahaba Beach Road.

The resolution was approved without discussion as part of the council’s consent agenda. It was discussed and approved by the council during a committee meeting earlier this month.

The road would connect Cahaba Beach Road off U.S. 280 to Sicard Hollow Road in Shelby County and to the Liberty Park development in Vestavia Hills. It would cross the Little Cahaba River, which flows from Lake Purdy, the area’s primary source of drinking water, to the Cahaba River near where water is withdrawn for treatment.

Councilors have expressed concerns about risks to water quality, including the potential for accidents, hazardous spills into the drinking water source and pollution from the road, along with degradation of the natural forest. The Birmingham Water Works Board is expected to consider a similar resolution.

Read the BirminghamWatch story on the earlier council meeting:
Birmingham Council Members Push Back Against Road in Watershed That Protects Drinking Water

Trey Glenn Resigns as EPA Regional Administrator After Indictment

Trey Glenn resigned Sunday as EPA Region 4 administrator for Alabama and seven other southeastern states following his indictment on multiple felony ethics charges last week in Jefferson County.

EPA Acting Administrator Wheeler accepted Glenn’s resignation, according to Region 4 chief of staff Ryan Jackson.

Glenn and former business partner Scott Phillips were arrested and posted bond following their indictments. They denied guilt in the charges. Glenn in his resignation letter called the charges unfounded.

Glenn and Phillips were caught up in the recent bribery scandal over pollution in north Birmingham that brought down former state Rep. Oliver Robinson and officials of Drummond Co. and law firm Balch and Bingham. Robinson pleaded guilty to charges and testified against Drummond executive David Robertson and Balch attorney Joel Gilbert. Read more.

Residents and Activists Oppose ABC Coke Air Permit

Jimmy Smith, an 86-year-old Collegeville retiree, held an 8×10 framed photograph of his four daughters in his hand when he stood Thursday to ask the Jefferson County Department of Health not to renew an air emissions permit for ABC Coke.

He says his oldest daughter died of cancer and another daughter gets cancer treatments twice a month. He’s also a cancer survivor and a survivor of a community he says has been plagued with pollution for years.

“Y’all can deny this permit, and I promise you they will get the message. They will clean up their act,” he says. Read more.