Tag: air pollution
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.
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.
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.
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.
The Jefferson County Department of Health has received 10 public comments about the proposed renewal of the air emissions permit for ABC Coke, an industrial plant in Tarrant. Most of the comments since August opposed renewing the company’s air emissions permit, according to the health department.
The Title V operating permit regulates air emissions coming from the facility.
This Thursday, the agency will have two public hearings to receive more feedback. Those will be at 10 a.m. and at 7 p.m at the Jefferson County Department of Health on 6th Avenue South. Read more.
The federal Environmental Protection Agency has appointed a Jefferson County air pollution expert to the seven-member panel charged with giving the agency administrator independent technical advice for setting federal standards under the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.
EPA Acting Administrator Andrew Wheeler named Corey M. Masuca, principal air pollution control engineer for the Jefferson County Department of Health, to the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee on Oct. 10. The CASAC will lead a review of recent science to advise whether any changes are necessary to the standards for ground-level ozone or particulate matter to provide public health with an adequate margin of safety.
That panel may take on added importance with the EPA’s move last week to dismiss two larger outside advisory panels of scientists who were to evaluate emissions for harmful public health effects. Read more.
A federal judge on Thursday sentenced former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson to 33 months in prison and three years of supervised release for his role in a bribery scheme to block the expansion of a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency cleanup site in North Birmingham and Tarrant.
Robinson pleaded guilty to encouraging residents not to have their soil tested for contaminants in exchange for bribes. He also diverted money from his campaign account and nonprofit account for personal use.
After pleading guilty, he cooperated with federal prosecutors in investigations that led to the conviction of former Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert and David Roberson, a Drummond Company executive. They are scheduled for sentencing Oct. 23.
“Robinson betrayed his constituents and neighbors in north Birmingham and Tarrant, selling his elected office to special interests for personal profit,” Jay Town, U.S. Attorney for the Northern District, said in a statement Thursday. “An elected official can scarcely commit a more egregious crime.” Read more.
BirminghamWatch Graphic: Clay Carey
The Oliver Robinson bribery trial, in which guilty verdicts were issued for officials of Drummond Coal Co. and its law firm, Balch & Bingham, revealed a gritty episode about avoiding environmental cleanup in North Birmingham. But there’s a bigger dirty picture.
The vast majority of Jefferson County’s 31 major sources of pollution – those emitting enough pollution to require a permit under Title V of the Clean Air Act – are located in low-income areas, a BirminghamWatch analysis found.
The findings show 71 percent of the major pollution sources are in areas with incomes below the median income for the county.
Only one primary source of pollution is in a neighborhood with a median household income greater than 110 percent of the county median.
Residents of the same low-income areas also often are largely African American. Research has shown that economically depressed populations can be more heavily affected by the negative health effects of air pollution.
Poor air does not equally strike everyone in the Birmingham area, raising issues of environmental justice. Read more.
Thirty-one industries, businesses and other operations in Jefferson County are considered possible large sources of pollution and issued operating permits that recognize that. In total 190 entities – from colleges to funeral homes to dry cleaners – hold air emission permits of some type. Read more.
Ambient air quality in Jefferson County is forecast daily year-round for fine particulate matter and during the warm season for ozone. Air Quality Forecasts and Alerts