Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Alabama's Sins Against Economic Recovery in the Gulf

Another excellent Op-Ed by Bob Herbert of the NY Times entitled "A Sin and A Shame" discussing how workers are at the mercy of large corporations and the resounding effect this has on the economic recovery.

This caught our eye because of the iniquitous personal gains of the state of Alabama and some of their elected officials who are surreptitiously profiting from the disaster in the Gulf, while the citizens remain mired in red tape and are at the mercy of BP to be duly compensated for the loss of their livelihoods.  Many of the businesses and local workers affected by the spill have turned to BP to sustain themselves since they are left with few options but to work for the company that put them out of business.

BP knows this and has utilized it to their advantage in more ways than one, they have created a situation in which even the elected officials are beholden to them to make up for lost revenues into the state coffers. Similar to the big corporations desires to "stay fat" from Mr. Herbert's article, Alabama seems to be taking the position of state first, citizens second.

What's wrong with this picture is that the lion's share of money is going into the officials pockets rather than the communities who are suffering the harsh after effects of the disaster in the Gulf.

BP is seeking to further limit their mounting liabilities by ensuring that the state and those in power will take a more favorable view of them since they are also now on BPs payroll. The vile wedding of the state to this corporate giant is beyond despicable.

Isn't that just another form of the corporate mistreatment Mr. Herbert writes about?

Bruce Freeman of the Alabama Environmental Commission, which is run by the Governor's office, stated there was "No end to the pot of money in making Alabama whole," from the effects of the spill. With its under agency ADEM receiving state submitted claims, which they then pass on to BP, Alabama has wide latitude on dipping further into BPs money pot.

The Alabama AG is seeking to file a lawsuit against BP but is met with resistance from the Governor Riley's office who claims the lawsuit "seems premature."  Alabama claims it wants to restore the economic health of its Gulf region's businesses--but it thwarts that recovery by not holding BPs feet to the fire and forcing them to put a stronger effort into compensating those business owners.

In almost every news story on this subject the dominant topic is what the state has lost in revenue, but when the Governor is on camera he adopts a more empathetic tone to the small business owners losses and the effect this has had on Alabama citizens in the region. But if you listen carefully he gives himself away as to what his first concern is--tax revenues.

BP has already attempted to buy the entire marine sciences division of the University of South Alabama  and when that didn't work, they set out to cozy up to the politicians and the state-- both of whom have a long history of being receptive to corporate monetary persuasion.

The state has become partners with the corporate wrongdoer instead of being a good steward to its small business owners.

BP has for all intents and purposes bought a firm hold on the elected power players and none of them are conducive to capping their own newly drilled personal wells of money that gush from it.

This too is a "sin and a shame."
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Thursday, July 29, 2010

EPA Rejects Claims of Flawed Climate Science July 29, 2010 Press Release

Cathy Milbourn (News Media Only)
July 29, 2010
EPA Rejects Claims of Flawed Climate Science
WASHINGTONThe U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today denied 10 petitions challenging its 2009 determination that climate change is real, is occurring due to emissions of greenhouse gases from human activities, and threatens human health and the environment. 
The petitions to reconsider EPA’s Endangerment Finding claim that climate science cannot be trusted, and assert a conspiracy that invalidates the findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, and the U.S. Global Change Research Program. 

 After months of serious consideration of the petitions and of the state of climate change science, EPA finds no evidence to support these claims. In contrast, EPA’s review shows that climate science is credible, compelling, and growing stronger.
“The endangerment finding is based on years of science from the U.S. and around the world.  These petitions -- based as they are on selectively edited, out-of-context data and a manufactured controversy -- provide no evidence to undermine our determination.  Excess greenhouse gases are a threat to our health and welfare,” said EPA Administrator Lisa P. Jackson.  “Defenders of the status quo will try to slow our efforts to get America running on clean energy.  A better solution would be to join the vast majority of the American people who want to see more green jobs, more clean energy innovation and an end to the oil addiction that pollutes our planet and jeopardizes our national security.”
The basic assertions by the petitioners and EPA responses follow.
Claim: Petitioners say that emails disclosed from the University of East Anglia ’s Climatic Research Unit provide evidence of a conspiracy to manipulate global temperature data. 
Response: EPA reviewed every e-mail and found this was simply a candid discussion of scientists working through issues that arise in compiling and presenting large complex data sets.  Four other independent reviews came to similar conclusions.
Claim: Petitioners say that errors in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report call the entire body of work into question. 
Response: Of the alleged errors, EPA confirmed only two in a 3,000 page report. The first pertains to the rate of Himalayan glacier melt and second to the percentage of the Netherlands below sea level. IPCC issued correction statements for both of these errors. The errors have no bearing on Administrator Jackson’s decision. None of the errors undermines the basic facts that the climate is changing in ways that threaten our health and welfare.
Claim: Petitioners say that because certain studies were not included in the IPCC Fourth Assessment Report, the IPCC itself is biased and cannot be trusted as a source of reliable information. 
Response: These claims are incorrect. In fact, the studies in question were included in the IPCC report, which provided a comprehensive and balanced discussion of climate science.
Claim: Petitioners say that new scientific studies refute evidence supporting the Endangerment Finding.  
Response:  Petitioners misinterpreted the results of these studies. Contrary to their claims, many of the papers they submit as evidence are consistent with EPA’s Finding. Other studies submitted by the petitioners were based on unsound methodologies. Detailed discussion of these issues may be found in volume one of the response to petition documents, on EPA’s website. 
Climate change is already happening, and human activity is a contributor. The global warming trend over the past 100 years is confirmed by three separate records of surface temperature, all of which are confirmed by satellite data. Beyond this, evidence of climate change is seen in melting ice in the Arctic, melting glaciers around the world, increasing ocean temperatures, rising sea levels, shifting precipitation patterns, and changing ecosystems and wildlife habitats.
“America’s Climate Choices,” a report from the National Academy of Sciences and the most recent assessment of the full body of scientific literature on climate change, along with the recently released “State of the Climate” report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration both fully support the conclusion that climate change is real and poses significant risk to human and natural systems. The consistency among these and previously issued assessments only serves to strengthen EPA’s conclusion.
Information on EPA’s findings and the petitions:http://epa.gov/climatechange/endangerment/petitions.html 
More information on climate change: http://epa.gov/climatechange/
Review America ’s Climate Choices report: http://americasclimatechoices.org/
Review State of the Climate report:

But, unfortunately last week in the perpetually gridlocked Senate, the climate change bill died an "unceremonious death," even with a majority of legislators in both houses of Congress supporting the bill. 

Some of the parties who filed the petitions which is quite telling:
Peabody Energy Company (world's largest sector private coal company. Sourcewatch info)
Ohio Coal Association (From Hot Air in 2008 re: Obama admisitration on coal)
Coalition for Responsible Regulation (Global Climate Law Blog)
Competitive Enterprise Institute (funded by Exxon Mobil for one)
Southeastern Legal Foundation ("positive public policy change for all Americans")
Pacific Legal Foundation ( "anti environmentalist from the start" supported DDT)
US Chamber of Commerce
State of Texas
State of Virginia
State of Alabama
State of Mississippi (10 other states have also joined in on the petitions)
Massey Energy Company
Rosebud Mining Company
Alpha Natural Resources Inc.
National Cattleman's Beef Association
Industrial Minerals Association
U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce Chairman Emeritus John Dingell (D-MI) weighed in on this issue the day EPA announced they were finalizing the Rule saying, “I continue to make the case that the Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. EPA, erroneously found that greenhouse gases are pollutants covered by the Clean Air Act.  
 The Clean Air Act was not designed to regulate greenhouse gases, as the then-Chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee I know what was intended when we wrote the legislation.  I have said from the beginning that such regulation will result in a glorious mess and regulation of greenhouse gases should be left to Congress.”
Mr. Dingell's position is concerning but somewhat predictable-- he thinks that Congress should be the final arbiter rather than the EPA, and the large amount of lobbying money coming from the IMA along with the coal industry has Congress beholden to big coal. (linked above in SourceWatch) 

A lawsuit is still pending in the DC Circuit Court challenging the EPA position, which is in abeyance until August 12. The court decided to wait and see what the final EPA decision was before proceeding further.
This is an issue that warrants a close watch to see what will happen in the DC case among other actions that will continue to challenge the EPAs decision on climate change.

At least there has been progress on this issue since December 2007 and the Bush administration's refusal to even read the EPA report, despite the Supreme Court ruling that the EPA had the authority to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act. 
Jason Burnett, a high-level EPA adviser who coordinated agency climate change actions and was a lead author of this endangerment report, alleged that the EPA's report faced intense resistance from the White House. Burnett resigned in June 2008 over his objections to this White House interference.3
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Orange Beach, Alabama Mayor Blasts BP's Response to Oil Spill Crisis

FromTheOrangeBeachCommunityWebsite via CNN iReports
Today's Town Hall meeting saw Mayor Tony Kennon fired up about BP's poor handling of claims filed by Orange Beach residents. Two citizens told their stories of a lack of response from BP on their claims - one is closing his business and the other is about to lose his home. Mayor Kennon then blasted the attending BP rep saying their positive media campaign has perpetrated a fraud on the American people and calling them "bald faced liars".
Doesn't sound like Orange Beach is too happy with BP. Over in Pensacola, Florida it is another story with their Mayor:
The Mayor met with Governor Charlie Crist, other State and Local Officials and Kenneth Feinberg, Independent Administrator of BP’s $20 billion Escrow Oil Spill Compensation Fund.  “Mr. Feinberg gave the elected officials and the citizens some straight talk about the claims process.  I left the meeting confident that the right person was in charge and the process would work more efficiently to compensate those that have incurred a loss from the oil spill,” said Mayor Wiggins

This difference in attitudes is so striking that we have to wonder if Pensacola's Mayor's confidence in BP and Feinberg might have a little something to do with the fact the Wiggins is up for re-election this November. Skimming for campaign coffer money perhaps Mr. Wiggins?

From one of his challengers for office
The Pensacola Mayor candidate and businessman challenged Wiggins to stop “playing nice” with BP and their contractors, and start putting the interests of Pensacola residents first.
“After weeks and weeks of BP’s half-truths, misinformation, and public relations smokescreens, it’s time for Mayor Wiggins and the City Council to take immediate, emergency action to protect Pensacola. It’s been two weeks since the City Attorney presented a plan to ensure that BP and their contractors don’t cut and run on Pensacola. We’ve listened to 52 days of BP’s empty rhetoric, oil is in the Perdido Pass, and our inshore waterways are threatened."
What's that saying?.... Never let a good crisis go to waste.

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Wednesday, July 28, 2010

EPA in Mobile, Alabama Trying to Reassure Public About Dispersants

These videos speak for themselves and really need no further words from us.

But we will add this, the EPA Assistant Administrator for Air was in the Mobile, Alabama area this week and could "not remember" the name of the two most toxic chemicals they were allegedly testing for. She was responding to a WKRG news reporter's questions and still carrying the line that "we are on the job and people do not need to worry because so far our tests are not showing elevated levels."

The readers comments are interesting particularly the one by "JCaylor."

This is the same EPA that early on ordered BP to reduce their dispersant use by 75% right? They must have a had a good reason for the strongly worded letter they sent BP, but now after 2,000,000 gallons of Corexit has been used, the public is being told to not worry?

Why is the US Coast Guard helping BP instead of the US citizens?

What the hell is really going on here?

Dr. Ricki Ott, a Toxicologist, has a different assessment from the EPA AA:
"Just because you can't see the oil doesn't mean it's not there.
When the experts say "We can't find any oil," what they are referring to is standards set 40 years ago."

A second story from WKRG competitor ABC affiliate WEAR:

GULF OF MEXICO - Chris Henley spoke exclusively to Channel Three's Liz Nagy about what drove him off the water he loved for good.

When he got back to port Henley says he rushed one of his crewmen to the hospital. What he heard there was enough to make him walk away from 35 years on the Gulf without saying goodbye.

Interview with Dr. Rea CEO American Environmental Health Foundation
Dallas, Texas July 21, 2010 regarding what workers and citizens are being exposed to in the Gulf

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Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Water and Sand Tests in 4 Alabama Coastal Areas Yields Troubling Results

WKRG "crackerjack" reporter Jessica Taloney made visits to 4 Alabama coastal areas and obtained samples of water and sand to have tested by an independent chemist.

The chemist selected by WKRG, who has over thirty years experience, says that the baseline Parts Per Million (PPM) would be either "non-existent for sand or very low--maybe 5/PPM."

The actual test results are surprising and alarming:

Gulf Shores, Alabama
Surf water--51/PPM
Beach water from a child digging sand holes--66/PPM

Orange Beach, Alabama
Surf water--29/PPM
Sand hole water, again from children digging--221/PPM

Katrina Key, Alabama
Surf water--16/PPM

Dauphin Island Marina
Test material blew up the beaker immediately when an organic agent for testing was added, no amount quantified, but it had to be very high for that unusual action to occur.
The chemist said he thought it may have been from methanol, methane gas or Corexit.

They will be retesting, especially with the last result being so unusual.

The sand and water from holes in the sand are testing higher than the surf water. Those results are of great concern since what we primarily see on the news and read about in the press are the large numbers of clean up workers attending to the beaches on a daily basis.

There have been some reports of oil contaminated water on some of the beaches not being cleaned up, but buried beneath sand by frontloaders working on the beaches. The results of the above tests seem to give those reports some validity and leaves us with the question of why wasn't it cleaned up according to protocol, which calls for complete removal of anything contaminated by oil.

Children are going to be most susceptible to exposure by their propensity to want to dig and play in the beach sand. That is what makes these findings very disturbing.

What is equally troubling in light of these results is the caution to the wind attitude of state officials to tell everyone to "come on down" and at least enjoy the "beautiful beaches of Alabama."

We understand their desire to have tourists return, but at what price to those visitors? It is just too soon and there is still a lot we do not know yet about the after effects of not only just the spill itself, but the 2,000,000 gallons of Corexit that has been applied.

We think this is really an effort to get the bad news off of the front pages and get the money rolling in again, even if that means taking some risks. Our suggestion would be to step up the clean up efforts, make certain they are being done correctly with strict oversight, and when subsequent testing by independent labs reveals acceptable levels then it will be safe to urge visitors to return.

Those tests should be available to the public and verified that they are indeed independent tests done by credible chemists not on BPs or the state payrolls.

From a PR standpoint this makes the most sense; if the public perceives an abundance of caution is being exercised they will be more receptive to believe what they are being told.
Great investigative work by Ms. Taloney!

WKRG.com News
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Monday, July 26, 2010

Distrust In Alabama Town's BP Cleanup Money WKRG News 5 Mobile/Pensacola

WKRG is better than most media outlets in covering these types of stories and we appreciate their efforts. Jessica Taloney has done some outstanding investigative reporting that we will post tomorrow in conjunction with another story on the same topic.

More accounts of how Alabama coastal community local leaders and other elected state representatives are increasingly personally profiting from the BP cleanup efforts. This one from Bayou La Batre Alabama that gained fame from the movie "Forrest Gump."
Bayou La Batre, population 2,313, has received $8.5 million in BP grant money, more than any other place on the Gulf Coast, but boat operators idled by the spill complain that some of the cash intended to keep them working has gone instead to recreational fishermen and the mayor's brother.

The Bayou's share has been far heftier even than that received by much larger Gulf Coast cities and counties because its cleanup work extends well beyond the town line, covering the entire southern coast of Mobile County, said Jeff Emerson, a spokesman for Gov. Bob Riley.

But with so much cash flooding a blue-collar town, people focused sharply on who was getting what. Quickly, Bayou La Batre was buzzing over claims that Mayor Wright and cronies were setting up their family and friends with BP money.

Much of the controversy centered on Wright's brother Gordy, who was working for a marine company that received a city contract for BP-funded work.
 The mayor said nothing was wrong with the arrangement, but another company has since been brought in under a new arrangement with BP.
Under their breath, some people even worry about an outbreak of violence. A police car sat for days guarding a marine company that employs the brother of Mayor Stan Wright.
 "This town has gone money crazy," said boat operator Christopher LaForce.
As we discussed in a previous post about Mobile Bay being opened up to shrimping recently despite no test being available yet for Corexit mixed with oil, it appears anything Alabama does is rooted in follow the money to personal pockets.

Perhaps we are naive to think that the money should be solely for the benefit of the affected communities rather than the elected officials, but that is our position on this subject and clearly we are in the minority with that opinion in comparison to the elected officials actions.

On July 24th, a town hall meeting was held in Bayou La Batre for the community to have their questions answered about claims related to the oil spill, but many could not attend the meeting due to a glaring lack of planning by State Rep Spencer Collins-R Bayou La Batre. We elect these guys for what again exactly? To represent us and work for our interests right?

BAYOU LA BATRE, Ala. -- About 100 people crammed into Bayou La Batre's City Hall at 7 a.m. Saturday to ask questions of oil claims czar Ken Feinberg.

But dozens more were turned away by city police officers who said the room was at capacity. 

Feinberg and his entourage said they didn't know anything about the people who were turned away.

Alabama Homeland Security Director Jim Walker said that had he known there were people who couldn't get in, he would have moved the event out to the parking lot so everyone could take part.

WKRG.com News

A previous meeting on May 1, 2010 held at the local community center was attended by hundreds of people and many of them were unable to get inside and participate. Collins was aware of this, but says that perhaps the community center would have been a "better choice" the second time around when it wasn't a good choice the first time he arranged it.

Area residents are very upset and think the move by Collins was purposefully planned to dissuade full community participation-- they aren't buying his excuses. They aren't buying what Feinberg has to say either.

In nearby Fairhope, Alabama State Senator Trip Pittman-R Montrose received over half of Fairhope's money from BP for a company he owns.

Of the $74 million that BP has given Alabama since the spill, Daphne received $965,000 and Fairhope received $1.15 million, according to records.
 Spanish Fort so far has received nothing, city officials said.
About half of Fairhope's share -- $625,575 -- has gone to Pittman Tractor Co., owned by state Sen. Trip Pittman, R-Montrose.
 The company was awarded a no-bid contract in June to conduct booming operations along the city's shoreline and surrounding the Grand Hotel Marriott Resort and Spa in Point Clear.
The reader's comments following the above story reveal a heated debate going on over this issue and we suspect Montrose insiders are among his most ardent defenders.  

Press-Register reporter Russ Henderson barely touched on the conspicuous controversy as is usually the case with Alabama's press; it seems they report under heavy edit rather than honestly informing the citizens and asking the hard questions.

Control the media, control the message.

Further proof of why this state is ranked second as the most corrupt in the country.
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Sunday, July 25, 2010

Vincent, Alabama City Council Says "Yes" To WRQs Vincent Hills Quarry, Residents Still Say "NO"

The following article does not have a link because it appeared in a very small supplement to the Daily Home "The Hometown Marketplace" that serves only Vincent and Harpersville, Alabama. Mr. Smothers has written the fairest and most inclusive article to date of any news agency covering this story.
Kudos to him.

Entire story as it appeared on July 21, 2010
By Jim Smothers
Marketplace Editor

The Town of Vincent's Mayor and Town Council voted five to one Thursday night in favor of a zoning change that will allow White Rock Quarries (WRQ) to develop a limestone aggregate quarry on 886 acres in the Shelby County town.

The meeting was held outside Town Hall to accommodate the expected crowd.

The vote was the culmination of a 15-month effort to inform the public about how the quarry would benefit the town and citizens.

White Rock president Jim Hurley said it would take about a year to get federal, state and county permits to begin work, and about 15 months of site preparation before actual quarrying operations could begin.

The quarry has published estimates of $3 million in sales tax for the Town of Vincent for equipment brought into the quarry. White Rock has pledged $1.6 million in donations to the community once operations begin, and said there would be 123 employees at the quarry at full operation.

City Council member Larry King estimated that, at full operation, the quarry's business license could bring as much as $350,000.00 annually to the town.

"Basic services we have been lacking for years because the town can't afford it." King says.

Vincent's current annual town budget is approximately $500,000.00.

Council member Ralph Kimble asked for a postponement of the meeting as soon as it was called to order so he could go be with his Father who was hospitalized following a Tuesday traffic accident. His motion for a postponement was not seconded.

Town Hall employee Geraldine Waltrip read the ordinance, a legal requirement, which took approximately 40 minutes.

Mayor Ray McAllister asked if council members had any comments.

Kimble asked why the Mayor, other council members and the town's attorney why they had opposed having an independent study done to evaluate the effects a quarry would have on the town.

McAllister replied that he was not opposed to anything, but said the town could not afford to have such a study done.

Kimble reminded the Mayor that assistance had been offered to have such a study done.

Council member King, whose employer manufactures the type of seismic equipment that can be used to monitor blasting from mining operations, said that he would be voting on the issue.

There had been a question as to whether he would have to recuse himself. King said that he had been advised that since his company has no direct business relationship with White Rock Quarries, he would be able to vote.

Bridgette Jordan-Smith said her goal as a council member was to be a great servant to the residents of Vincent and to work to make Vincent a great place to live.

She drew references from a speech by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Council member Johnny Edwards said he would let his vote be his comment.

Mary Lee Reynolds said she had served Vincent for 20 years as a city clerk and six years as a council member and she "appreciated the fact that you support me."

Kimble read a prepared press release questioning whether the ordinance being considered would give the Town of Vincent adequate authority over the operation of a limestone quarry to protect the residents of Vincent.

He said Vincent would have no protection if the town's water supply was disrupted or ruined.

"This ordinance has absolutely no teeth and holds no water in terms of making sure that our community isn't turned upside down. There is nothing specific that would allow the Town of Vincent to fine White Rock or suspend operations if they do not comply with the ordinance currently being considered.
We should have the ability to write certain fines for specific violations if they occur to protect our people---for example:
1. Violations of noise
2. Trucks using roads that have not been approved for travel
3. Trucks not properly washing their tires and,
4. Excessive lighting."

"These are all very important details being ignored....my fear is that after such a long debate, an ordinance is rushed through passage that doesn't protect our citizens' or our way of life."

There was no further discussion of the ordinance, nor were any amendments offered to the ordinance.

McAllister asked for a motion. King made a motion to approve the ordinance, with Edwards making the second.

As he voted, Edwards said he was voting yes because 63 percent of the people in his district, which he claims he personally conducted a door-to-door survey of, had told him they were in favor of the quarry.

Kimble was the only member to vote against the ordinance.

Celebrations from quarry supporters were cut short so the council could vote on a related annexation ordinance that would bring the portion of White Rock's land that lies outside of Vincent's current town limits into the town.

That vote also passed with Kimble as the lone dissenter.

EBSCO CEO Dixon Brooke has opposed the quarry due to concerns over possible effects on EBSCO's VIP plant on property adjacent to White Rock property. Brooke said he was disappointed with the outcome.

"We're concerned about what that really means for the future." Brooke said. "I wish White Rock well, certainly. Our concern is not having anything disrupt our operations. We've been in Vincent since 1968 and we'd like to continue to be able to be here."

Quarry opponent Noble Naugle said he was disappointed but not surprised. "I do not think it is a good thing for Vincent overall in the long term." Judy Naugle said "The vote tonight did nothing but strengthen our grip. We will stand firm. This is not over."

Hurley said he was excited about moving forward with the process and repeated White Rock's desire to be a "good neighbor."

"Our employees will be based here, and our management team in the surrounding area." he said. "There will be 123 jobs that will offer employment opportunities for second, third and fourth generations."
#           #            # 

Small towns all across America are dying from lack of revenues and what were once thriving communities are shadows of their former selves--Vincent is one of those towns.

It had some promising chances in the last few years that could have helped to revive it; Rainbird Sprinklers wanted to locate here on some of the land that now belongs to the quarry, 2 subdivisions were proposed to increase Vincent's tax base and lure newcomers, an old golf course was being considered for housing development in neighboring Harpersville.

The interests behind the golf course pulled out when they learned of the quarry coming in; the potential for damage to their development was too much of a liability, not to mention the undesirability of living near a huge mining project--that doesn't play well on a brochure for a residential community.

One proposed developer lost one million dollars on his investment even after he had the assurances of the Vincent Zoning Board that they would "support his subdivision plans." Somewhere along the line, the VZB changed its mind, but only after the investor had 100 of his 200 acres rezoned into the city limits, which moved all the acreage into the city boundaries.

By now, Shelby County had taken over Vincent's planning and their "vision" for this area did not involve community; it was going to be industrial.

All of these projects that were proposed, with the exception of the last one, were positive, community building ideas that could have helped breathe new life into the Vincent area.

All of them were discouraged by the local leaders and the county.

The current Mayor has crowed loudly about bringing businesses and people to Vincent even before he became Mayor, but he helped turn away what could have been forward thinking, long-term community opportunities. So did his sister-in-law Robbie Greene, formerly of the Vincent Planning Commission, and now almost one million dollars richer in another county from the sale of her land to WRQ.

She told the second set of developers that she "just didn't think Vincent was ready for that kind of project." One of the last Mayoral candidates, now on the VZB, ran on a platform of "keeping Vincent small."

But when some Florida bigwigs came into town with their slick talking Jefferson County accomplices waving fistfuls of dollars, and pitching a project that would rip hundreds of acres and tons of Vincent from the ground forever, the welcome mat rolled out in all its glory.

Winks and handshakes went all around from some of the VZB members to the quarry reps after this city council vote. One of them was overheard telling the WRQ reps that "it has been a pleasure doing business with ya'll."

Kind of seems to suggest the fix was in from day one doesn't it?

Rural Shelby County, Alabama's Future
Picture of Calera, Alabama showing two of the 5 quarries on the western side of the county. 
The outlined area in yellow is 65 acres that is due to be auctioned in July 2010 for "new" aggregate land. 
It was once a beautiful farm. 
Google Earth shows the property is full of sinkholes.
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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Alabama Attorney General Hires Balch & Bingham to Pursue Lawsuit Against BP

Story from the Montgomery Advertiser's Sebastian Kitchen, July 23, 2010.

This is an interesting turn of events because usually Balch and Bingham is almost always on the side of the corporations and protective of those interests rather than the other way around. The rumor mill is grinding out possible reasons for AG Troy King selecting this firm; among them that Balch is going to be his next employer when his term ends this year.

Governor Riley has to sign off on this contract to hire B and B and that does not seem very likely from his position stated in the story. The state is growing quite fat off of BPs money and we presume they will do little to upset the status quo and apply any measurable actions against BP in the near future.
Todd Stacy, press secretary for Gov. Bob Riley, said while BP is responsible for the disas­ter, that filing a lawsuit seems premature.

"There is no dispute that BP is responsible for this disaster and there is no dispute about the fact that BP is going to pay for its effects. However, right now, there is nothing to litigate because there is no dispute."

"If legal action becomes nec­essary, you can rest assured Governor Riley will aggressive­ly pursue it," he said. "However, right now, there is nothing to lit­igate.
Nothing to litigate because there is "no dispute" Mr. Riley? That is not what news stories from the Gulf have detailed--few small business owners feel they have been treated fairly by BP despite assurances they "would be made whole" by the company. Who is this lawsuit for--the citizens affected by the spill or the state and its lost revenues? Shouldn't it be for both?

It seems the great concern for the citizens and environment of Alabama is only convenient when the cameras are rolling and it makes for good PR in the national news markets.

We would like to inquire about the process used to select this particular law firm to represent the state and ask if there were any other firms in the running? Given their proclivity to represent big business and long history of defending the polluters why would they be the best choice? Who made that decision?

More questions than answers. The lack of transparency in Alabama government does not serve the taxpayers, who will ultimately be footing this legal bill, while the state and the lawyers will walk away with the settlement money,  rather than the coastal fishing businesses and small business owners who were the real losers in this oil spill.

Many of them will have slim chances of rebuilding their business in the near future, if at all, and are without the deep pockets of the state coffers to hire strong representation and have a fighting chance to be compensated for their damages.

The state is hungry for its share of lost revenue from tourism dollars and that seems to be their first priority with this potential lawsuit. Stand in line citizens of Alabama, once again you come in second.
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Thursday, July 22, 2010

Alabama Opens Mobile Bay to Shrimping Claims Seafood Safe to Eat

In an attempt to "stay ahead of misconceptions and rumors" state officials held a town hall style meeting in Daphne, Alabama with a panel of "experts" to answer questions and assure the public that seafood from Mobile Bay is "perfectly fine" to consume.

Bruce Freeman, chairman of ADEMs Office of Emergency Response, seems to be in full crisis management mode and seeks to dispel the issues raised by Corexit, the chemical dispersant employed by BP. But he never uses the word Corexit publicly (privately yes), he simply states that the shrimp in Mobile Bay are "safe" because no oil has been found in the state geologists testing.

That is partially good news if it is accurate, but with all the red flags raised by numerous credible sources about the government's potential cover-up of the effects of Corexit, Alabama seems to be bungling public relations rather than getting ahead of the issue.

The perception in the public eye is that there is not enough information on the long term effects of this chemical and no one trusts the government (local or federal) to tell them the truth.

Nalco, the maker of the chemical dispersant, and the EPA did not publicly release the MSDS on Corexit until intense pressure from Congress forced them to do so. Both have since tried to downplay the risks and Nalco lists everyday ingredients such as shampoo and soap as having the some of the same chemicals as Corexit.  The EMC and ADEM have an equally spotty track records with the citizens of Alabama, and more often than not, has rarely acted out of an abundance of caution.

What the real driving impetus is behind this maneuver is remains to be seen--perhaps it is designed as another way to limit additional liability for BP similar to their ploy to "buy up" the University of South Alabama's entire department of experts, (60 total and they refused) who are qualified to address the effects of this disaster. Or maybe this is originating from Governor Riley's office in an attempt to stop the bleeding of lost revenue to the state from tourism and the local shrimping industry.

Perhaps as was reported by Pro Publica on July 19 from Gulf County, Florida, there is an inside relationship going on here and some of the Alabama officials and/or family members are working for BP contractors in addition to their official local and state duties:
Freeman said a $25 million grant given to the state by BP does not in any way limit the company's culpability or liability in the spill, response or cleanup, but will help fund city or county projects such as boom deployment to defend critical shoreline from contamination. He said any costs incurred by the county, including salaries of employees shifted to work in the response and overtime, would be paid by BP. County officials said they would submit bills to ADEM monthly and the claims would be passed on to BP.
"There's no limit on the pot of money," Freeman said. "BP has told us they will take everyone and make us whole."
"No limit to the pot of money." That sure makes everything about this action highly suspect given the history of this state.

But what this isn't is a prudent move-- Alabama is flaunting its arrogance to the country-- by appearing that they know better than highly credentialed experts, that have warned the EPA is covering up the true effects of Corexit, and they are more than willing to take a big risk to "prove" it.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

US Army Corps of Engineers Loses Two Wetland Cases In Florida July 15, 2010

From the "Paving Paradise" website;
(linked to the right)
By Craig Pittman
(Excerpt from the story);
It's been a rough couple of weeks for the Corps of Engineers, as federal judges in two high-profile Florida cases ruled that the federal agency in charge of protecting wetlands had failed to do so.
"This may be a prime case of the Corps shooting itself in the foot. Environmental groups and local officials in Charlotte County (downriver from the mining) have long called for a cumulative impact study of the effects of mining on the Peace River, but the Corps has always said no. At last, however, the Corps agreed to such a study but only AFTER issuing the permit to Mosaic for expanding its Fort Meade Mine. That makes it easier for the plaintiffs to argue that the Corps' permitting decision was arbitrary and capricious.

A company spokesman contended that this showed the environmental groups were more concerned about saving wetlands than saving jobs: "The unfortunate fact here is the Sierra Club places a higher value on their national anti-mining agenda than on the economic well-being of Hardee County and its citizens, and the livelihoods of the hundreds of families that rely on our South Fort Meade mine.”

Then Mosaic, not averse to playing hardball, informed 221 employees that they might be laid off if the suit continues. But the news shocked the stock market, and shares of Mosaic dropped 8 percent in value.

Don't cry for Mosaic, though -- the company does have a few dollars to spend on acquiring its phosphate rock from other sources. But the big question is whether the Corps will change its permitting procedures. After all this is not even the first time this year the Corps has been told it's doing this wetlands protection thing wrong. So far, though, as we wrote in "Paving Paradise", what the Corps does offers the illusion of wetlands protection without actually saving anything."
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"Paving Paradise" is an exceptional book documenting what has been happening in Florida for decades and penned as a hard-hitting factual account of the wetlands and Everglades destruction the USACE has been overly complicit in.  It is a history primer, of sorts, detailing the events and players that have sought, and still do, to literally "pave paradise" in pursuit of profits over people and the environment.

The book was meticulously researched and written by two investigative journalists from the St. Petersburg Times, who skillfully chronicled the ongoing failure of federal regulations; which they say are merely "an illusion of the law."

Their assessment is compelling and the undercurrent of Florida's story could apply to many different areas of the country-- the complicity between the federal government, big business and land speculators remains the  most destructive force to the continuous degradation of our nation's wetlands and waterways.
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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Chemical Lime Co. Calera, Alabama Consent Order from ADEM Public Notice June 23, 2010


Alabama Department of Environmental Management

P O Box 301463 (Zip 36130-1463)

1400 Coliseum Boulevard (Zip 36110-2059)

Montgomery, Alabama



Pursuant to the provisions of the Alabama Environmental Management Act, Ala. Code §§22-22A-1 to 22-22A-16 (2006 Rplc. Vol.), the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is proposing to issue a Consent Order to Chemical Lime Company (CLC), the owner/operator of the CLC O’Neal Plant, a lime manufacturing plant located in Calera, Alabama.

The order references three instances in which measured particulate matter (PM) emissions exceeded the allowable PM emissions rate for Kiln No. 1.

The Department is proposing a civil penalty in the amount of $120,000.00. The order, if issued, would require Chemical Lime Company to maintain compliance with the permitted PM emissions limits.

Interested persons may submit written comments, including request for a hearing, within 30 days of the publication date of this notice, to:

Alabama Department of Environmental Management

Attention: Ronald W. Gore, Chief of the Air Division

P.O. Box 301463

Montgomery, Alabama 36130-1463

The comment period shall end at the close of business 30 days from the publication date of this notice. A copy of the proposed order is available on the ADEM web page at adem.alabama.gov or may be obtained by written request to the above address. A nominal fee for copying may be charged.

This notice is hereby given June 23, 2010, by authorization of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.

Lance R. LeFleur
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Let's talk about where this PUBLIC NOTICE was not found; conspicuously placed in the Shelby County Reporter newspaper, which would really allowed "interested persons" to take ADEMs "new director" Mr. LeFleur, up on his invitation to comment and to request a hearing.

Kind of defies the meaning of PUBLIC NOTICE does it not? Perhaps ADEM should qualify their definition of a PUBLIC NOTICE to really mean one you have to go and find only if you know where and when to look for it.

Now, with three days left before "time is up" according to ADEM, the chances to be heard are slim. We would like to ask the Shelby County Reporter why this was not published in their PUBLIC newspaper, so the local PUBLIC who it serves and that lives in that area of the county could have input on this?

Stephen Bradley lobbies for Chemical Lime, and was instrumental in getting them into Calera as their PR man, so perhaps he can tell the citizens of Calera why they were not informed of this PUBLIC NOTICE, since it is his client, and he had such high regard for the citizens and officials of Calera when he needed them to go along with the project.

Maybe he is too busy coming up with additional excuses as to why the 7,000,000.00 "World Class Sports Complex" has still not been built which Chemical Lime "promised" Calera.

In exchange for a favorable zoning ordinance of course.

We don't know why, but something about that "contract zoning" sounds vaguely familiar...Vincent, Alabama and WRQ maybe?

Some say that at times the "real story" is in the reader's comments sections, what the heck, let's see what the comments were on the above story shall we?
Posted by packing on August 1, 2008 at 10:45 p.m. 
Is this the Bradley that is not a Chemical Lime employee?
Is this the Edwards that works for Calera some, sells real estate some, found money to run for Commissioner some and sold certain properties to Chemical Lime but not others?   Just curious.   And by the way, since the land is now rezoned high-value commercial instead of farm land, how much more taxes is Chemical Lime paying Calera and Shelby County than when the property was zoned farm land?  Just curious.  Anybody know how much added revenue from the taxes for the land being valued as quarries now?   I don't know the answers to any of this, but I do wonder and article didn't say.
Posted by packing on August 1, 2008 at 11:01 p.m. 
Since Chemical Lime has been able to retain the $7 million for let's say a year and you picked a number, say a small one like you wouldn't get at the bank, maybe 2% what would that work out to for every year you could retain $7 million?  And what would it have worked out to if you used a realistic number, say like the prime rate or 5%?  2% rate gives you about $140,000 ($137,000), while just the prime rate of 5% would have been $350,000.  The longer you delay paying, the closer, business wise, it comes to not costing you a thing.  Or am I wrong in the way I'm thinking about average hard working person vs government vs deals vs big business?
A few more citizen opinions from March 2007:
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Monday, July 19, 2010

Alabama Industry Fears New EPA Regulations on Ozone Bham News July 18, 2010

This recent article by Michael Tomberlin in the Birmingham News could read as a sympathy card for Alabama's heavy industries being forced to rein in their polluting ways by using phrases such as; "it could choke economic development" and "most suffocating is..." in regards to the EPA raising ozone standards in 2011.

The map below shows the large number of counties not in compliance with federal ozone regulations, which is a clear indicator of the problems that face Alabama, but the Birmingham News chooses to carry the developers tears in a bucket and offer the public this obviously one-sided biased propaganda?

Or perhaps the writer was trying to illustrate that the real story is that the lead state environmental agency is warning developers of what the EPA is getting ready to impose. Either way, the reader's comments that follow the story indicate that the article could have been more balanced in its content.

As we have seen before, the big polluters and their PR firms will use this story to their advantage when lobbying legislators that are not the sharpest tacks in the box on scientific and environmental issues; "bet your house on that."

 (graphic credit: Birmingham News Staff)
ADEMs Air Division head, Ron Gore, even gets in on the developer's crying fest:
Ron Gore, head of air quality at the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, told economic developers at the Economic Development Association of Alabama summer conference they should be very concerned about what is expected to take place as soon as late 2011.
Gore said the EPA is mandated every five years to evaluate standards and adjust them up or down to offer a margin of safety to the most vulnerable.But Gore said the dirty little secret about dirty air is that on real hot days, weather and wind determine ozone levels more than car exhaust or industrial emissions. That's because ozone is not a pollutant that originates from man-made sources but is produced in the atmosphere by a chemical stew of pollutants and other substances.
While nobody wants a return to the visibly dirty air Birmingham experienced a few short decades ago, officials say the EPA could do more to weigh the needs for air quality with the needs for economic growth.
Should the EPA stay on its current schedule, which Gore notes they rarely do, then the new ozone and air quality classifications could go into effect in late 2011. Gore said it's more likely we will see them in 2012, but he believes we will see them.
"I would bet my house the EPA is going to lower them," he said.
The following is from the EPAs website on ozone (nice try Mr. Gore):
Where does ground-level ozone come from?
Ground-level ozone is formed when nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), such as xylene, react in the atmosphere in the presence of sunlight. NOx and VOCs are called ozone precursors. Motor vehicle exhaust, industrial emissions, and chemical solvents are the major sources of these chemicals. Ozone pollution is a concern during the summer months when the weather conditions needed to form it - lots of sun, hot temperatures - normally occur. Although these precursors often originate in urban areas, winds can carry NOx hundreds of miles, causing ozone formation to occur in less populated regions as well.
This close relationship with big polluters is one of the most glaring reasons ADEM has failed the citizens and the environment of Alabama. This department is charged with permitting, regulating and enforcing air and water quality regulations for the benefit of Alabama's citizens and the environment, but they continually side with big business over and over again.

From the ADEM website on the main page:

"Alabama is blessed with a wealth and variety of natural resources which provide significant social, economic, and environmental benefits and opportunities for the citizens of Alabama. Our mission at ADEM is to protect and improve the quality of Alabama's environment and the health of all its citizens. This web site is designed to keep you informed and to help you as you live and work in Alabama."

Pass the tissues please, our laughter at the absurdity of Ron Gore's statements and actions, along with the mission statement of ADEM has overwhelmed us.
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Sunday, July 18, 2010

EPA Revision of Cement Industry Emissions 2010

(click title for inside industry story)
From Cement Americas/Portland Cement Association June 2010:

This joint Cement Americas/Portland Cement Association (PCA) webinar addresses the proposed changes to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) portland cement national emission standards for hazardous air pollutants (NESHAP), and the potentially devastating impact these new standards may have on the cement and concrete industries.

Combined with the current economic downturn and recent severe weather events that have had a significant impact on U.S. cement production—which is currently running at less than 60 percent capacity—the proposed NESHAP rules could potentially result in the shut down of even more cement plants at a time when demand is forecasted to increase substantially in the coming years.

The anticipated details of the rule will be described, and the potential economic impact on the U.S. cement industry will be addressed by two PCA experts—Andrew T. O’Hare, CAE, Vice President, Regulatory Affairs; and Edward J. Sullivan, Chief Economist.
The webinar has been scheduled to take place just prior to the White House Office of Management and Budget review of the draft final NESHAP rule, with the hope that attendees will contact specific White House and EPA personnel to address their concerns.
The big boys are getting nervous about tighter regulations on their industry. The "potentially devastating impacts" they are "fear-mongering" with are solely based on profits and the realization they won't be able to continue business as usual, i.e. being big polluters. Even they admit that production is "running at less than 60% capacity" due to economic conditions and the decrease in building.

Globally, production is also down as a result of the economic downturn facing foreign markets and foreseeable economist trends are not positive, but the insider industry trends go the other way.

To fatten up their bottom lines, (and behinds) these industries are all lined up at the trough of government stimulus money to stay plump and rosy, and are attempting to influence the White House OMB and the EPA by broadcasting their "webinar"  just prior to White House OMB review. Note that they say "with the hope that attendees will contact specific White House and EPA personnel."  "Specific personnel" means what exactly? Is there a list of  WH  "friendlies" easily reached by these industry attendees?

The EPA came down hard on wet cement kiln companies in Texas in the last two months and shut them down. We have to hope that the EPA has had an epiphany of sorts on this industry and will continue to hold a concrete line with them; shape up or shut down.

In Alabama, largely due to the destructive force that is Governor Riley, our environment and citizens are still at the mercy of the cement industry who enjoys free range to pollute Alabama's environment. ADEM acts like an enforcer by citing EPA regulatory violations when they do decide to slap these industries, but cave in and issue "consent orders" which are nothing more than mutually negotiated fines and lengthy extensions of compliance time.

ADEM won't take the offenders to court in an effort to "not waste tax payer dollars on compliance litigation," but they seem take a harsher stance and do threaten litigation if the fines aren't paid. Add that to the list of reasons why ADEM is nothing more than an enabler of big business and follows the orders of the Alabama Governor's office, which is hell bent on industrializing every inch of Alabama.

The recent words of Governor Riley from the Birmingham News July 12, 2010:
Riley called on economic developers to help the next governor and Legislature continue with the initiatives and the policies that promote economic development.

"You're living in a state today that is going to become the standard for economic development over the next 10 to 15 years," Riley said. "Ladies and gentlemen, Alabama's going to be fun to watch. Never again will Alabama take a back seat to any other state."

Riley, who is leaving office after two terms, has racked up a record of economic development victories.

There are a number of Alabama communities that will tell you this has not at all been "fun to watch" Mr. Riley. What you have done to the citizens and environment of Alabama is almost criminal, and in fine keeping with the "New Mule/Big Mule" tradition of profit over people every time.

If the EPA does not step in and hold these "fun to watch industries" in check and force them to comply with their regulations, all of Alabama will take a back seat to any chance of existing in a decent community, free from the onslaught of the big corporate polluters and the contemptible PR men and lobbyists who act as their hired guns. Riley is calling on these unpropitious forces "to help the next governor and Legislature continue with the initiatives and the policies that promote economic development."

In other words, carry on the BARD tradition fellas, in my honor and with my blessings.

Cement plants and lime production plants are among the worst polluters, according to the EPA records, and are usually situated right near the heart of cities and in close proximity to the community schools.

Take Leeds, Alabama for example. It is a beautiful little town that has worked hard to revitalize and restore their downtown area by renovating older buildings and meticulously landscaping street corners. It has a charm that is immediately evident and is representative of many small town American cities. It might be a "place to call home" and is, on the first glance, an appealing and desirable community to raise a family in and put down roots.

Until you notice the huge behemoth of the Lehigh Portland Cement plant looming for blocks one street over from the downtown thoroughfare.
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