Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

If The EPA Won't Come to the People, the People Will Come to the EPA!


If the EPA won't come to the people, the people will come to the EPA!

When: Thursday September 2, 2010 at 5:30 PM EST
Where: Roane State Community College
276 Patton Lane, Harriman, Tennessee 37748
Josh Galpern, SACE, (865) 637-6055 ex. 23, josh@cleanenergy.org
Chris Hill, SOCM, (865) 426-9455 chris@socm.org
More info:

EPA hearings

While seven hearings have been scheduled by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to consider a classification for coal ash, not one was scheduled in Tennessee, the site of the disastrous TVA coal ash disaster in 2008. Residents of Roane County, Tenn. directly affected by the 2008 Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) coal ash disaster were ignored. A coalition of environmental justice organizations - forming the Citizens' Coal Ash Hearing Committee - will host a people's hearing to help ensure that the voices of those who have been impacted by the lack of a "hazardous" classification of coal ash have a chance to testify.
The people's hearing will take place at 5:30 PM EST, Thursday September 2, 2010 at the Roane State Community College in Harriman, Tenn. The hearing will provide time to collect testimony and comments that will be presented to the EPA regarding the ongoing coal combustion residuals rule making process. An EPA official will provide a brief overview of the proposals prior to the people's hearing.
We hope you'll consider attending the Citizen's Coal Ash Hearing and spread the word to your friends. Thanks for all you do to protect our mountains and communities.
Matt Wasson

*** Citizens' Coal Ash Hearing Committee: Statewide Organizing for Community eMpowerment (SOCM), the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, The Tennessee Clean Water Network, Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club, Tennessee Environmental Council, Tennessee Interfaith Power & Light, Cumberland Stewards, United Mountain Defense, and the Scott County Environmental Coalition  ***
P.S. -- Please help us spread the word on Facebook

Bookmark and Share

No EPA hearings were scheduled for Alabama either.

Perry, Marion and Marengo Counties are the unfortunate recipients of most of the toxic coal ash from the Kingston TVA spill. 

We know they have a thing or two to say to the EPA about this issue and they've certainly tried and been repeatedly ignored by the federal and state governments, US EPA and EPA Region 4:
Perry County, Alabama--"The area where they're dumping it is 70 percent people of color and many are below the poverty level. It's an environmental justice community. It's a county where all the white people, for the most part, are going to vote Republican and all the black people, for the most part are going to vote Democratic. Democrats don't come down there because they know they're going to get the vote anyway. So neither party pays a lot of attention to Perry County. 

It's primarily a poor community, with people that grow gardens every year not for hobby but because they need the food. They can't grow their vegetables now because they're afraid of what may be in the water.
They bring the wet coal ash down here and mix it with household garbage, creating an enormous amount of leachate. It's thick and brown—it's like a toxic milkshake. In order to reduce the amount of leachate, they pump it from the bottom of the landfill into trucks and drive it around to the top, on top of the coal ash and let that filter through—but that intensifies the arsenic.
We sent two complaints to Lisa Jackson. First I sent one informal request for help, then two formal complaints through the EPA process, and they've never responded to a single one." John Wathen Hurricane Creekkeeper
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) profits from each ton dumped in these three counties: 
"ADEM recovers a good bit of money off that coal ash. They get a fee for every ton of ash that gets disposed of there. EPA has a vested interest because they have to get the spill cleaned up in Tennessee and they can't do it without a place to put the ash."
Reader decide if those could be considered possible motives, though definitely not all of them, for the obvious racism and classicism being perpetrated on the poor and mostly minority communities in Alabama where the coal ash is being sent to.

Some of the ash was sent to Mobile, Alabama for treatment and when those residents found out about it their public outcry put a stop to it. It helped their cause that the wastewater was being discharged into Mobile Bay which is a high priority body of water to the state powers that be.

Why are the voices in these other communities, the ones that are "70% poor and minority" that depend on the local groundwater for their drinking water supply, who are just as loud and impassioned as the majority white community in Mobile, falling on stone deaf regulatory ears?
*See the "Document Box" in sidebar for EIPs latest study on coal ash August 2010
Bookmark and Share

Monday, August 30, 2010

Big Oil and Mustangs/Ruby Pipeline Issue--Part II


Part II should follow Part I

We wrote about the Ruby Pipeline issue on July 18, 2010 and will add a little more information here on what the Bureau of Land Management and Ken Salazar are doing in the west--committing murder of the wild Mustangs on public land with taxpayer's dollars.

Mr. Salazar is a former cattle rancher who is very cozy with Big Beef (Cattleman's Association) and part of the war in the west is because BB wants more land for their cattle to graze on. The other part of the equation is Big Oil who has already started construction of the Ruby Pipeline which will run straight through the Mustang herds.

Salazar has been quoted saying; "Wild horses have no place on public lands, these lands are for mining, gas extraction and oil production." The Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burros Act of 1971 doesn't faze him or BLM despite the fact that BLM and DOI are supposed to be the protectors of these animals:
BLM is the agency within the U.S. Department of Interior that is tasked with protecting the wild horses and burros pursuant to the Wild Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, 16 U.S.C. §1331 et seq. (WFRHBA) as free roaming animals in their historic herd areas and designated ranges. "All management activities are to be at the minimal feasible level." 16 U.S.C. Sec. 1333. Wild horses are not to be subject to "capture, "harassment" or "death". 16 U.S.C. 
But that is exactly what is happening to them every September and December when the government swoops in to terrorize, capture and destroy them. BLM has ponds constructed that are fenced off, out of the horses reach, while BBs cattle have unfettered access to them. At about the 18:40 point in Part I you will see the result of this, it isn't pretty, it's cruelty and it's murder.
Currently, more than 32,000 horses have already been removed from the ranges and are being forced into overcrowded and inhumane holding facilities. Not only is this not a safe or desirable solution for the animals, but also it is costing the American taxpayers more than $30 million a year.
 There are an estimated 37,000 mustangs and burros that live in our Western states. We now have nearly that amount in custody, and the BLM plans to remove an additional 12,000 wild horses from the ranges at a cost of millions to the American taxpayer. Sen. Mary Landrieu July 28, 2010
These horses have been called "4 legged hooved cockroaches...vermin" by the Bureau of Mining--nothing more than pests that eat too much and tear up the land and consider "one horse for every 2200 acres one too many." "They're having a bad effect on the range." BLM added cows to one Mustang area and increased the grazing by 300%, then 1 year later they claimed the place had gone to hell and decided "we better go get some horses." The cattle were left alone.
One of over 100 Mustangs starved to death on a private ranch BLM sent the horses to
They'll hide some of them away on private ranches out of sight of the public which usually ends badly and serves to dissuade public scrutiny of the horses captured.
We could go on, but the videos tell the story very well and we thank ATS for their courage and thoroughness in presenting the real picture of what is happening in the West all because of Big Oil, Big Beef and Big Gas with a side of Government collusion. 
BP is in line to be the number two supplier for this pipeline--they have already destroyed our way of life in the Gulf, how much more of Americana do they intend to take away from us?
Please pay close attention to the names that come up in this coverage and who they have ties to.  Change.org has forms on their site to let your voice be heard and we encourage you to please do so. Salazar and Co. need to be rounded up themselves and this barbaric practice has to come to and end.

2 more roundups are scheduled for this year and soon there will be none of these symbols of America left to roam the lands they have inhabited for decades.

Additional information and action links:
Wild Horses Symbolize US Freedom--Senator Landrieu column
Bookmark and Share

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Governor Riley Says Offshore Drilling Risk Outweighs Royalties--Are Present Royalties Misused?

"No, put your finger down, mine say I am going up there"
*(UPDATE ADDED 8/30/2010 at end)
A  recent Birmingham News article reported on Alabama Governor Bob Riley's trip to Washington to meet with Kenneth Feinberg in an attempt to increase Alabama's royalty share from the Gulf oil/gas leases "six years earlier than originally planned." *Alabama already receives almost $500 million annually from the royalties, subsequent trust fund investment income, bonuses and severance taxes--so, where's the fire Governor?

Mr. Riley goes to Washington to do some arm twisting that may reduce the six year wait and he is using the Gulf disaster as justification, while failing to mention that Alabama has been using most of the oil/gas royalties revenue for pet projects like road building and big business enticements while excluding offshore disaster preparedness as a 2006 bill was intended to assist with.

To fully understand this situation some background history must be included.

In 2006, when legislation passed in Washington to increase the royalties starting in 2012 and increasing substantially by 2017, it was not fast enough for Riley--he had to find somebody to go after for more cash to fund his pet projects and turned on the very interests that have been providing the second greatest source of revenue to Alabama; oil and gas.

He proposed a "revenge tax" on on these same energy companies because of a 2008 state court ruling that gave the energy companies a refund in overpaid state taxes. Riley's tax slap was met with harsh criticism:
Riley's move amounts to little more than budgetary blackmail, and Americans in other states should beware of cash grabs like these which ultimately will reach into their wallets.
The governor's support of the tax hike is linked to a recent state-court ruling that energy companies operating off the state's shores were entitled to $63 million in refunds of overpaid taxes. The problem, however, was that the Legislature had already accounted for that money to fill out next year's budget.
Despite having signed budgets early in his career that boosted per-capita spending by double digits and subsequently allowing outlays to grow at a healthy rate, Riley seems to have little interest in significantly paring back expenditures now. So he's teamed up with all-too-eager lawmakers to hike taxes by the amount of the energy companies' refund (and more in the future), in effect punishing them for winning their lawsuit. Indeed, some supporters of the scheme have hinted at scuttling the bill if only "Big Oil" would forego its legally won refunds.
Mr. Impatient sounds more like Don Corleone and his henchmen; you pay now or you pay later, either way you pay. He was already in a huff over the six year delay and decided he would show Big Oil and Gas a thing or two by going after the money through the court system and his legislative minions--his gamble did not pay off much to his chagrin.

Riley has been so busy building his legacy by jetting around on the taxpayer's dime, aggressively recruiting big business into the state, that ol' Bingo Bob has a dilemma of sorts--he's made a lot of grand promises and finds himself running short on hard cash to cover them. Let's see just how much Alabama has been getting and ponder the reason why Riley says "it isn't enough":
According to the *Geological Survey of Alabama, the state receives direct benefits of $500 million a year from its oil and gas industries in the form of lease bonuses, royalties, trust fund investment income and severance taxes.
More than half of Alabama's natural gas in 2007 was produced either from coal beds or onshore wells. But almost all of the direct benefits are derived from one source--offshore natural gas production. And while about $40 million of that came from severance taxes--the great bulk of those funds were generated by royalty payments.
In each year from 2003-2008, those payments have topped $240 million, with a high of $355 million collected in 2006. In 2007, royalties topped $250 million, with $210 million of that coming from one company, Exxon Mobil, which also paid $30 million of the offshore severance taxes.
*Petroleum Systems, Geological Survey of Alabama/Alabama State Oil and Gas Board
That big dollar amount kind of makes the Alabama Supreme Court verdict payout reduction against ExxonMobil make a little more sense now. Alabama thought it could "trust" ExxonMobil, like Riley claims they can "trust" BP in the ugly open spat between the state AG and Riley over the lawsuit filed against BP by the AG, but it appears ExxonMobil and their lawyers pulled a fast one and beat Riley and Co. at their own game.
Legitimate Disagreement or Fraud?
In November 2007, the Alabama Supreme Court caused a bit of a stir, to say the least, when it overturned the jury’s punitive damage award due to the lack of evidence of fraud and reduced the compensatory damage award due to some finer points of contract interpretation. In its simplest terms, this case boils down to whether Exxon openly disagreed with DCNR as to the calculation methods or intentionally schemed to cheat the state out of royalties due under the leases. If the former was the case, the state would be limited to contractual remedies (basically unpaid royalties and interest). If the latter, the state would be entitled to punitive damages because of Exxon’s fraudulent conduct.
This is what happens when you play dangerous games with the big boys and think you are smarter than they are as we have warned about in previous postings. Alabama seems unable to learn that lesson and because of greed they offer themselves up for flogging on a regular basis. Big business, who pretends to be their friend, walks them right into the fight more often than not.

When Congress introduced that bill in 2006 giving billions of dollars in increased royalties to "four lucky states--Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas" it almost did not pass. An "environmental sweetener" was added to the bill that pushed it through and it became law.

The added provision was intended to offset the risk these states are open to from offshore drilling. But here's Riley, telling the people of Alabama that they aren't getting enough of the royalties to respond to disasters like the BP Oil Spill:
Riley said the money is needed not only to recover from the BP Spill, but help the state defend against the next one. The governor, in an interview today after his meeting with White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett, said Alabama would use the money to buy skimmers and oil boom, and to expand fisheries and "help the state defend against the next one." 
Louisiana passed legislation to set aside some of the royalty money for disaster mitigation and the voters approved it overwhelmingly, but Alabama, Mississippi and Texas never even considered doing the same:
(2007) Facing critical damage to its coastline, lawmakers in Louisiana moved last year to bar the state from using the drilling revenues for anything but wetlands and coastal preservation. Voters passed a referendum cementing the arrangement.

But the other three states – Alabama, Mississippi and Texas – have no such restrictions.
That was the unforeseen problem that happened when the US Congress passed this 2006 legislation--they realized after the fact that the environmental "sweetener" they used to get the bill passed was full of holes when they included language that royalty monies could be used on other projects instead of what the increase was intended for. Alabama, Mississippi and Texas quickly figured that out and exploited it to their advantage:
Four lucky states – Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Texas – were slated to get billions in potential royalties, and lawmakers said the money would help reverse damage from offshore industry, paying for projects such as wetlands restoration and the purchase of sensitive coastal property for conservation.

But as budget planning gets under way, the states are beginning to realize that Congress gave them far more leeway than the political rhetoric in Washington suggested.

Particularly, one little-noticed sentence in the bill allows the states to spend their windfalls on “onshore infrastructure projects” to mitigate outer continental shelf activities. 

Translation: They can use it to pave roads, erect bridges, lay water lines or finish just about any other public works projects they can link to the coast.

“It is very tempting,” said Bill Walker, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Marine Resources. I would not be surprised as these funds begin to come in and get larger and larger that there will be people at the state level saying we need to do this or that or the other thing. We’ll try to keep them focused on doing environmental and conservation things, but they make the rules.”
Riley wooed German steel giant ThyssenKrupp to Alabama and *his "sweetener" was $195,000,000.00 worth of "incentives" to seal the deal, although some reports say the figure was much higher:
Both Alabama and Louisiana offered incentives packages thought to be valued in excess of $400 million.
Louisiana's was heavy on cash -- its legislature approved $300 million in payments and this week promised another $100 million. The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported early today that the total value of the package over time could have reached $2 billion.
Alabama's incentives deal is heavily dependent on tax breaks for everything from utility payments to capital costs, but would likely include substantial cash from Mobile city and county governments.
About three weeks ago, Mobile County Commissioner Mike Dean said the local contribution would be about $60 million, with the county putting forth $40 million of that. He later said those figures would change as negotiations continued.
Commissioner Stephen Nodine said this morning that while he wouldn't discuss specific figures, a countywide referendum will be held this summer to approve the county's incentive package.
This money came from the oil/gas royalty funds:
*Alabama offered incentives worth $195 million for ThyssenKrupp and $40 million for National Steel Car drawn from the Alabama Capital Improvement Trust Fund made up entirely from offshore natural gas royalties
We were notified that this file is coming back as "file not found" in Google searches. So because of that we are now presenting it in a reader form for the public to view. This document is not copyrighted and did appear in general Google searches until very recently. We wonder why this has occurred.

The report also shows that additional monies from the royalties go to the counties, so the state paid for the TK deal twice from the royalty amounts. We would bet that when Baldwin County got a nice fat check that it came with instructions on where to spend it.

How the money breaks down according to the MA document:
Alabama's royalty money is broken up into categories with 65% of it going to the Alabama Trust Fund where it is supposed to be invested for the "benefit of the citizens", 10% of that, a paltry sum, goes to Forever Wild to protect "vital land and water areas" and the other 90% goes into the General Fund.

State General Fund accounts are replete with opportunities to misappropriate, fund pork projects and act as cover for all kinds of bait and switch schemes--it is no accident states define them as "general."

The only item in there that bears even the slightest resemblance to an environmental function is the 10% to Forever Wild. This is additional support for the assertions of Alabama's openly hostile attitude towards anything that is not based in big business. The MA crew are instrumental in carrying out this war on environmental regulations and are made up of some of the biggest offenders:

Who's on MAs BOD:
Board of Directors:
Allen Sanders, Chairman AbitibiBowater
David Carroll, Secretary Hunt Refining Company
Ron Fantroy, Treasurer Shaw Industries Group
Don Forst, International Paper
Terry Patterson, Toray Carbon Fibers America, Inc.
Paul Vercher, U.S. Steel (majority landowner in NBeltline route is US Steel)
President of MA: George Clark
Chief executive and lobbyist for MA.  Prior to becoming president, He was Alabama Industry and Manufacturers only president, helping to start the association in 1996.
Served two terms in the Alabama House of Representatives and was the chief sponsor of the Heritage Trust Fund which invested Alabama's oil/gas royalties. He also sponsored accompanying legislation that infused $520 million to infrastructure, upgrading roads, bridges and the Port of Mobile.

Seth Hammett, Speaker of the House, just received the "leadership" award from MA.

These big-in-the-britches MA boys even have an annual "Washington Fly-In":
Manufacture Alabama has scheduled the Annual Washington Fly-In for June 8-10. The Fly-In is a great opportunity to meet with our Congressmen and Senators and to discuss issues that are presently affecting your business and Alabama’s manufacturers.
We will keep you posted as more details unfold.
(if links do not work at any time, alert us as we do have the files saved)

Swoop-in is probably a much more appropriate term--reminiscent of vultures after roadkill.

Since so much of the royalty money is going to road projects we make the following connection into other recent news items:
This cozy relationship between big business, the Alabama legislators, Washington (gatekeeper of the federal crapulus dollars) and the Road Builders Association explains news stories and issues that the Birmingham News has been dutifully positively reporting, for the most part, such as; elevated Highway 280, Trinity Hospital move, Corridor X and the Northern Beltline and lest we forget...WRQs proposed 886 acre Vincent Hills quarry in Vincent, Alabama.
All that rock has to come from somewhere and apparently the other 5 quarries in Shelby County, Alabama aren't enough to supply the projects or is it maybe that the the parent company of WRQ, Vecellio and Grogan, who is one of the largest road builders in the nation, already has their place in ALDOTs projects?
 Could it also be the proximity of the Vincent Hills quarry to Highway 280?
From the Encyclopedia of Business, 2nd Ed--mining:
The high cost of transporting crushed stone has dictated that stone be mined and quarried as near as possible to the market centers or manufacturing plants that use it.
Riley craves the slot in Alabama history crediting him as the governor who fixed the Highway 280 problem and with influential friends (a big cement contractor being one) in the Vincent/Sterrett area that attend the First Baptist Church of Vincent, (which Riley visited "quietly" not long ago), there's some smoke coming from the woodpile. Vincent was not chosen by chance--it was deemed the sacrifice zone on purpose and BARD representing WRQ was an equally calculated move.

Big business always gets its way in small town Alabama or in either political party.

Senator Roger Bedford-D goes right along with Governor Riley-R and licks his chops for "other uses" for this money and his support once again makes the point that there is no difference in either party in this state:
“Any time you have new revenue, you have a great deal of new ideas on how to spend it,” said Alabama State Sen. Roger Bedford, D-Russellville, who chairs the chamber’s General Fund Finance Committee. “I don’t see it as a zero sum game. There may be enough money to do several types of projects.”
Bedford said lawmakers have begun discussing various ideas for using the windfall and that he would like to see it invested in economic development projects involving alternative energy.
The line about alternative energy is laughable, Drummond and Alabama Power will never sit still for that one and Bedford knows it, but he has to say it for the Washington powers holding the federal purse strings that are touting alternative energy. Claiming you will use it for AE is much more likely to get the federal money train rolling and Bedford was clever in his response to say the "right things" and disguise "economic development" as one of the Dems platform issues.

But the fact remains that this state is flush with hundreds of millions in royalty money every year, and if they had been smart they would have followed suit with Louisiana and set aside some of this money to serve its original purpose that Riley is storming about now--a fund to protect Alabama from the consequences of another big spill. That would have helped Alabama's Gulf Coast citizens and businesses immensely this year.

Governor, with all due respect, your words are as empty as the fund you did not create despite Congress' intent when they handed you the promise of greater revenues. Alabama will not do what they should do with an adequate amount of the funds because they have legislated prudence with this issue right out of existence and will spend, spend, spend to stay in the big boys ocean of cash. "Citizens interests" have been ordered out of the water by Montgomery.

Should another disaster happen and we have the same problems as we did in this last catastrophe, the citizens of Alabama ought to "fly-in" to Montgomery with the tar and feathers in tow and use both very liberally on all of the goats on the hill posing as elected servants of the people.
(disclaimer: we are not advocating violence of any nature against any state official with that statement; its intent is satirical opinion only.)

 We feel it is pertinent to add this to the posting and have chosen to do so in this manner rather than as a separate item.
Comment section of Bham News Editorial pub. 8/29/2010
It seems the public is finally starting to connect the dots re: Vincent quarry, elevated Hwy. 280 and the Trinity Hospital move:
TRUTH2SEEK August 29, 2010 at 10:52PM
Let's see if I understand this. We have had increasing traffic congestion for years on 280. So Con Review Board gave Scrushy approval to put a hospital just south of the intersection with I459. Scrushy got caught before finishing it and Health South sold it to Daniel. Now they want to sell it for $40 mil. Trinity Hospital snaps it up because the City of Birmingham will give them the money to buy it so that Irondale won't get the Trinity relocation. Irondale got suckered into this relocation of Trinity and spent several million to get the site ready. Now Irondale is out a bundle and Birmingham will be out a bigger bundle if CON approves.
If this goes through, we will have to do something about the traffic that has gotten bad over the years. It will be worse by adding several thousand cars a day to the current use since doctors and nurses and sweepers and cleaners have to get to work. And the patients and their families will be adding their cars to the mix. Now we REALLY have a traffic problem!
What to do? We must completely change the layout for 280 and probably need to add elevated lanes to it so that people who live in Shelby County can get to and from work without having to put up with the Trinity Hospital traffic.
Fortunately, people are opening a quarry not far away. So building materials for the elevated highway will be handy.
But what about money to build? We will sell bonds, of course, just as Jefferson County sold bonds for the sewers. It may cost close to a billion bucks but don't worry. We can take care of that with a few added taxes even if the schools will have to cut back a bit.
I may have missed something here. It does not seem right, but I think i have it now.

DUENNZWEI August 30, 2010 at 2:34AM
truth... You cracked the code. Is collusion a prosecutable offense? Cuz this smells like the the proverbial FIX is in.
Shelby County has plenty of quarries, so why the full court press for another one in Vincent?
Ah, yes, the cost of transporting rock is a mine's biggest expense. So the closer the quarry to, oh, say a proposed $800 million Hwy 280 paving project, the happier the road builders, developers, highway department, etc.
With ALDOT getting a resolution from the city of Vincent supporting the 280 plan, and BARD successful in getting the Vincent City Council to approve the quarry, and with the state pushing so desperately for for the toll road, can we guess what the CON board's decision will be on the hospital?
Daniel Corporation the owner of the Health South Building is also a BARD member. The pervasive theme in all of these projects is, wait for it...BARD.
Bookmark and Share

Senate Proceedings Republicans Block Subpoena Power to Investigate BP

After a vote in the House of 420-1, once this made it to the Senate floor the big business friendly Republicans only response was; "On behalf of other members of the Republican Conference in the Senate, I object."

Did the Senate Republicans have closed door discussions with their brethren in the House to give them political cover to vote in favor of this? We should not be surprised it died in the Senate because investigations would uncover the unsavory ties many Senators have to BP.
Bookmark and Share

Thursday, August 26, 2010

BARDs "Big Mule" Drummond Coal Sued--Part II

We left off with issues raised regarding Region 4 and the questionable results (in contrast to the SE study results) of their monitoring program implemented after the recent lawsuit was filed on behalf of the African-American residents who claim to be devastated by serious health issues from the toxic discharges from Drummond Company, Inc.

Why is it this particular group of citizens are usually the ones most harmed? "Big Mule" philosophies carry through to federal agencies here in the land of cotton:
Nearly four decades of EPA Region 4's harmful and discriminatory decisions have turned too many black communities into the dumping grounds, lowering nearby residents' property values, stealing their wealth, and exposing them to unnecessary environmental health risks.
 The state agency charged with air, land, water discharge permitting and enforcing federal and state environmental regulations in Alabama, ADEM, is also well deserving of scrutiny:
ADEM is accused of failing to issue penalties for pollution violations as required under federal law, failing to respond to complaints and information from citizen whistle-blowers and inspecting only 20 percent of large permit holders in 2009. Federal law requires that all of the major permit holders be inspected annually.
Drummond Company, Inc. is a major permit holder.

Do any of the state lawmakers and elected officials bear any responsibility for this lackadaisical attitude? According to this Birmingham News article from 2002 it is more than a possibility:
(presented in full due to archived status)

Birmingham News (AL) May 20, 2002

"I didn't even read the letter."

This telling comment from state Sen. Jack Biddle should infuriate all Alabamians.

A lobbyist for the biggest polluter of a Birmingham area creek handed Biddle a letter to sign, telling the state environmental agency that a legislative committee had disapproved a new rule requiring the cleanup of the waterway. Yet the committee hadn't even met at the time of the letter dated May 6, let alone voted down the agency rule.

And Biddle signed the letter - without even reading it.

Now the Gardendale Republican contends he essentially was hoodwinked by the lobbyist. He said he was asked by lobbyist Bobby Tom Crowe, representing Sloss Industries, to sign the letter so Sloss could have a hearing on the rule. It was just a mistake, he said.

Forget, for the moment, the wisdom (or lack of it) of taking the word of a hired gun for a company with plenty at stake - the rule would "just about put them out of business," Biddle says he was told. Why would a state senator, or anyone for that matter, sign his name to a letter or any document he hasn't read?

That's plain foolish. And it's a cop out to say he was misled.

The subject of this dispute is the industry-fouled Five Mile Creek, which runs through north Jefferson County and feeds into the recently approved new rules for the Warrior River. The Alabama Environmental Management Commission Alabama Department of Environmental Management that would bring the creek and all other state waterways up to the level suitable for fish and wildlife.

Sloss and the creek's other industrial polluter, Drummond ABC Coke, don't like the rule. Sloss, which has had more than 60 violations for excessive levels of cyanide, zinc, phenols and other chemicals over the past year, says it could cost as much as $20 million to meet fish and wildlife water standards.

The letter, signed by four lawmakers - including Sen. Jabo Waggoner, who said he did so as a favor to Crowe - was part of the lobbying effort to block the rule. 

Unfortunately, it worked.

Wednesday, in a hearing in which Sloss argued the rule change would jeopardize its plant and could cause the loss of 350 jobs, the Joint Legislative Committee of Administrative Regulation Review threw out the new rule. The panel urged state and federal environmental officials to meet with the polluters to try to work out an agreement. Meanwhile, Five Mile Creek is to be excluded from any tougher rules.

It's a shame that, some 30 years after the Clean Water Act was passed to clean up America's waterways, much-needed efforts to resuscitate one of the state's dirtiest creeks can be derailed so easily by lobbyists.

Five Mile Creek, if relieved of the high levels of pollution that taint its water, could be a wonderful resource to the people of Jefferson County, not to mention wildlife.

It ought to be sickening to voters to think that key local lawmakers think so little of protecting our natural resources that they would sign a deceptive letter attempting to roll back protections. And that one of them would do so without even reading it.
#            #           #

More about that later on in this post.

We decided to check the ADEM files under various categories and see what the state environmental enforcement and permitting agency had on file for Drummond in Jefferson County, these were the results  we located through ADEMs e-file database:

From January 1, 2009 - August 25, 2010:
No enforcements
No education and public outreach
No inspections*
No monitoring
(There were quarterly monitoring reports submitted by Drummond that acknowledged a non compliance issue and that Drummond had given an explanation (unknown what the violation was) and absolutely no other correspondence or explanation was with the files in these time periods)
No complaints
* regarding inspections there are other entities that do coal mine inspections such as the Alabama Department of Industrial Relations (ADIR) and the Surface Mining Commission (SMC), but since the 2010 QRs submitted by Drummond acknowledge a non-compliance issue, it is reasonable to expect that ADEM should have at least done an on-site follow-up or maybe they just accepted the explanation given by Drummond and that concluded the matter.

Another check for "enforcement category" only
January 1, 2000--August 25, 2010:
No Documents Found (e-file database response)
(page was copied of the date and time accessed)

Additional check for "general correspondence category" only
January 1, 2005--June 30, 2010
No Documents Found (e-file database response)
(page was copied of the date and time accessed)

Drummond claims on their website that they are environmentally compliant and have spent millions to make certain their plants meet federal and state laws. Good. That's as it should be, but there are questions about what is being reported:

These reports are only as informative as the data that has been submitted to the federal EPA by the company, state agencies and EPA Region 4.
The US EPA ECHO Report linked above shows:
Notices of Violation or Informal Enforcement - AFS, PCS, ICIS-NPDES, RCRAInfo (05 year history) Data Dictionary
Statute Source ID Type of Action Lead Agency Date
CWA AL-N00006117 Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter State 06/06/2007
CWA AL-N00004105 Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter State 01/13/2006
CWA AL-N00003280 Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter State 05/31/2005
CWA AL-N00000732 Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter State 09/18/2006
CWA AL-N00000548 Letter of Violation/ Warning Letter State 04/21/2005

Where are those "letters" from ADEM? Why are they not in the e-file system?

A call to ADEM about this yielded no more information or explanation.

The nature of this business is no secret--converting coal into coke does release large amounts of toxins, it is logical to presume there will be emissions, discharges and releases that contain them, that's what the permits are for. But there are established parameters for these releases and the question we raise, just as the lawsuit does, is how often and in what levels were those parameters exceeded? Were they truthfully self-reported and if not, what is ADEM doing to ensure that they are? (QRs were changed and then resubmitted in 2010 and explained as a "computer error" by Drummond from the e-file system)

Without on-site inspections how effectively does ADEM ensure compliance from it's office in Montgomery and by letter?

We're not dealing with small amounts of releases from this facility:
TRI History of Reported Chemicals Released in Pounds per Year at Site:35217BCCKDRAILR Data Dictionary
Chemical releases reported to TRI are provided for context and are not associated with non-compliance for that facility.
Year / Total Air Emissions Surface Water Discharges Underground Injections Releases to Land Total On-site Releases Total Off-site Transfers Total Releases and Transfers
2000 82,653 3,371

2001 79,491 1,771

2002 45,821 1,473

2003 35,432 4,017

2004 27,508 7,693

2005 36,833 4,336

2006 51,679 2,490

2007 72,224 2,097

2008 73,794 2,169


Substances released and amounts by years:

TRI Total Releases and Transfers by Chemical and Year
Chemical releases and transfers are in pounds except where otherwise noted.
Chemical Name 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008
CYANIDE COMPOUNDS 2,576 2,268 2,092 171 118 2,924 2,243 5,920 5,820
3 3 3 5 5 2 1 1
POLYCYCLIC AROMATIC COMPOUNDS, 128 124 224 186 189 163 1,322 1,224 1,223
BENZENE 44,001 42,001 14,302 12,101 11,707 11,705 11,804 16,408 15,961
ETHYLENE 17,600 17,600 20,100 17,710 11,690 8,600 14,600 18,300 20,000
PHENANTHRENE 229 220 211 99 109 95 713 692 694
NAPHTHALENE 2,918 2,778 1,970 1,093 1,110 1,394 3,041 3,142 3,011

STYRENE 482 482 21 21 20 23 23 29 27
TOLUENE 7,270 7,130 640 430 390 450 970 6,610 5,980
PHENOL 2,599 2,299 2,395 227 243 231 227 1,335 1,216
PROPYLENE 1,590 1,480 1,780 1,330 880 720 1,800 2,700 2,800
ANTHRACENE 90 82 83 20 20 16 190 180 180
DIBENZOFURAN 59 53 53 17 17 16 140 140 140
XYLENE (MIXED ISOMERS) 1,810 1,790 690 601 743 827 834 980 930
AMMONIA 4,610 2,890 2,730 5,440 7,960 14,000 16,260 16,660 17,980
This report was generated by the Integrated Data for Enforcement Analysis (IDEA) system, which updates its information from program databases monthly. The data were last updated: RCRAInfo: 08/09/2010. FRS: 08/12/2010. TRI: 04/16/2010. ICIS: 08/15/2010.

The receiving waterway for Drummond discharges:
Environmental Conditions Data Dictionary
Permit ID Watershed Watershed Name Receiving Waters Impaired Waters? Combined Sewer System?
AL0003417 031601110006 Locust. Ala. FIVE MILE CREEK NO No

"Impaired waters? No."
Five Mile Creek lies in the Warrior River basin and drains 20,202 hectares of Jefferson County, Alabama. The creek originates at the eastern base of Red Mountain, and there is considerable urban and industrial development in the upper part of the watershed. Historically, industrial discharges, improperly treated sewage, runoff from coal mines and urban development have all contributed to impairment of both the water and aquatic habitat quality of Five Mile Creek.
Sloss Industries (a coke producing facility in Tarrant) has been identified as a major contributor to the degradation of the stream. During an assessment of the creek in September 2001, Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) employees documented significant deterioration of the creek resulting from the Sloss discharge. (Alabama Rivers Alliance, 2002)
Five Mile Creek has been dubbed "Creosote Creek," due to the chemical odor and appearance of its water (Freshwater Land Trust, 2006). Coal tar creosote is a by-product of the high temperature treatment of coal to make coke, and it is toxic to plants, animals, and humans by the United States Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Register.(ATSDR)
Five Mile Creek has been one of the most polluted waterways in Alabama as reflected in its ADEM usage designation of "Agricultural and Industrial" (the lowest level of protection).
In 1997, a small downstream section of the creek was upgraded to "Fish and Wildlife"usage, and finally, in 2003, ADEM upgraded the entire length of Five Mile Creek to Fish and Wildlife. The Fish and Wildlife designation establishes minimum water quality standards that are believed to protect existing species and their uses within the designated area (Alabama Department of Environmental Management, 2006). The higher classification greatly reduces the amount of toxic substances that can legally be discharged into the waterway.
Sloss is named as the biggest offender to the degradation of FMC and the reader can decide why it was the only company named in this study and classified as the most egregious violator. We will acknowledge an effort has been made to help restore this creek. Just how effective the "Greenway Restoration" will eventually be for FMC remains to be seen.

But, who's really watching the hen house so to speak and can we rely on what they say they are "seeing and saying?" The numerous lawsuits seem to suggest we can't and there are real problems going on.

As we have also discussed previously, in Alabama, big business and special interests are heavy contributors to political campaigns and seek to influence policy, regulations and laws that will be favorable to their interests--which is not against the law Per se, but it doesn't sit well with the public who view it as "undue influence and rife with corruption."

Political leaders are elected by the citizens, obviously, and what the voters think does matter despite the behavior of the elected officials who seem to quickly forget who they should represent instead of running their political dealings and affairs as if it was their own personal business rather than the "people's interests."

Whose gotten the money? Here are just a few examples:
Senator Richard Shelby (OpenSecrets.org)
Top 20 Contributors to Campaign Cmte and Leadership PACs:
Rank  ↓Contributor  ↓Total  ↓Indivs  ↓PACs  ↓
1Travelers Companies$138,250$98,250$40,000
2Collazo Enterprises$129,100$129,100$0
3Radiance Technologies$105,950$87,100$18,850
4JPMorgan Chase and Co$86,250$58,250$28,000
5Van Scoyoc Assoc$82,900$81,900$1,000
6SAIC Inc$75,050$35,050$40,000
7Balch and Bingham$72,900$37,900$35,000
8FMR Corp$72,650$37,650$35,000
9Kynikos Assoc$67,800$67,800$0
10Bank of New York Mellon$66,000$51,000$15,000
11Sparta Inc$58,100$38,100$20,000
12American Express$57,800$29,800$28,000
13Drummond Co$55,800$33,800$22,000
14Southern Co$55,150$15,150$40,000
15Morris, Haynes and Hornsby$53,800$53,800$0
16Teledyne Technologies$52,600$33,100$19,500
17NASDAQ OMX Group$50,300$33,300$17,000
18Blackstone Group$50,000$50,000$0
19Goldman Sachs$49,600$35,600$14,000
20WPP Group$48,900$47,900$1,000
S. 22, If passed and signed into law by President Obama, will designate over 2 million acres of new wilderness areas across the United States, and expand environmental protections for some already existing public lands. At a time when the integrity of America's natural resources are threatened by a pace of unsustainable consumption and a climate knocked out of equilibrium, conserving public lands is as important to human populations as to the populations of the wild animals that inhabit these areas.
Senator Shelby voted AGAINST this Bill

S.J. Res 26 On June 10 2010, the extent of Arctic sea ice plummeted to four standard deviations below the 1979-2000 mean. Also on June 10 2010, NASA released data showing that a heat wave in May of 2010 had set new worldwide temperature records for the month. On the afternoon of June 10 2010, 47 Senators put blinders on, ignored our climate crisis and voted in favor of prohibiting the Environmental Protection Agency from regulating greenhouse gases. Fortunately, 53 Senators voted to reject S.J. Res 26. 
Senator Shelby voted YES to pass this regressive measure.

According to a recent Politico story on the porkulous Shelby and his penchant for earmarks:
Shelby’s earmarking doesn’t appear to run afoul of Senate rules or federal ethics laws. But critics said his tactics are part of a Washington culture in which lawmakers direct money back home to narrow interests, which, in turn, hire well-connected lobbyists — often former congressional aides — who enjoy special access on Capitol Hill.
Cole, who left Shelby’s staff in 1999, is a vice president at Van Scoyoc Associates, which has enlisted more than 18 Alabama clients, including the cities of Gadsden and Gulf Shores, which respectively received Shelby earmarks worth $800,500 and $514,500 in fiscal 2008 and 2009.
The CEO of Colsa, Francisco Collazo, has been a major campaign contributor to Shelby over the years, and employees of Collazo’s companies have contributed at least $246,000 to Shelby’s campaign and leadership PAC over the past decade.
In 1996, Collazo hired G. Stewart Hall, a former Shelby legislative director, as a lobbyist. Over the next decade, Colsa was the recipient of more than $50 million in Shelby earmarks, according to a 2006 Bloomberg News report. Hall terminated his lobbying contract with Collazo’s firm in 2004.
Although Collazo declined to comment, Graffeo noted that a number of the national security projects at issue have been approved by the relevant federal agency and “provide good jobs for Alabamians.”
Senator Jeff Sessions
Top 20 Contributors to Campaign Cmte and Leadership PACs:
Contributor  ↓Total  ↓Indivs  ↓PACs  ↓
Southern Co $162,765$138,265$24,500
Balch and Bingham $123,775$113,775$10,000
Drummond Co $74,650$44,650$30,000
Collazo Enterprises $64,900$64,900$0
Vulcan Materials $52,150$26,150$26,000
University of South Alabama $48,650$36,650$12,000
Lockheed Martin $47,150$15,650$31,500
Blount Inc $45,725$35,725$10,000
Harbert Management $45,600$45,600$0
State of Alabama $45,150$45,150$0
Torchmark Corp $43,600$11,600$32,000
Alabama Farmers Federation $42,500$7,550$34,950
American Hospital Assn $42,000$16,500$25,500
Bradley, Arant et al $40,462$40,462$0
Intergraph Corp $38,950$15,700$23,250
Dynetics Inc $37,850$27,850$10,000
Scott Bridge Co $36,550$36,550$0
AT&T Inc $35,700$5,700$30,000
Schering-Plough Corp $35,448$448$35,000
Blue Cross/Blue Shield $34,700$16,700$18,000
Sessions voted with Shelby on the above two Senate Bills

Congressman Spencer Bachus
Top 20 Contributors to Campaign Cmte and Leadership PACs:
Contributor  ↓Total  ↓Indivs  ↓PACs  ↓
Drummond Co $106,600$54,600$52,000
JPMorgan Chase and Co $98,000$23,000$75,000
Southern Co $91,200$15,450$75,750
National Assn of Realtors $83,210$9,710$73,500
Bank of America $83,000$2,500$80,500
UBS AG $80,850$40,850$40,000
Credit Suisse Group $79,700$24,200$55,500
American Bankers Assn $77,500$0$77,500
Citigroup Inc $75,450$27,950$47,500
Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu $74,400$24,900$49,500
AmSouth Bancorp $73,798$2,800$70,998
HealthSouth Corp $73,721$57,221$16,500
Regions Financial $68,000$4,000$64,000
Vulcan Materials $66,200$13,700$52,500
American Farm Bureau $66,005$0$66,005
AT&T Inc $63,999$0$63,999
Balch and Bingham $62,874$42,874$20,000
Credit Union National Assn $60,000$0$60,000
National Auto Dealers Assn $59,700$0$59,700
American Institute of CPAs $58,060$0$58,060

The organizations themselves did not donate, rather the money came from the organization's PAC, its individual members or employees or owners, and those individuals' immediate families. Organization totals include subsidiaries and affiliates.
H.R. 3269 Corporations are given existence by their charters on the condition that the behavior of corporations provides benefit to shareholders and the public. When corporate honchos authorize huge executive compensation for themselves without due opportunity for shareholder approval, they pervert the conditions those of corporate charters.
H.R. 3269, the Corporate and Financial Institution Compensation Fairness Act, is a piece of legislation designed to "to prevent perverse incentives in the compensation practices of financial institutions." The bill prohibits executive compensation packages that put the financial health of their companies at risk, and requires a separate shareholder vote to approve executive compensation packages.
Representative Bachus voted AGAINST this progressive measure.
Spencer Bachus is also a leading proponent of the Northern Beltline (aka Zombie Highway) and the elevated Highway 280 ill advised and conceived "solution" to 280 congestion. Vincent's Mayor claims "the survival of the Town of Vincent depends on this project." Wonder who fed that line of bull to him to regurgitate?
 Some BARD members stand to gain big from its construction either in land sales to ALDOT or in huge business revenues.The majority of citizens are firmly against it, but Bachus is not listening and has stated on the local news; "People need to get rid of this not in my backyard thinking, I'm tired of hearing it." The "greater good" he is referring to is quite selective in who it benefits. Nice to know a Congressman is "tired of hearing" from his constituents.
From SOURCE Northern Beltline project:
So-called economic development will be accomplished by taking property of private citizens to build a highway in order to open large tracts of land owned by other landowners, including U. S. Steel and Drummond Coal Company. The ALDOT Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) (p.3-8), states, “Development in the northern portion of Jefferson County has to some extent been controlled by large land holdings and the lack of adequate access to these properties. No major east-west highway facility has been constructed which would open these large land holdings for development.”
Balch and Bingham are the lawyers for BARD, Southern Company (parent company of Alabama Power BARD member) has a *contract with Drummond as their coal supplier. The large contributions seem to suggest there is something to be gained from supporting these particular candidates.
*(BhamWiki as linked in word "contract")

The recent decision by the EPA to regulate GHBs will hit hard against Big Coal, coal fired power plants and heavy industry polluters. Alabama joined 16 other states in the lawsuit against the EPA to overturn their findings.
Guess who else is involved in the suit:
  • Ohio Coal Association
  • Utility Air Regulatory Group
  • Portland Cement Association
  • Competitive Enterprise Institute
  • American Iron and Steel Institute
  • Gerdau Ameristeel Corp.
  • American Farm Bureau Federation
  • National Mining Association
  • Peabody Energy Co.
  • U.S. Chamber of Commerce
  • Southeastern Legal Foundation
  • Coalition for Responsible Regulation Inc.
  • A coalition of the National Association of Manufacturers, the American Petroleum Institute, the Corn Refiners Association, the National Association of Home Builders, the National Oilseed Processors Association, the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association, and the Western States Petroleum Association.
A long list of noxious polluters and quite a few Coal giants are in this brouhaha too. Alabama's corporate behemoths rely on strong representation in Washington from Alabama--and they appear to have made sure they will get it.

Big business and political leaders are the main forces behind industries locating, expanding and incorporating in Alabama and anywhere else. The locations they choose are far removed from any of the communities these fat cats live, work and "play" in-- instead they are placed in communities that cannot fight back, that are expendable, and "casualties" are seemingly viewed as the price of doing business.

There appears to be an unwritten agreement in this state between the power players and corporate campaign gifters that displays an ideology that big business has the right to pollute as long as it is profitable to the right people.

Quite often the state "environmental" regulatory agencies seem to get in on this collusion because they might be getting a piece of the pie and/or they are told to "look the other way" by the Governor that usually appoints these non-elected yes men and women.

Big business and politicians play a smoke and mirror game of corporate welfare that is disadvantageous to their citizens by cutting "economic progress deals" with each other that are designed to line both their pockets and strip communities of the right to exist in a clean environment.

In our opinion, that is exactly what is going on with big businesses such as Drummond and the State of Alabama.

End of Part II
Bookmark and Share