Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

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
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  1. This is an incredible body of work and it clearly makes the connections to issues that are not always easily connected.
    Great job Confidential!

  2. Smoke and mirrors is right, but on the farm we have different names for this big pile of...
    Folks better wise up and realize what's going with all of this before the cow gets out of the barn and is never seen again.
    Keep puttin' the spurs to 'em Max.

  3. Why is it that Alabama and Mississippi are so high on the list for environmental injustice in 2010?
    Will we never shake our past ghosts and sins?


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