Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Why ADEM and the EMC are Dangerous to Alabama

These state "environmental" agencies have been plagued by scandal and corruption for years and they have earned the phrase "in league with the big polluters" honestly. From a former director that *took favors from BARD companies to ADEM being petitioned to have all of their water permitting removed for failing miserably to do their job, they are a poster child for what's wrong for Alabama's environment.
(* Glenn was a former engineer with Alabama Power before being appointed as the ADEM head in 2005)

There is no "watchdog" only dirty dogs who sell Alabama's environment on a regular basis for a cut of the action and permitting fees. Serial offenders are often relegated to a consent order, which has no real monetary persuader to have them comply--the fines are considered the cost of doing business by these big polluters. These state agencies have much more of an incentive to continue to fine, and keep the revenue coming in than they do in taking the companies to court and putting an end to the continued violations.

One big law firm in Birmingham has an entire section in a booklet they publish periodically about "Doing Business In Alabama" and they reassure potential businesses that Alabama regulations and environmental laws are "business friendly" and "regulations are favorable to businesses."

ADEM and the EMC seem only too eager to give that attitude as much assistance as they can on a regular basis.
"Trust me, I am an expert. Don't I have an honest face?"
Recently, Bruce Freeman, the state agencies 'point man' who is from ADEMs Office of the Emergency Response, while surrounded by a group of "experts," made a grand proclamation July 22 in Mobile that Alabama's seafood was safe to eat. One woman in the group wasn't biting on that line:
DAPHNE, Ala. -- Alabama's oil response leaders address a wide variety of issues each day and a top problem is "staying ahead of misconceptions and rumors," according to Bruce Freeman, chief of the office of emergency response at the Alabama Department of Environmental Management

One of those misconceptions is that the fish and shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico and Mobile Bay are not safe to eat, Freeman told about 30 people who gathered Tuesday evening at a town hall-style meeting at Daphne City Hall.
"The fish are fine, you can eat them. We've found no problems whatsoever," Freeman said. "We go to Mississippi Sound and offshore ..." 
A woman in the audience, Daphne artist Jean-Marie McDonnell, interrupted Freeman.
"I don't believe it," she said.
"It's a fact. Ma'am, we're testing the fish and we've found no contamination. If you don't feel comfortable eating the fish then I advise you not to eat the fish," Freeman said.
"I won't," McDonnell said. 
"Fish off" Mr. Freeman, that one got away didn't it?

The "group of experts":
Freeman was one of 16 officials who sat at a long row of tables at the front of City Hall's council chamber.
They included representatives with the National Park Service, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Coast Guard, the Environmental Protection Agency, the Baldwin County Emergency Management Agency, the Centers for Disease Control, BP PLC and Alabama Marine Police. 
As we reported in a previous post, the new ADEM head Lance LeFleur claimed in a June 25th meeting of the EMC and ADEM that the "environmental impact was minimal in Alabama." What is his reasoning for arriving at that conclusion?

While we are at it, why was Mr. LeFleur chosen as the new ADEM head and did it have anything to do with his wife's *employer?:

Bob Mount: Phillips overlooked for EMC post 

The seven-member Environmental Management Commission (EMC) is poised to appoint a director of ADEM to succeed the position being vacated by Trey Glenn. One of the applicants was Dr. Doug Phillips, producer of the Alabama Public Television program Discovering Alabama. I had high hopes that the EMC would hire Doug for the position, but he wasn't even included among the top five candidates.

 The seven-member Environmental Management Commission (EMC) is poised to appoint a director of ADEM to succeed the position being vacated by Trey Glenn. One of the applicants was Dr. Doug Phillips, producer of the Alabama Public Television program Discovering Alabama

I had high hopes that the EMC would hire Doug for the position, but he wasn’t even included among the top five candidates.

Considering Gov. Bob Riley’s strong alliances with the Big Mules, I should have known that a naturalist who deeply cares for our states’ natural heritage, such as Dr. Phillips, wouldn’t stand a dog’s chance of being selected to head ADEM. 

Anita Archie, a Riley appointee, *chairs the EMC. She is also the lead lobbyist for the Business Council of Alabama. Ben Raines, A Mobile Press-Register reporter, points out that, “In that role, she is paid to represent the interests of the council’s 5,000 members, many of them companies whose pollution permits are regulated by ADEM.” Raines states that the Business Council describes itself as ‘the state’s most powerful and effective advocate for business and industry at the Alabama Legislature and U.S. Congress.’
*(Ms. Archie, thankfully is no longer in that position, but the fact that she was even appointed to it by Governor Riley speaks volumes and illustrates our points about these agencies.) 

Raines also states that the Council’s Web site describes Archie and her staff as “your daily eyes and ears whenever and wherever public policy that affects your bottom line is being made.” He mentions requirements in the federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts that agencies should exclude any person who gets a significant portion directly or indirectly from permit holders or applicants for a permit.

Archie, according to Raines, admits that all of her income comes from the Business Council but says that the council is not entirely funded by companies that require pollution permits. Readers can decide for themselves if Archie can legally serve as chair of the EMC, which supervises ADEM, while simultaneously deriving all of her income as a lobbyist for the Business Council.

Reportedly, the leading contender for directorship of ADEM is Lance LeFleur, owner of a plastics recycling company in Mobile. He once worked for a subsidiary of Blount Inc., which dismissed him for undisclosed reasons. He resides in Montgomery with his wife, *Elaine, who is Gov. Riley’s executive assistant.
 LeFleur is Gov. Riley’s choice to head ADEM. Surprise, surprise!
Bob Mount is emeritus professor of zoology and entomology at Auburn University and writes a weekly column for the Opelika-Auburn News.
 Riley's support After the meeting, John Lester, the commission's vice chairman, said commissioners had evaluated a large pool of applicants, and had interviewed three finalists. The commission had not decided beforehand who would be selected, Lester said, and had not met as a group to discuss the candidates.
 LeFleur, whose wife serves as Gov. Bob Riley's executive assistant, had the support of the governor behind his candidacy.
Asked if that influenced the outcome, Lester said. ''It probably didn't hurt.''
Casi Callaway, the director of Mobile Baykeeper, said Hagood's openness was in stark contrast to the previous director and hoped that the thaw in relations between the agency and environmental groups would not be reversed.
''The new guy is the governor's guy. So was Trey, so we'll see,'' she said.
This is our main issue with these agencies and Mr. Freeman--it's all coming from Riley and we know where his loyalties lie and what his record is on truly protecting Alabama's environment; utterly dismal. We certainly cannot expect anything different from the state agencies.

There has been a strong push by BP and the federal government to feed the public this same misinformation and false reassurances that the Gulf seafood is safe and the oil has "vanished." They failed miserably in their attempts to hoodwink the public and now damning information has come out backing up the public's suspicions.

But, we have not heard from the EMC and ADEM lately since the dog and pony show in Mobile and we'd like to ask Mr. Freeman if he would like to qualify any of his previous statements given the new compelling information that has recently been published.

We would also like to ask him how much he has been paid by BP and who covered his relocation costs to Daphne, Alabama and why was that move was necessary. Or perhaps his boss, Governor Riley could enlighten us on this, but he is probably too busy fighting with AG Troy King over the BP suit, flying off to London on the taxpayer's dime, meeting with Ken Feinberg in Washington to get more oil/gas lease money, putting Greene County residents out of work and influencing the next would be Governor of Alabama to take care of his "children" to do much of anything else. 

We have a group of experts assembled ourselves--the Alabama taxpayers and they have a few questions for Governor Riley, ADEM and the EMC that deserve some answers. 

Maybe we could all meet for lunch, you all can have Gulf shrimp with a side of crow and humble pie for dessert and we'll have the usual; spamburgers and your lies, oops, we meant fries.
ADEM Enforcements drop by 78% (2009)
In Alabama, the agency responsible for enforcing clean water standards is the Alabama Department of Environmental Management. According to the ADEM Reform Coalition, ADEM only handed out $286,100 in fines for water pollution violations during the 2009 fiscal year, compared to more than $1.2 million in each of the two preceding years.
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1 comment:

  1. ADEM IS INEPT at enforcing the Clean Water Act, and so far, the only deterrent to polluters are civil lawsuits that carry a stiff penalty. ADEM must become a true protector of the environment instead of listening to politicians in Montgomery who call ADEM offices and tell them to back off powerful/wealthy friends. I know this is happening because ADEM personnel say so and we all see the results. Most of the ADEM employees took their position to protect the environment and get disgusted when they cannot. No wonder they leave en mass after a short period. Wake up people of Alabama and demand ADEM do their job, and apply the law equally!


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