Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

EPA Refuses ADEMs Latest "Business Interests" Influenced Proposal to Improve Stormwater Management Programs

In a rare, but gutsy move the US EPA refused to accept the latest offering from the Alabama Department of Environmental Management [ADEM] outlining improvements to their dismal history of enforcing the Clean Water Act [CWA]. ADEM is under pressure from the EPA to improve the standards it requires of cities to stop polluting Alabama's waterways in addition to facing a legal action presented to the EPA that was filed on behalf of 14 environmental groups to have their water authority taken over by the federal government.
The petition cites numerous cases of ADEMs failure to enforce the federal laws regarding Stormwater Management Programs [SWMP] which includes developments, discharges from industries such as strip mines (coal and aggregate), utilities (Alabama Power in particular) and a long list of Alabama's infamous companies that are most responsible for the high degradation of the state's waterways. The petition also shows in stark form the imbalance of permits issued and/or renewed in contrast to the level of enforcement of the federal laws--enforcement has receded to all time lows while permitting is on the rise.

The EPA has demanded improvements, but what they got was a "business approved" draft proposal;
When ADEM released a draft of the small city storm water permits early this year, it more closely conformed to the EPA's expectations. But after response from the business community, the revised version of the permit drew the EPA's objection. 
Alabama is beholden to these business interests and the influence of organizations like BARD, among others, has the tail (business interests) wagging the dog (ADEM and the state) and why ADEM thought they would get the EPAs approval on a draft to the federal government after they allowed "responses" from the same "business community" that has helped create this serious problem is almost unbelievable;
In fact, it was lobbying by the business community that led to the permit conditions the EPA is now objecting to.
But this is Alabama and we are all keenly aware of who really controls things. We also know that a lack of sophistication, personal greed and corruptibility are intimately involved in this process and both are exploited by behemoths such as BARD and the business community at large on a regular basis. The Jefferson County Super Sewer project and their SWMP are clear examples of how elected officials and some state agencies are mismatched with the ruthless raiders that feed on their willingly offered up weaknesses;
What happened here in Jefferson County would turn out to be the perfect metaphor for the peculiar alchemy of modern oligarchical capitalism: A mob of corrupt local officials and morally absent financiers got together to build a giant device that converted human excrement into billions of dollars of profit for Wall Street. 
This isn't capitalism. It's nomadic thievery.
Indeed it is and it happens all the time in Alabama through the endlessly repeated process of morally bankrupt and corrupt officials who continue to believe the lies of morally absent business interests and organizations that are only interested in one goal--profit with no rules.

Predictably BARD steps into this fray with ADEM and the EPA claiming state's rights trump the federal laws regulating pollution standards and blames the EPAs scrutiny on the White House and what he probably views as Obama's "environazis" sticking their federal noses into the Mules personal hay bins (ADEM, EPA Region 4 and the state of Alabama);
But BARD attorney Gilbert says the EPA's demands to ADEM are an overreach by the Obama administration, pushing changes that would amount to new regulations that contradict state law. 
"What EPA doesn't take into account is state law and the state constitution," Gilbert said. "EPA is reinterpreting the regulations to this administration's liking. And they are focusing on Alabama because the environmental community has lobbied them to do it."
"I'm not aware of any other state in Region 4 that is under this type of review by EPA on all facets of their water program," said Joel Gilbert, an attorney who represents the Business Alliance for Responsible Development, an alliance of developers and landowners that includes Alabama Power, Drummond Co., the Barber Companies, the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders and U.S. Steel.
BARD relishes demonizing environmentalists and use the muscle of their wealthy and politically connected members to annihilate anything or anyone who gets in their way. They seem to relish the fight with a strange enjoyment akin almost to sadism in they way they dominate elected officials, whip regulatory agencies and communities until they cry "BARD" and do whatever they're told to do, even if it means a possible jail sentence and the polluting of the same environment their children and grandchildren live in.

Another mantra they are fond of is that scrutiny and forced regulatory compliance (it has to be forced because they refuse to do it on their own) will stifle "economic development and result in the loss of hundreds of good paying jobs and revenues to the communities and the state." Some of the members even blame environmental regulations as the reason for "American jobs going overseas when Alabamians here at home are hurting." That's a carefully designed message to enlist the average citizen to fall in step to their nonsensical rhetoric. And it usually works.

Big business as a whole almost exclusively supports Republicans. It was this party who was largely responsible for jobs leaving the US through NAFTA and big business itself had a huge hand in it when they became more of a shareholder oriented arrangement that put more emphasis on profits than it did the workers and environmental compliance.

Alabama is a right to work state and there is no protection for workers from unions--BARDs own uber wealthy Drummond Coal fired more than 1000 Alabama workers, closing five of its mines and moved a large portion of the Drummond business to Columbia. But you'll never hear any of that from BARD or most of the mainstream press because it contradicts the carefully crafted illusionist message of it's someone else's fault this is an issue and following the rules will only cost all of us more in the long run.
Since operating in Colombia, Drummond has closed five mines in Alabama and fired more than 1,000 workers, triggering protests from U.S. labor unions, including the United Mine Workers of America. In March 2002, the Mining and Energy Industry Workers Union of Colombia and the families of three killed union leaders sued Drummond, claiming that after labor strikes the company's Colombian managers told paramilitary gunmen that they wanted the officials killed. The lawsuit is backed by the United Mine Workers of America, the United Steel Workers of America and the International Labor Rights Foundation. Drummond has faced about a dozen rebel attacks on its Colombian facilities in the last two years, and in 2000, the FARC kidnapped four Drummond workers for ransom, but eventually released them. *(Note--A third lawsuit has been filed by the children of the slain Union leaders, it's not over yet.)
With members like that it instills fear in people and most of them are not likely to resist that kind of power if they know anything about their history. Getting your way through intimidation is no different than what the Mafia did in early twentieth century America--hence the term "mob rule" which is what BARD and a certain segment of the business community does in Alabama essentially. 

It's understandable on some level why ADEM does not stand up to such powerful business interests, but it's still inherently wrong, against federal pollution laws and their lack of gumption causes harm to the entire state and its populace through continued environmental assault.

If it's fear that drives ADEM to not fulfill their great responsibility to Alabama's environment and her citizens, then it is incumbent on the next Governor of this state to lay down the gauntlet and make it clear that he will not allow the Mules to influence and/or intimidate agencies under his control.

If it's not fear or even ineptness, then there is a much bigger problem that may have its origins in issues worthy of federal investigation of a different kind similar to the one going on in Alabama right now over corruption and electronic gaming.

We don't see much difference between that issue and this one because they both are based in pervasive corruption and undue influence from powerful lobbyists through the collusion of the business interests they represent and policy makers. ADEM makes a handsome profit from issuing permits, assigning enforcement fees which seem to be designed as a continuous money pipeline rather than a real deterrent, and in some cases, they get a kickback from increased toxic waste dumping and the high noxious emissions it is supposed to curb. Business interests contribute heavily to legislators that make laws which influence environmental regulation enforcement and thereby create a system of government which serves as its protectors. 

It's wrong on so many levels and it flies in the face of transparency and responsible environmental management. When you create a quid pro quo environment and make it much more profitable to pollute rather than to comply, and are enabled by policymakers enacting legislation that assists that untoward process, it creates a poisonous atmosphere rife for corruption and political favoritism that should warrant a deeper probe into this ongoing toxic issue.

*(Note-- Another take on this from Paul Hamaker of the Examiner.com labels the real culprit as Governor Riley "Alabama's biggest polluter." BARD was a heavy contributor to both of his gubernatorial campaigns)
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  1. BARD owns ADEM and Riley it's no wonder the health issues of respiratory ailments among others in Alabama are so high, we're poisoned from within courtesy of Montgomery and the stench of the pile called the Alabama legislators.
    Hamaker was right on target with his article, loved it!

  2. It should be no surprise that the inability the Riley controlled ADEM and the EMC are not investigated by the same republican operatives that are trying to throw the Governor's race into Bentley's favor. He is ahead in the polls, but this raid by the feds is his insurance policy. Wouldn't surprise me a bit if the Mules fingerprints are eventually found at the "crime scene" Bentley is their bought and paid for golden boy.

  3. Another great one Max!

  4. I agree with Leftem on the gambling issue but I do see why you're making a connection between the premise of the two issues and agree there should be some serious investigation of ADEM and the Governor's office. That's been an issue since ADEMs inception which reminds me a little bit of Rosemary's Baby.

  5. Good to see Alabama has it's priorities straight. Gambling is so much more harmful than toxic exposures, ruining our environment for profit and corruption between state agencies, business and legislators. NOT!!


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