Impact Perry County, a citizens group, has won one round in their legal fight to gain access to public records against the Perry County Water Authority, and now turns their sights on to the pervasively corrupt Perry County Commission (PCC) led by coal ash cad extraordinaire Albert Turner, Jr.
Perry County has been wallowing in dirty money ever since the PCC approved the mostly minority community to be a toxic waste receptacle for the remnants of the coal ash from the TVA Kingston spill. It was a controversial project from the start, rife with strong potential for nefarious activity, and despite the claims of the county that "the entire community would benefit" from the deal, the only real beneficiaries seem to have been Turner and his buddies.
"We are on our way up, Glory be to God..." Albert Turner, Jr.
And who else is benefiting? Why the state of Alabama and ADEM of course:
It's no secret: Perry County Commission has made around $1,000,000 in the months since coal ash shipments began coming to the Uniontown landfill facility. When all 3,000,000 or so tons of coal ash have been dredged from the Emory River in Tennessee and trucked to the local landfill, the county's general fund will see about $3,000,000 in extra revenue.
When confronted with concerns about the potential environmental impact of the coal ash on Perry County, commissioners have reminded citizens of this cash infusion's potential benefit to county finances. Testifying before Congress in December, Commissioner Albert Turner went as far as to say the host county fee has transformed Perry County from one of the poorest counties in Alabama to one of the wealthiest.
Alabama's Department of Environmental Management, though, hasn't been quite as vocal about a similar arrangement between that organization and landfill owners throughout the state. During Alabama's 2008 legislative session, the legislature passed a law requiring all municipal solid waste landfills to pay $1.00 to ADEM for each ton of solid waste disposed in Alabama landfills. That fee is part of the state's Recyclable Materials Management Act, which purports to fund community-based recycling programs throughout the state, along with providing operating funds to ADEM.
The state regulatory agency approved the coal ash deal in mid-2009, and began receiving payments shortly thereafter. Like Perry County Commission, ADEM has now made about $1,000,000 off of coal ash being dumped in Perry County, and stands to make at least $2,000,000 more.
Add a particularity distasteful African American lobbyist Greg Jones of the Jones Group, LLC who represented the company behind the landfill, Perry Uniontown Ventures (PUV), to the list of human misery merchants. PUV has since filed for bankruptcy to avoid lawsuits. They took the money and ran and "pulled a Bentley" on their brothers and sisters in Uniontown, with a little help from Stephen Bradley's partner, Guy McCullough and the law firm of *Maynard, Cooper & Gale who also lobbied for PUV.
*(ppg 52 of 83 Alabama Ethics Commission 2010 lobbyists records)
There was benefit alright, to lawyers, PR men, corrupt officials and the company itself, but not one thin dime has improved the quality of life for the people who have to live with this dangerous dump and are suffering because of the avarice of these toxic representatives.
The fact that this watchdog group has to take legal action to access public records speaks volumes, but they are not the only Alabama community that deals with stone walling by public officials over public records and transparency on a regular basis.
Stars may fall on Alabama, according to the sentimental old song, but sunshine rarely does.
We wish this group great success and will be following this story closely.
Coal Ash: The Hidden Story -The Center for Public Integrity