Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Rural Conecuh County, Alabama Set to Open Largest Landfill in Alabama at 5,100 Acres

Illustration credit: J. D. Crowe Press-Register
Updated Feb 14--Video interview of Mayor Terri Carter on landfill

Something really stinks about this deal and the odor originates from Goat Hill and ADEM.
Conecuh County is in their sights and the people of Repton, Alabama are worried. They should be.

Conecuh County has been embroiled in a heated battle against a proposed, massive private landfill since 2006. They've held off Conecuh Woods, LLC for a long time now, but with the help of our out-of-date state laws and ADEM's requirements being so "easy to satisfy," the renewed effort to open the landfill is as simple as inaction by the local government--they don't even have to vote and the landfill will be in business.

Alabama's laws on toxic entities setting up business are so woefully antiquated that they rival the time of the state constitution. Hard rock mining regulations are based on 43 y/o statutes, before the federal CWA and CAA rules were enacted, and the far and few between attempts to revise them are shot down where they stand. The same goes for landfills. Dirty business is profitable business for the state and the waste industry has some of the most persistent and powerful lobbyists around.

And what we have are some of the most corruptible politicians around, so it's a lose-lose for Alabamians.

EPA studies on landfills around the country reveal that no matter how they are constructed, they leak. And when they do, they unleash a nasty leachate of toxins that makes its way into the groundwater supplies that often are the only source of water for most rural residents. Nearby creeks and rivers are fouled and even the earth itself around these sites is ruined forever.

Rural Alabama is the dumping ground for the industries no one else wants: prisons, mining, heavy industry and landfills. You never find any of these industries in the overwhelmingly white and well-to-do enclaves of our cities--instead they are usually disproportionately set up in predominantly black and economically depressed areas where the folks aren't quite so sophisticated and educated and where they lack the funds to fight back.  It doesn't happen this way by accident. These communities are specifically targeted, even when they are not primarily black, because there is a large population of simple, 'country folk type' citizens.
Is this continued "dumping on Dixie" economic class warfare, racism or simply the 'haves' taking advantage of the 'have nots' for their own enrichment? And who enables these crimes of humanity against the less fortunate citizens of our state? And why do they do it?

Let's point the finger where it belongs for the most part--straight at the spineless politicians in the Alabama legislature who cave to these waste industry lobbyists and refuse to protect Alabama's rural citizens from continued toxic exposures. The state environmental agency, ADEM, makes a fortune from the fees for these dumps, which then go into the hard-to-follow-the-trail of the General Fund for the state.

To make matters worse, there's that sneaky provision in the Alabama law that allows landfills to set up with a no vote by local officials. We suspect that provision was inserted into the laws to give cover to local politicians and area representatives, who get to say "I didn't vote for it" to their constituents. Well, yes you did, a no vote is a yes vote in this case. The politicians know this and they are hoping their citizens don't. They do now and we hope for this community's sake some serious pressure on the local officials will stop this nasty idea.

But the law, as written by the legislature, is on the side of the landfill owner, not the citizens who have to live with the decision and the consequences.

Wildlaw has been fighting against these landfills for years and one of their fiercest advocates, Barbara Evans, knows she is up against a mountain of resistance on Goat Hill. But she climbs that mountain every year undaunted and determined.

Barbara is known as the "People's Lobbyist" and she has worked tirelessly for years on behalf of Alabama's economically depressed citizens against these Toxic Titans. She's a real modern day hero for Alabamians who are at the mercy of greedy businessmen, private corporations and landowners, and last but not least, their own local government, who more often than not, acts as a dictatorship rather than as representative government.

Here's an excerpt from one of Barbara's Newsletters through Wildlaw that spells it all out and names names of who is responsible for the ineffectiveness of reform on landfill laws and the underhanded tactics that go on in the Alabama legislature:
Legislative Roundup 2009: May 19, 2009
Senate Bill 72 and House Bill 652 were the landfill bills, introduced by Senator
Wendell Mitchell and Rep. James Thomas did not pass. 
These bills would have changed the language in the law regarding landfill applications. Currently the law says that if the county gets a landfill application and fails to act within 90 days, the application is approved. These bills would have changed “approved” to denied, and also clarified that landfills must get county approval to modify their permit to expand or change the types of waste they accept.
Senator Mitchell was able to get the bill passed in the senate committee, but Lowell Barron refused to place the bill on the special order calendar.
In the House, Rep. Thomas could not even get the bill in committee, although the committee was ready to give a favorable vote.
Rep. Bill Dukes of Decatur was the committee chair who knuckled under to the landfill lobbyists, and effectively prevented the bill from even being considered by the committee.
Rep. Seth Hammett, the speaker of the House, would not intervene.

It should be noted that the form of SB 72 passed out of committee was a
substitute bill that would have allowed language that any modification of a landfill permit had to come back before local host government, and if they failed to act on the request for modification within 90 days it would be approved.

This was a compromise which many folks did not like (including me, but I felt it was better than nothing).
The lobbyists used all their power to stop this bill. They won.
And don’t think they played fair.

They said they would help me get the landfill bills passed IF they only pertained to Lowndes County, knowing full well that you cannot get local legislation passed if there is already existing state law that conflicts.
This is what our elected politicians do when we send them to Montgomery--cut deals with their favorite lobbyists and enact legislation that is against the good of the people. Our politicians are better at this than anything else they say they're doing and it's an abominable aberration against the people of Alabama.

But, we don't pay close attention and give them more hell than they can carry for what they're doing to us, to our children, to our friends and neighbors and our environment. We keep sending them right back in there because they told us all in those slick, campaign commercials that they were going to "fight for all Alabamians" while they sat there in some idyllic country setting with their wives, children and the ever present bible staring back at us. It works every time.

It's almost pornographic when you compare those designed-to-deceive images to their real actions (and inaction) during the legislative session.  

When you follow the money trails in Alabama they will all eventually lead you back to the worst pile of stench in Alabama--Montgomery's Goat Hill.

More information--Citizens For A Clean Southwest Alabama
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  1. You're spot on as usual Max, Montgomery is by far the biggest garbage dump in the state.
    Interesting to read Ms. Evans accounting of first hand dealings with the legislature. Wish she had named names of the lobbyists, although I have a pretty good idea who....

  2. Typical high and mighty Alabama always picking on the poor folks.
    Makes me sick!

  3. Census stats for Conecuh County show a racial breakdown that's fairly even:
    55.2% white
    43.6% black
    But the median HH income is far below Alabama average.


  4. Would YOU vote to allow our beautiful state to become the nations largest DUMP ???
    That is what might happen if someone like you, does not speak out against this horrible thought. Please take the time to read this article.
    A group of investors have applied for a permit to create the nations largest landfill right here in Alabama. It will be called Conecuh Woods, and will be located in Conecuh County. The current largest landfill in the nation is in Puente Hills, in Whittier, California. It accepts approximately 13,200 tons a day at its 550 acres.
    If allowed a permit, Conecuh Woods will consist of 5,115 acres of land near Repton, Alabama. It will have the ability to dispose of 25,000 tons a day.
    Due to its convenient location and access to the interstate, rail road, and water way it will receive waste from around the entire nation.

  5. Garbage follows a strict class topography. It concentrates on the margins, and it tumbles downhill to settle in places of least resistance, among the poor and the disenfranchised… Across the nation and around the world, trash is dumped, metaphorically, upon trash.

    -Elizabeth Royte, Garbage Land, 2005

    Sadly, it's true that this is the view of many in Alabama power positions. The same ones that sit in the state house and claim to be Christians of the first order.

  6. Alabama the Beautiful?
    With the permanent stains of corruption that color this state from top to bottom that state slogan is laughable.

  7. Everything about this is sooooo wrong!
    If this goes through, what community is next?

  8. Corruption is so deeply ingrained in Alabama politics that I don't think it will ever be effectively eradicated, and that's a sad commentary on the state of the state in the supposed 21st century.

  9. Who all is involved in this?
    I bet there are some familiar snakes in the pile....KEEP US UPDATED MAX!


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