Something is very wrong in the Land of Cotton



Dr. Robert Bullard
Environmental Justice Movement Founder

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

"Millions For Defense, Not a Penny For Tribute"--Alabama Would Rather Fight the CAA Than Comply

History buffs know what the phrase by Robert Goodloe Hart meant back in the 1800s which was, in essence, we would rather fight than pay bribes to the French. In modern times, the phrase is flipped on its head by the utility giants who spend millions to thwart the CAA rules. Their dangerous 'mule-ish mindset' is one of resistance and obstinacy--they are willing to pay more for the fight than it would cost them to modernize and comply with federal regulations.

Political donors hold our governmental system captive with their undue influence. Buy a politician here, buy fifty over there, and pretty soon the entire system works for special interests and their agenda over the good of many. In Alabama that has been the way of doing business for decades.

Rules are re-written and adopted for the corporate benefit by spineless legislators and state agency yes men who live in fear of the corporate cash being cut off more so than they fear the ire of their constituents.

Alabama has a long history of bowing to the Big Mules, *Alabama Power in particular, and nothing on the modern day horizon suggests there will be change of this corporate stranglehold any time soon, if ever.
(paragraph #8) 

ADEM has announced it will bring suit against the EPA on behalf of the big polluters.
(story to follow in next posting)

Just one question if we may? Where does the state intend to get the money from?

This recent ruling by the EPA against ADEM illustrates how far the state is willing to go for their corporate masters. Alabama is broke, we have no money, our budgets are in such a state of disarray that it will take years to put them back in order, if ever. Deep cuts are occurring across the board to most state agencies, essential services, education funds and thousands of state workers are receiving pink slips.

We're in deep trouble from years of mismanagement that has been the SOP of not only most state budgetary affairs but the state environmental agency, ADEM, as well.

Filing a lawsuit against the EPA on behalf a corporate giant with profits in the billions is not only wrongheaded, it is something Alabama simply cannot afford to do, especially since the lead agency in this action, ADEM, is also experiencing cuts in operating revenue. Broke means broke and we think the state of Alabama is acting very irresponsibly to even entertain this idea.

President Bush, who never met a big polluter he wasn't sympathetic to, relaxed the Opacity Rule in his last days of office in corporate Alabama's favor. ADEM wants to continue to follow that bad decision even though they know, despite Mr. Glenn's claims below, that the end result was not at all protective of Alabama's air quality.

In a 2008 correspondence from the Alabama Environmental Council reference to an article from Ben Raines writing for the Mobile Press-Register reveals the impetus of the years of back and forth between ADEM and the federal government over SIP:
In a recent newspaper story in the Mobile Register regarding this (SIP) proposal, ADEM’s Ron Gore, Chief of the Air Division, is quoted as saying that this proposal “came about because the state's biggest power providers - including Alabama Power and the Tennessee Valley Authority - and other industrial polluters asked for it.”
Former ADEM director Trey Glenn in a 2009 letter to Governor Bob Riley makes a staggering claim on SIP considering his history of markedly decreased enforcement at ADEM:
In addition to the above issue, I would also like to clarify my view of the Administrator's comments regarding his effort to "determine if the entire package of proposed revisions is approvable and protective of air quality in Alabama." First, this statement suggests that ADEM proposed a rule that may not be protective of air quality in Alabama. I would never propose a rule that would not be protective of air quality in Alabama and certainly have not done so in this case.
Mr. Glenn may have well thought what he was saying was accurate, but he simply had no credibility to stand on based on examination of his record as the director of ADEM. A record that ended in a legal petition to have ADEM's water permitting authority removed and taken over by the EPA that has yet to be decided.

In short, ADEM has failed to serve as an environmental management agency since its inception. What it does serve is the ideal of a collection agency for corporate Alabama to ensure that the huge percentage of money that rolls in from these special interests permits and emissions helps to keep the agency, and Alabama's air, in the black.

When Alabama Power and TVA say attack, they demonstrate through their political clout in the form of "millions for defense" that the preferred course of action is to bray loudly and wield a mighty kick. The thrill of the fight is worth more to the Big Mule mentality than the sensible approach of using their corporate cash in the most responsible way by putting an end to this infighting that's causing Alabamians to suffer needlessly from increased toxic air emissions.

This ruling by the EPA is a victory for Alabama and her citizens. It should be heralded as a step in the right direction for sufferers of asthma, COPD and heart conditions among others. The medical community has firmly linked increased fine particulate emissions (PM3) to scores of health problems, genetic defects and premature deaths. But corporate Alabama doesn't seem to care about that as much as they care about their profits and being forced to dip into their enormous deep pockets and follow the federal rules.

Forcing the state to spend money we don't have for their sole financial benefit is greed with unmitigated gall.

The old adage of stubborn as a mule dovetails with Robert Goodloe Hart's words and ensures that when it comes to putting Alabamians quality of life and health above corporate power, ADEM prefers to stay firmly entrenched in the past and obey the Big Mule mantra of 'us first' and peoples rights a very distant second.

Accompanying fact sheet on Alabama SIP

*Update Weds. PM--Four dirty air bills go down in defeat in US Senate to stop the EPA:
“Today we saw four separate amendments that were written for big polluters go down in the Senate. The failure of these attempts to boost the profits of the biggest corporate polluters at the expense of the American people is a victory for our country, our future, and for anyone who wants to breathe clean air, especially children, elderly, and the sick."
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  1. Typical Alabama: "Don't tll us'uns whut ta do!"
    But you make a good point about the finances, I would like to know that myself Guv'nr. Where is the money going to come from and how many tens of thousands are the corporate lawyers going to get from our empty piggybank?

  2. If there was any rule changing done here is was Bush who started it, ADEM jumped on it and once the EPA has a chance to really examine the issue and say hold on a minute, ADEM and the toxic titans cry foul. What transparent BS.
    Same old game different day, pay to play, pay to pollute.

  3. We are a heartless and soulless state to fight this. I suggest all legislators and ADEM spend some time on the respiratory wings in some of the larger hospitals, talk to parents of children with severe asthma and look us all in the eye and give us a good reason for being so pigheaded.
    There is no defense for going to court and fighting for more pollution.

  4. Maddening, simply maddening.

  5. Oh good grief cry me a river Alabama Power and ADEM! You're upset because you can't pollute more and ADEM is upset because they can't make more off it?

  6. Correct me if I err, but didn't Alabama Power start out as hydropwer primarily? That was the reason for taking over most of Alabama's rivers was it not?
    I see upon research that a miniscule amount of their electricity comes from hydropwer currently. Perhaps they should revisit their origins and find a way to wean themselves off of coal.

  7. Miller, AL: When it comes to toxic hazardous substances, you want to see them contained. You don't want them all around you, and the Hazardous Substances Act requires that such hazardous substances be kept away from humans. However if you live in West Jefferson County in Alabama, you live within close proximity to the worst polluter in America.

    That would be Alabama Power's Miller plant, which released a full ton of harmful mercury into the air last year. That's more than any other coal-fired plant in the nation. Alabama Power's Gaston Plant in Shelby County spewed 1,175 pounds of mercury into the air, earning a ranking of eighth among the worst polluters.

    However, the Miller plant remains the Big Daddy. And that's a huge concern for anyone living near the facility, given what is known about mercury and what it can do. Mercury is a hazardous substance that gets into the air. Okay, so you have bad air. Try not to breathe. Well, that's not realistic. Nor would people tolerate wearing, or being seen to wear gas masks to the grocery store.

    To their credit they did spend $1.2 billion on the plant, but were dragged kicking and screaming the whole way.

  8. The Birmingham News covered this toady complete with Alabama Power propaganda. Why fact check when the facts are handed to you MO? Don't ask the hard questions of a corporate advertiser right?


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