EMC limits public influence on strategic direction

At Friday’s regular Alabama Environmental Management Commission meeting, the EMC voted 4-0 on two provisions that would essentially limit the public’s influence on the strategic direction of the agency.

The first provision would only allow the EMC and ADEM to revise its strategic plan every five years. While provisions were made in the rule change to give the EMC flexibility to revise the plan more frequently if needed, the Commission made a clear statement that it has no intention to do so when it dissolved its strategic planning subcommittee. The second provision passed gives the EMC the freedom to deny a petition for rulemaking based on whether or not the issue is addressed in its strategic plan. This gives citizen groups less of an opportunity to influence the direction of the agency and the commission.

For example, the recently adopted strategic plan includes nothing about coal ash spills. However, on January 9 of this year, a dam broke near Stevenson, Ala. releasing coal ash that had been stored there. The public is limited in pushing this issue at ADEM as the EMC could potentially deny a rulemaking related to coal ash because it is not part of the strategic plan.

In other news, the EMC voted 4-0 to establish a Solid Waste Fund to clean up illegal dumps in Alabama. This fund was made possible when a $1 per ton “tipping fee” was adopted by the Alabama State Legislature in 2008. It is expected to generate $7-8 million a year to support the Fund, recycling programs, and inspections of permitted solid waste facilities.

In Director Trey Glenn’s report, he briefly discussed the conclusion of ADEM’s quarry study. Conservation Alabama is working to get a copy of this report. Also, through the federal stimulus package, about $93 million will be available in the State Revolving Fund. The Fund distributes loans to local governments for repairs on drinking water and wastewater systems. The Conservation Alabama Foundation has been identifying a series of failing municipal wastewater systems around the state and have pushed the state to bring enforcement action against these failing facilities.

Quick Notes:
In attendance at the EMC meeting: Chair Laurel Gardner, Ken Hairston, John Lester, and Sam Wainwright….The next meeting is scheduled for June 19 at 11 a.m. at ADEM headquarters in Montgomery.

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