On behalf of several affected citizens in Perry County, Ala., environmental attorney David Ludder has filed an environmental justice complaint against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management.
The complaint asks the U.S. EPA Office of Civil Rights to investigate the permit for the Arrowhead Landfill. The landfill was selected by EPA in 2009 to receive the coal ash spilled near Kingston, Tenn. in December 2008. Among the issues raised in the complaint are:
– concerns about excessive odors from the facility causing ear, nose, and throat problems and nausea and vomiting.
– fugitive dust that covers citizens homes and cars.
– excessive amounts of flies.
– decreased property values for nearby residents.
Should EPA uphold the complaint, the citizens are asking EPA to withhold federal dollars from ADEM. The vast majority of ADEM’s funding comes from the federal government.
Environmental justice has been defined as the pursuit of equal justice and equal protection under the law for all environmental statutes and regulations without discrimination based on race, ethnicity, and /or socioeconomic status. With Alabama’s high level of poverty and significant number of minority populations, there are many census tracts, especially in the Black Belt region of the state, which could be defined as environmental justice.
The ADEM Reform Coalition, which Conservation Alabama serves as a co-chair, has made environmental justice one of its core goals for reform at ADEM. To date, however, ADEM’s environmental justice efforts have been mostly limited to outreach and education. The ARC wants more substantive changes, including reviewing and approving permits with protection of environmental justice communities in mind.