Skip to Content

Coalition of Alabama groups to grade environmental agency

Release Date: 
Thursday, August 5, 2010

A coalition of statewide environmental groups plans to create a scorecard to rate the Alabama Department of Environmental Management's progress on addressing air and water pollution and the overall enforcement of environmental laws.

Representatives of the coalition -- which includes groups such as Conservation Alabama, the Alabama Rivers Alliance, Mobile Baykeeper and the Cahaba River Society -- have met with ADEM's new director, Lance LeFleur, to lay out areas on which they'll be evaluating the agency's performance.

"We basically gave him a cheat sheet of what the test is going to look like," said Adam Snyder, executive director of Conservation Alabama.

ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes said LeFleur and the agency welcome communication and scrutiny. "We are a public agency. We work for the citizens of the state and we welcome input from anybody who has a vested interest in the state's natural resources."

"We welcome any sort of evaluation process, but we want to make sure it is fair and balanced and based on facts and on the laws we operate under."

The priorities presented by the environmental groups include improving ADEM's enforcement of the Clean Water Act. Earlier this year, several of the same groups asked EPA to take over water pollution monitoring and enforcement, charging that ADEM has been ineffective.

The groups also will score the agency's performance on permitting, inspecting and monitoring storm water runoff from construction and urban development and on overall enforcement action against polluters.

Snyder said ADEM hasn't been consistent or aggressive with polluters in the past.

The groups also plan to evaluate state progress on limiting the release of toxic chemicals into the air, which in many cases are concentrated in particular neighborhoods.

"In 12 to 18 months, we will evaluate the progress or the lack thereof of the department under the leadership of LeFleur," Synder said.

Snyder said the meeting with LeFleur was intended to initiate a continuous conversation about the direction and effectiveness of environmental regulation and avoid communication problems present in the past.

"I think we didn't do a great job of boiling down our priorities with the previous director," he said.

Hughes said the agency continuously is improving its permitting, inspection, and monitoring and enforcement activities. The agency also recently convened a working group to look into the issue of toxic air releases.

"We are certainly not sitting here resting on our laurels," Hughes said.

~ Tom Spencer, Birmingham News

Original article found here.