Jeff Martin

Jeff Martin

Environmental organizations throughout Alabama have joined together in asking Governor Kay Ivey to hold the Alabama Environmental Management Commission (EMC) accountable for actions revealed during the recent bribery and corruption trial in Birmingham. That investigation resulted in one Alabama lawmaker pleading guilty to bribery and half-dozen guilty verdicts against a partner in a prestigious law firm and the Vice President of Drummond Company.

These organizations want to make it clear that ADEM Director Lance LeFleur is not the only one that needs to be held accountable for the inappropriate actions of the state agency and it’s governing commission, all of which was revealed during the trial. The EMC should be as accountable to the people of Alabama as they are to the regulated industries they oversee.

Testimony during the trial shows possible collusion between some members of the EMC and the defendants. One commissioner at the time, Scott Phillips, actually had a contract working directly with the defendants to oppose the North Birmingham Superfund site.

Let that sink in for a minute. A sitting commissioner on the EMC had a ‘secret’ contract to oppose a Superfund site.

Phillips served on the EMC longer than I can remember, including three separate terms as Chair and four and a half terms as Vice Chair. The answer as to why someone would serve in such a thankless capacity for so long has been answered. And apparently it wasn’t to be a good steward of the state.

It is the Governor who appoints the seven-member EMC board and now she is being asked to demand the resignation of any Commissioners who participated in the actions brought forth during the trial, and any Commissioner who believes there is nothing wrong with these actions.

Because even though Phillips is no longer on the commission, current EMC Chair, Lanier Brown, is also up to his eyeballs in this mess. Brown fell apart during testimony, answering he couldn’t recall to many questions.

But, so far, it has been pretty much crickets from the Governor, EMC and ADEM director. “This community deserves more than the silence they received from the EMC,” said Cindy Lowry, executive director of the Alabama River’s Alliance.

During a regularly scheduled EMC meeting last week, environmental attorney David Ludder spoke for many when he again asked for the resignation of Chairman Brown, if Brown refused to make public all emails related to the north Birmingham superfund scandal.

Brown’s only response was that he was not going to resign.

Members of the EMC apparently have no objective to protect the environment. The only reason most are even appointed and serve on the EMC is because they or their employer have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.

At that EMC meeting last week several residents living amongst the poison in Northern Birmingham addressed the EMC pleading for help. When they finished reading their statements, not one EMC Commissioner uttered a question or statement, exiting the room as quickly as they could.

Logical thinking would be that Southern Regional EPA Administrator and former director of ADEM Trey Glenn, who also hired to fight the Superfund site, will recuse himself from any future involvement. But will he?

While three men will likely go to prison as a result of the investigation and trial, as I’ve written before, that number should probably be closer to a dozen. Everyone from Luther Strange to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has this stench on them.

But, the man in charge of the investigation, US Attorney Jay Town serves at the pleasure of AG Sessions. Town was also a political advisor to Strange. So it should come as no surprise that he has announced no more charges are expected and the investigation is complete.

So with the trial concluded and most escaping retribution, it is back to business as usual in Alabama. 

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