The Alabama Department of Environmental Management must hold polluters accountable to the law and ensure our national parks and wilderness areas and their rangers, visitors, wildlife and surrounding communities have clear skies and clean air to breathe.
MONTGOMERY, ALABAMA – Today, a coalition of environmental groups including the National Parks Conservation Association, Sierra Club, and several other signees, published an open letter addressed to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) asking the agency to strengthen its regional haze plan to protect air quality in the state. The letter, including all signees, can be found here.
The goal of the Regional Haze Rule, part of the Clean Air Act, is to restore natural visibility - clean air and clear skies - to national parks and conservation areas. States are required to make progress toward achieving that goal each year by updating pollution regulations. Right now, ADEM has no plans to require substantive emissions reductions under the Regional Haze Rule despite the thousands of tons of haze pollution harming people and parks across the state.
In particular, Sipsey Wilderness, located in northwest Alabama, is our state’s largest and most visited wilderness area. In 2020, outdoor recreation in places like Sipsey generated over 55,000 jobs and over $2 billion in wages in Alabama. Our treasured places and reliable recreation economy are being threatened by ADEM’s failure to regulate polluters.
Additionally, ADEM fails to address the disproportionate harms that haze polluters cause for communities of color and Alabamians living below the poverty line. ADEM has both state and federal obligations under Title VI of the Civil Rights Act to meaningfully consider and advance environmental justice in its regional haze state implementation plan.
By not conducting an environmental justice analysis, ADEM is not fulfilling its obligations under the law nor under the EPA’s notice to all states to consider environmental justice concerns in this round of haze pollution planning. According to the EPA’s Environmental Justice Screen (EJSCREEN), there are several polluters in Alabama whose air pollution is harming communities of color and communities living below the poverty line - the same polluters causing hazy skies and clouded views.
Ulla-Britt Reeves, Clean Air Program Senior Advocacy Manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, issued the following statement:
“Across Alabama, industrial facilities are spewing pollution into our air, causing hazy skies and health problems from the beautiful Sipsey Wilderness to Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The ripple effects of pollution in Alabama can be felt all over the Southeast including in communities like Birmingham and Mobile, where people struggle to breathe.
“The agency charged with assuring Alabamians have a safe and healthy environment – ADEM – must do a better job to hold these polluters accountable to the law and ensure our national parks and wilderness areas and their rangers, visitors, wildlife and surrounding communities have clear skies and clean air to breathe.”
Charline Whyte, Senior Campaign Representative for the Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign in Alabama, issued the following statement:
“Alabama Power’s Plant Miller, north of Birmingham, is one of the biggest polluters in the entire country, but unfortunately, it’s just one example of the countless industrial polluters that are endangering our health and quality of life here in Alabama.”
“It is well documented that outdoor recreation is good for physical and mental health. Our national parks and conservation areas should be clean and safe sanctuaries. Alabamians should be able to take their families to enjoy an outing at Sipsey without any fear of potentially getting sick. A.D.E.M. is uniquely positioned to protect Sipsey and ensure a safe, healthful, and productive environment for all citizens. Yet, it is holding back on holding polluters accountable.”
“We hope our Open Letter can signal to state regulators that the people of Alabama want to enjoy all of the beauty our state has to offer, and that those special, natural places deserve to be fiercely protected.”
About the National Parks Conservation Association: Since 1919, the nonpartisan National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) has been the leading voice in safeguarding our national parks. NPCA and its nearly 1.6 million members and supporters work together to protect and preserve our nation’s most iconic and inspirational places for future generations. For more information, visit www.npca.org.
About the Sierra Club: The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person’s right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit www.sierraclub.org.
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