Statement on Moody Landfill Fire
A landfill in St. Clair County has been burning since November, spewing toxic and cancer-causing pollutants into the air and into nearby residents' lungs. Our state government, especially its deeply-underfunded Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), has utterly failed at both preventing and addressing this tragedy. It has instead hypocritically turned to its much-maligned political whipping post, the Environmental Protection Agency, to save us. The EPA has had to approve a budget increase and now estimates that it will cost $2.8 million to put out the fire.
The Moody landfill fire is the clear result of a long history of our elected representatives in state government's failure to adequately fund protection for the environment and our own citizens. Alabama's historic political resistance to environmental and social "safety nets," and its outright hostility to government environmental oversight, have directly led to this disaster, and many other such disasters are already smoldering, waiting for a wind to flame.
Alabama’s elected leaders must prioritize the health of its residents, correct its historic hostility to government environmental protection and oversight, and reform ADEM and related agencies to prevent future environmental and public health disasters like this. We must prioritize the safety of the people most at risk, e.g., children, pregnant women, and the elderly. Poor/BIPOC folk need to feel --and actually BE -- protected in their communities. It is no accident that this disaster is occurring in Moody, Alabama and not Mountain Brook, Alabama.
The fact that this “state of emergency” was only declared after two months of impotent state finger-pointing and paper-pushing is outrageous. The burning buck stops with Governor Kay Ivey, but rest assured Alabama's Republican-dominated supermajority bears equal responsibility. Indeed, in 2016, the legislature slashed ADEM's budget, already among the lowest in the nation! According to AL.com, "The department's appropriations from the general fund was limited to $280,000, all of which was dedicated to the concentrated animal feeding operation program, which sets limits on how animal feeding operations can affect water quality." And, more directly relevant to our current disaster, "In addition to the paltry general fund appropriation, the budget forces ADEM to pay $1.2 million back to the general fund out of fees collected from scrap tire disposal and solid waste disposal in the state. ADEM Director Lance LeFleur said those fees are not meant to be general tax dollars but fees charged for the specific services of monitoring and cleaning up illegal tire dumps and permitting and inspecting landfills across the state."
Our elected leaders have failed us in the worst way. There is no excuse for their behavior, just as there is no question of their blame. Alabama citizens deserve better.