ADEM Reform COALITION
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), our state agency entrusted to protect Alabama’s environment, has broken that trust, but citizens from across the state are working together to restore accountability.
WHAT IS ARC?
The ADEM Reform Coalition (ARC) was founded in 2002 and now has 38 member organizations representing tens of thousands of people from environmental, faith-based, environmental justice, health, rural, consumer, homeowner and social justice groups. CRS was a co-founder of ARC, serves this year as Central Alabama Membership Coordinator for ARC, and is active daily on its leadership committee.
ARC aims to transform the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) into an agency with the leadership, mission, resources and policies to protect Alabama’s environment, safeguard human health, and pursue environmental justice.
ARC’S ROLE IN BRINGING NEW LEADERSHIP TO ADEM
The 7-member Environmental Management Commission (EMC) oversees ADEM, is supposed to set environmental policy for the state, and hires/fires the Director of ADEM. In 2003/04 one of ARC’s main goals was to get the EMC to do its job and hold the director accountable for improving the agency.
In 2003 ARC member groups secured the right for the public to speak at EMC meetings – a right we did not have before. We then organized citizen presentations at every EMC meeting to illustrate how ADEM’s failings are hurting people, communities and the environment and to ask the EMC for help. Our stories inspired a drumbeat of media coverage throughout the state about problems at the agency and the need for change. ARC gained EMC support for creating an environmental justice ombudsman and establishing stronger enforcement policies. In October four courageous EMC members decided that new leadership is essential to improve the agency and dismissed the long-term Director, Jim Warr.
Although Warr manipulated state laws to name himself “Acting Director” and special interests sued two of the Environmental Management Commissioners to retaliate for their votes to replace him, positive leadership change has occurred. In early 2005 the EMC hired Trey Glenn as the new Director, and Warr retired in the spring. ARC produced a recommended ADEM Reform agenda for Mr. Glenn’s first 6 months.
NEW ADEM DIRECTOR
Mr. Glenn has thus far shown willingness to study ADEM’s problems and consider solutions. Soon after he began work, he contacted Beth Stewart, CRS’s Executive Director, and asked for a meeting with environmental leaders to think through ways to improve the agency’s enforcement program. Glenn has met 4 times with ARC leaders, spending significant time discussing our and his perspective on why the enforcement program is failing and the specific, feasible solutions that would ensure existing laws are enforced fairly, swiftly, and consistently in a way that deters violations.
What remains to be seen is whether and how quickly Glenn will bring long-awaited change to the agency.
ARC GOALS FOR 2005/2006
We are at a crucial juncture in ADEM reform. ARC’s priority agenda for the coming year is to improve the agency’s enforcement; institute an Environmental Justice Division at ADEM with policies and legislation that will prevent any community from bearing a disproportionate cumulative burden from multiple pollution sources; and continue to strengthen agency leadership through the EMC. Two of the sitting EMC members, Sanders and Wainwright, have expired terms. Both supported the former director and ran an EMC that simply rubber-stamped ADEM actions. ARC is working to encourage the Governor to appoint new commissioners who recognize that ADEM has serious problems and who have the expertise, independence, and commitment to change that is necessary to find solutions.
If your organization wants to join ARC and fight for Alabama’s environment, contact Beth Stewart at email@example.com or 322-5326 x11.