Stop Coal Ash Dumping in Alabama’s Most Vulnerable Communities

Coal Ash

Target: The US Environmental Protection Agency Office of Civil Rights

Goal: Stop environmental agencies from deliberately selecting marginalized communities as sites for dumping coal ash.

Residents of a largely African-American community in Alabama have filed a complaint against the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM). They feel that the decision to allow tons of coal ash to be dumped in a Uniontown landfill was discriminatory—based on the race and low economic status of the residents—and consequently constitutes a violation of their civil rights.

The Environmental Protection Agency is investigating the complaint. And if the results of the investigation reveal that the location of the landfill constitutes a civil rights violation, ADEM could lose the federal funding it receives. As fossil fuel resources become more limited and their waste continues to pile up, it is important to ensure that the consequences of energy use do not fall primarily on the backs of marginalized communities. The EPA must conduct a thorough investigation in Alabama as well as in other states where similar situations are taking place and revoke federal funding in the event that the actions of a state agency constitute a civil rights violation.

The landfill in Uniontown, Alabama is causing residents to suffer from physical ailments like headaches and nausea, as well as decreased property values. In addition, coal ash—the material left over from burning coal to produce electricity—is known to contain a variety of dangerous heavy metals and has long been disputed as a potential form of hazardous waste.

Under the Civil Rights Act of 1964, agencies that receive federal funding are prohibited from instituting policies that “have the effect of subjecting individuals to discrimination because of their race, color, national origin, or sex.” Residents of Uniontown feel that ADEM allowed the construction of the landfill and later classified it as a site for dumping and storing coal ash in part because the bordering community is predominantly black and among the poorest in the state.

Nonetheless, a recent report revealed that the EPA has never revoked federal funding from a state agency despite its obligation to uphold the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. It is time that the EPA fulfills its commitment to stop discrimination by state environmental agencies. Sign the petition below to urge the EPA to conduct a thorough investigation into the Uniontown complaint and to exercise its power to revoke federal funding if necessary.

PETITION LETTER:

Dear Helena Wooden-Aguilar, Assistant Director,

I understand that the Environmental Protection Agency is investigating a complaint filed by residents of Uniontown, Alabama, which charges the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) with a civil rights violation. Uniontown residents feel that ADEM allowed the construction of a landfill and later classified it as a site for dumping and storing coal ash in part because the bordering community is predominantly black and among the poorest in the state.

Proximity to a landfill, and especially one that contains coal ash, comes with health risks as well as decreased property values, which cause surrounding communities to suffer. As fossil fuel resources become more limited and their waste continues to pile up, I think that it is important to ensure that the consequences of energy use do not fall primarily on the backs of marginalized communities.

A recent report shows that the EPA has never revoked federal funding from a state agency despite its obligation to uphold the provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibit state agencies from instituting discriminatory policies. I hope that in investigating the Uniontown complaint, you will take the opportunity to fulfill your commitment to addressing civil rights violations by state environmental agencies. I urge you to conduct a thorough investigation and to exercise your power to revoke federal funding if necessary.

Sincerely,
[Your Name Here]

Sign the Petition

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