Petition Opportunity: Stop Alabama Power from dumping in Environmental Justice communities

As we are finding, many Clean Air Act pollution permits in and around the Africatown community in Mobile, Prichard, and Chickasaw make clear that there are major issues with how the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) permits toxic dumping in low-income and predominantly Black communities in urban Mobile County.

But in rural north Mobile County near Bucks, there’s a mega coal and gas power plant called Plant Barry that’s owned and operated by Alabama Power and the residents near the plant are disproportionately Black and Indigenous, and there are schools and daycare facilities nearby.

And despite these facts, when Alabama Power asked for permission to release illegal levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) from Plant Barry, ADEM agreed and chose not to enforce the Clean Air Act. So, clearly the challenge of environmental racism affect communities across Mobile County.

Breathing SO2 pollution is like getting a sunburn on your lungs, and if Alabama Power’s special permission stands, Plant Barry’s SO2 emissions could be more than two or three times the federal government’s health-based legal limit. Reliable models show the filthy plant’s air pollution is far-reaching, impacting both rural and urban communities already burdened by other pollution.

For this reason, MEJAC has joined forces with Sierra Club Alabama Chapter and GASP to petition the U.S. EPA to step in and properly regulate Alabama Power where Alabama’s state decision-makers didn’t.

By signing your name on the petition and adding your personal message, you’ll show the EPA that there are Alabamians who believe we all deserve clean air.

Scientific air modeling based on the proposed Clean Air Act Title V permit for Plant Barry shows levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) that are in violation of the Clean Air Act’s National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS) at twice or three times the allowable levels immediately around the dangerous facility, and the illegal levels of this toxic air pollutant could even reach into already overburdened urban Mobile County communities like Africatown.

An image from the Attachments to Petition to Object to APC Barry Title V Permit, Sub-Attachment 1, page 3, with the Africatown Planning Area highlighted for orientation showing Africatown's air quality being impacted by illegally high levels of SO2

An illustration provided to EPA in the Sierra Club and GASP Petition to Object entitled “Attachments to Petition to Object to APC Barry Title V Permit”, Sub-Attachment 1, page 3 (page 235 in the PDF), with the Africatown Planning Area highlighted and labeled by MEJAC for orientation to show how Africatown’s air quality may be impacted by illegally high levels of SO2 from Plant Barry. The 1-hour average SO2 concentrations within the red, orange, and yellow contour lines exceed the NAAQS.

An image from the documentation provide to EPA in the Petition to Object entitled "Attachments to Petition to Object to APC Barry Title V Permit", Sub-Attachment 3, page 1 (page 274 in the PDF), with the Africatown Planning Area highlighted and labeled by MEJAC for orientation to show how Africatown's air quality may be impacted by illegally high levels of SO2 from Plant Barry

An illustration provided to EPA in the Sierra Club and GASP Petition to Object entitled “Attachments to Petition to Object to APC Barry Title V Permit”, Sub-Attachment 3, page 1 (page 274 in the PDF), with the Africatown Planning Area highlighted and labeled by MEJAC for orientation to show how Africatown’s air quality may be impacted by illegally high levels of SO2 from Plant Barry. All colored areas exceed the NAAQS.

Now is the time to act! New EPA leaders have committed to achieving environmental justice in overburdened communities – yes, even in Mobile County. Our actions can help them stop polluters and policymakers from turning Black, Indigenous, communities of color, and low-income neighborhoods into dumping grounds.

Add your name. Share your story. And tell a friend.

If we come together, we can make a big difference not only for our neighbors living nearest Plant Barry, but for all of us who are sick of dealing with Alabama Power’s dirty and dangerous special privileges.

And all of these concerns in an addition to all the existing concerns about Alabama Power’s Plant Barry toxic, leaking coal ash waste dump on the Mobile River!


Resources:

More De-Coding the City of Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC)

De-Coding the City of Mobile's proposed UDC theme banner "More De-Coding: UDC Version 5 Update Breakdown"The City of Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC) zoning code rewrite has changed yet again. For environmental justice advocates, there is some great news and some very disappointing news.

During its first Public Hearing at the Mobile Planning Commission on February 25, 2021, Africatown stakeholders and environmental justice advocates from across the City of Mobile came together to raise serious concerns with the fourth version of the UDC (UDCv4).

The Planning Commission then convened two “business meetings” on March 8 and March 29 to consider changes to UDCv4, which effectively modified it to a fifth version of the UDC (UDCv5). The final recommendation of passage of the UDCv5 by the Mobile City Council was voted on at the April 1, 2021 Planning Commission meeting, which saw a few small additional changes made to UDCv5 just before the vote to recommend adoption of the zoning code rewrite to City Council. The Mobile City Council has now received UDCv5, but to-date no Public Comment opportunities have been set.

Back at the February 25th Public Hearing, MEJAC and the Mobile Alabama NAACP continued their environmental justice partnership to make specific recommendations to the Planning Commission in writing. To provide context for the changes partly resulting from environmental justice engagement and advocacy in the code adoption process from UDCv4 to UDCv5, our 10 CONCERNS about UDCv4 are provided below along with 10 UDCv5 UPDATES.

Use this chart for quick reference and to click through to more documentation of our UDCv4 CONCERNS below and how they were or were not addressed in the UDCv5 UPDATES:

v4 Concern 1) Protection Buffers – Partially addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 2) Africatown Tank Farm Expansion – Not addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 3) Industrial Blight in Africatown – Partially addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 4) CPTED limited to Africatown – Not addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 5) Industrial Landscaping in Africatown – Resolved by UDCv5
v4 Concern 6) Riparian Buffer exemptions – Not addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 7) Water conservation in Africatown – Not addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 8) Coal ordinance concerns – Partially addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 9) Oil tank design standards – Not addressed by UDCv5
v4 Concern 10) Affordable housing concerns – Not addressed by UDCv5

A summary of all changes from UDCv4 to UDCv5 has been provided by City of Mobile here (https://mapformobile.org/wp/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Summary-of-Changes-Post-Feb-25-2021-Public-Hearing-2.pdf).

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Webinar Series: De-Coding the City of Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC)

Join MEJAC, the Mobile Alabama NAACP, and directly affected Mobile residents from across the city in taking a critical look at the City of Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC) zoning code rewrite based partly on MEJAC’s UDC report, “Changes are Necessary for the Proposed City of Mobile UDC Zoning Code Rewrite”(https://mejacoalition.org/2021/01/19/final_udc_comments/).

We will open our panel discussions every weekday February 15-19 for a lively and revealing conversation about the Mobile zoning code and its proposed UDC rewrite at 11am followed by a brief audience Q&A.
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The New City of Mobile Zoning Code: Kudos and Concerns

The Africatown community faces huge changes through proposed revisions to the City of Mobile Zoning Code. Advocates have released the following responses to the Planning Department. There is much to potentially be excited for, but unfortunately, there also appears to be many unnecessary and inappropriate zoning designations proposed, as well. As complex as this issue is, Africatown advocates agree that the City must wrestle with the contradictions in the current land use designations, how properties are being used, and the interests of the Africatown community to protect both its residential integrity and respect its many environmental concerns.

Build Mobile’s proposed Unified Development Code (UDC) Background

Africatown residents and regional advocates, as well as many environmental justice community leaders from around Mobile provided significant participation during the Map for Mobile project. This resulted in the creation of a Future Land Use Map (FLUM) of the entire city that provided a non-binding sketch of what a comprehensive zoning map could look like.

The next step taken in the process to modernize the City of Mobile’s long-range planning processes was to examine all of the rules around getting “planning approval” for real estate developers, businesses, and residents in the city.

This culminated as the City of Mobile’s Build Mobile program. Its mission is ostensibly to consolidate and, in some places, “streamline” the planing approval process to make the land use rules that bind developers, business owners, and residents more transparent, modern, and less cumbersome. The Build Mobile process basically exists today as a sub-organization within the city’s Planning Department.

Cover Page of the Build Mobile proposed UDCIn January 2019, Build Mobile submitted a draft of what they are calling the Unified Development Code (UDC) for public consideration, and it’s time to PROVIDE FEEDBACK. The original deadline for this general public comment period ended Friday, March 8, but the deadline has been extended another 30 days to April 8, 2019.

The entire 386 pages of the Build Mobile UDC code is available for review here. Continue reading

Down the Bay & Orange Grove EJ Petitions Delivered to US Army Corps of Engineers

MEJAC delivered a petition with 101 local citizen signatures requesting the US Army Corps of Engineers Mobile District to adhere to the environmental justice consultation process it has publicly promised would happen with the Down the Bay and Orange Grove communities during its Mobile Harbor GRR process of considering the impacts of enlarging the Mobile Harbor ship channel to expand Port of Mobile commerce.

Our organization still hasn’t received a reply to any part of the letter MEJAC sent in early April 2018 formally requesting a response to these and other concerns. But come to think of it, MEJAC has never received a formal response regarding the first letter we sent back in February 2016 about the Mobile Harbor GRR/SEIS scoping process, either. Continue reading