ADEM holds hearing on revised Chem Waste permit for hazardous waste at Emelle, AL; more questions than answers

By: John Zippert, Co-Publisher

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The Alabama Department of Environmental Management held a public hearing on Thursday, January 11, 2018, in Livingston, Alabama on a five year permit renewal for Chemical Waste Management to operate a 2,700 acre hazardous waste landfill, near Emelle in northern Sumter County.
The permit renewal, which has 7,611 pages of technical information, was submitted to ADEM as part of its routine permit renewal process.

Chris Sasser from ADEM conducted the hearing, which was to give local residents from Sumter and surrounding counties an opportunity to comment and raise questions on the permit and regulatory process.
The Chemical Waste Management hazardous waste landfill at Emelle, which was originally permitted in the 1970’s, takes advantage of burying these highly toxic chemicals in 100-foot deep, plastic lined pits in the Selma Chalk (lime-rock) formations found in Sumter County.
The hazardous waste facility lies above the Eutaw Aquifer, which runs hundreds of feet below the facility. The Eutaw Aquifer is a drinking water source for communities from Sumter County across the state to Montgomery. One of the initial and continuing concerns about the facility was its safety in preventing contamination of surface and underground water flowing in, near or under the facility.
The new permit application submitted by Chem Waste proposes the abandoning of a set of wells that “gauge the geological soundness on the Selma Chalk formation in relation to the safety and security of the hazardous waste facility”. Chem Waste proposes to maintain over 50 water wells that monitor ground water and ground water runoff within and around the hazardous waste facility.
Another historical concern has been one of environmental justice with the citing of this major hazardous waste dump in Sumter County, a county in the Alabama Black Belt with a 70% Black population and statistical indicators of persistent poverty of this population.
About one hundred residents from Sumter and surrounding counties attended the hearing. Sasser opened the hearing with a statement that ADEM had come to listen and record the comments and questions of the residents affected by Chem Waste in making its determination on the permit renewal. Questions would not be answered at the hearing but in the ADEM’s final written determination on the permit renewal. At the end of the hearing, Sasser said the record would be held open until January 31,2018 for additional written comments.
Sasser called upon Mike Davis, a spokesperson for Chem Waste would gave a brief statement in support of the permit renewal application. He said he had been connected with Chem Waste for the past 38 years and was basically in charge of the Emelle facility since 2007. Davis said, “we are asking to close certain geologic monitoring wells but we plan to maintain over 50 ground water monitoring wells. We feel a deep responsibility to Sumter County residents for the safety of the facility and for its ability to provide employment and tax revenues to the county.”
Sasser then called on public officer holders to comment. Drussila Jackson, Sumter County Commissioner from District One, who is African-American and in whose district the facility is located. “I am very concerned about the extension of this permit and the abandonment of monitoring wells, since I live in Panola, a rural town in close proximity to the CWM facility, and drink water that is affected by the facility,” said Jackson. She said she had to push ADEM to hold this hearing and was not sure that ADEM was sufficiently concerned about the people in her district who live near the hem Waste facility.
Mayor Tom Tartt of Livingston spoke and praised the “wonderful partnership between Sumter County and CWM” that provided employment and tax revenues for the people of Livingston and Sumter County. Tartt said, “I trust Chem Waste, EPA, and ADEM to protect the citizens of Sumter County. The City of Livingston draws its municipal water from wells and I feel our water is safe.”
Several Sumter County landowners and citizens spoke. Charles and Linda Munoz noted that they had difficulty in downloading the permit and told anecdotes about the dangers of hazardous wastes to drinking water. “This facility is built on an earthquake fault line, so an earthquake could be a grave problem,” said Linda Munoz.
Terry Rosswell, a farmer who owns land close to the CWM facility said, “There are chemicals out there, dioxins, PCB’s and others that they promised not to bring. Bulldozers are running over and crushing barrels. There are real problems with the operation that ADEM needs to address before granting this permit.”
Steve Boyd, another adjoining land owner, showed two file drawer boxes that he filled with the copies of the 7,611 page permit application, which he said he had to go to ADEM’s offices in Montgomery to get. He asked that a copy of the permit application be sent to a place in Sumter County, where it would be convenient for local people, especially poor people and the elderly to review it. Boyd also warned, “That there had been a 2.4 degree earthquake in Sumter County, as recently as August 24, 2017, so earthquakes are possible and they may get stronger.”
Johnny Aycock, speaking on behalf of the University of West Alabama said that the Chem Waste Landfill was a boon to employment and economic development in west Alabama. “ On behalf of UWA, I feel CWM is honest and concerned about the safety of the people of this area, so we support approval of this permit,” he said.
Pierce Boyd, another adjoining landowner said that he had always felt “disrespected” by the owners and management of Chem Waste. ADEM has given CWM 265 waivers of environmental regulations since the facility was first permitted but has not explained its actions to the people of Sumter County. Boyd said, “ I was unable to download the 7,611 pages of the permit. My Internet service would not allow me to download such a large document. I have mined Selma Chalk for agricultural lime. I have found prehistoric fossils on the land where Chem Waste is located. The continued study of the geology of the place is very important and necessary for our safety.”
Kaye Kiker, a native of York, who now lives in north Alabama, who led early fights against CWM, said, “ Wendell Paris and I went out there when Chem Waste started and saw employees whose shoes were melting, as they handled the hazardous waste. They did not have protective suits or gas masks. We had to protest and agitate to get EPA, ADEM and others to pay attention.”
Kiker said, “ADEM is the least staffed agency in state government. We need more people to monitor environmental issues. There is a need for ADEM to have an on-site inspector to prevent illegal materials from coming to the site. A cancer registry is needed to monitor deaths in the area. Protection and warning of earthquakes is needed. I am not sure the permit really is protecting the people of Sumter County.”
Dr. Marcus Bernard, Director of the Federation’s Rural Training Center in Epes a neighbor to CWM said, “ I am concerned about the problems of toxic exposure by predominantly African-American population in Sumter and surrounding counties. ADEM we need assurance that you are doing everything you can to protect us.”
At the close of the hearing, Chris Sasser advised people to send their comments to ADEM or email them to: hearing.officer@ADEM.Alabama.gov.

Greene County Health Systems receives $47,125 in bingo funds for December

 

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Shown above: Brenda Burke representing the County Commission, Boligee Councilwoman Earnestine Wade, Greene County Board of Education, CSFO Katrina Sewell, Assist Chief Walter Beck, Kinya Isaac Turner representing the Town of Forkland; Bingo Clerks Minnie Byrd and Emma Jackson; Mayor of Union James Gaines; seated Greene County Health System CEO Dr. Marcia Pugh and Sheriff Jonathan Benison

On Friday, January 12, 2018, Greene County Sheriff Department distributed $ 374,905 in monthly bingo allocations from the five licensed gaming operations in the county. The recipients of the monthly distributions from bingo gaming designated by Sheriff Benison in his Bingo Rules and Regulations include the Greene County Commission, the Greene County Sheriff’s Department, the cities of Eutaw, Forkland, Union, Boligee, the Greene County Board of Education and the Greene County Hospital (Health System).
The following assessments are for the month of December 2017.
Greenetrack, Inc. gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500 and the Greene County Health System, $7,500.

Green Charity (Center for Rural Family Development) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, the Greene County Health System, $7,500.
Frontier (Dream, Inc.) gave a total of $67,500 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, Greene County Health System, $7,500.
River’s Edge (NNL – Next Level Leaders and TCCTP – Tishabee Community Center Tutorial Program) gave a total of $73,075 to the following: Greene County Commission, $24,000; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $9,000; City of Eutaw, $4,500; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $3,000; Greene County Board of Education, $13,500, and the Greene County Health System, $13,075.
Palace (Tommy Summerville Police Support League) gave a total of $99,330 to the following: Greene County Commission, $4,620; Greene County Sheriff’s Department, $36,960; City of Eutaw, $27,720; and the Towns of Forkland, Union and Boligee each, $4,620; Greene County Board of Education, $4,620 and the Greene County Health System, $11,550.

 

Newswire : Pastor blasts Trump’s ‘Shithole’ comments in front of Mike Pence

By Nina Golgowski, Huffington Post

Vice President Mike Pence reportedly got an earful at church on Sunday, when a pastor blasted President Donald Trump’s reported disparagement of Haiti and African countries.
Pence and his wife, Karen, were guests at the Metropolitan Baptist Church, a historically black church in Largo, Maryland. The church’s pastor, Maurice Watson, told his congregation that he felt “led by God” to speak out against the president’s comments, which he called “dehumanizing” and “ugly.”
Pastor Maurice Watson of the Metropolitan Baptist Church in Largo, Maryland, spoke out against comments that Donald Trump allegedly made against Haitians and Africans this week.
Trump reportedly told lawmakers last Thursday that he preferred immigrants from places like Norway instead of “shithole countries” like Haiti and nations in Africa ― remarks the president has subsequently denied.
Watson noted that many of his congregants come from Haiti and Africa. “I stand today as your pastor to vehemently denounce and reject any such characterizations of the nations of Africa and of our brothers and sisters in Haiti,” Watson said as the audience stood and clapped, according to a video posted to the church’s Facebook page.
“And I further say: Whoever made such a statement, whoever used such a visceral, disrespectful, dehumanizing adjective to characterize the nations of Africa, whoever said it, is wrong. And they ought to be held accountable.”
Local station WUSA-TV reported that Pence was red-faced during the sermon. The vice president’s office disputed that description to The Associated Press on Monday.

Newswire : Federal Judge orders Trump Administration to keep DACA in place

By Roque Planas, Huffington Post

 

FILE PHOTO: Supporters of the DACA program recipient during a rally outside the Federal Building in Los Angeles
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A federal judge in California ordered the Trump administration on Tuesday to keep in place the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children from deportation and allows them to work legally, while a lawsuit proceeds.
The order, signed by U.S. District Judge Williams Alsup, marks a major triumph for immigrant rights groups who have rallied around the program that benefits nearly 700,000 people.
The preliminary injunction on Trump’s cancellation of DACA requires the Department of Homeland Security “to maintain the DACA program on a nationwide basis on the same terms and conditions as were in effect before the rescission on September 5, 2017” ― including allowing those who already benefit from DACA to apply to renew their status.
The order does not, however, allow people who have never held DACA protections to apply as new applicants.
“Dreamers’ lives were thrown into chaos when the Trump administration tried to terminate the DACA program without obeying the law,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) said in a statement. “Today’s ruling is a huge step in the right direction.
The Trump administration “looks forward to vindicating its position in further litigation,” Justice Department spokesman Devin O’Malley said in a statement.
“Tonight’s order doesn’t change the Department of Justice’s position on the facts,” the statement said. “DACA was implemented unilaterally after Congress declined to extend these benefits to this same group of illegal aliens.”
The White House on Wednesday called the judge’s ruling “outrageous,” and Trump, in a tweet, blasted the “court system” as “broken and unfair.”
“An issue of this magnitude must go through the normal legislative process,” White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said in a statement. “President Trump is committed to the rule of law, and will work with members of both parties to reach a permanent solution that corrects the unconstitutional actions taken by the last administration.”
Before the order, the program was scheduled to begin phasing out on March 5.
Alsup is presiding over five lawsuits challenging the legality of Trump’s termination of DACA that were consolidated into one in the Northern District of California. The state of California, the Regents of the University of California, the city of San José and several DACA recipients are among those suing in an attempt to preserve the program.
The lawsuits argue that the White House flouted the process for terminating the program in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act and that the cancellation was based on flawed legal logic.
The Obama administration used executive action to create the DACA program in 2012, allowing undocumented immigrants who arrived as children or young teenagers to apply to work legally in the country and avoid deportation for a renewable two-year period.
The Trump administration announced in September, however, that it would cancel the program, citing a threat from a coalition of 10 states, led by Texas, to challenge the program’s constitutionality.
At press time, we learned that the Trump Administration is appealing this decision in the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and has asked the Supreme Court for an unusual immediate review the decision.

Newswire : Martin Luther King, Jr. was a champion for equity in education

By Stacy M. Brown (NNPA Newswire Contributor)

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Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and Coretta Scott King, at march in Selma, with children of Rev. Ralph Abernathy
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s influence on the Civil Rights Movement is indisputable, but his fight for equity in education remains a mystery to some. That fight began with his own education.
“He clearly had an advanced, refined educational foundation from Booker T. Washington High School, Morehouse College, Crozer Theological Seminary, and Boston University,” said Reverend Jesse Jackson, Sr., the founder of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition. “His education in his speeches and sermons and writings were apparent and he wanted us all to have that type of education.”
King completed high school at 15, college at 19, seminary school at 22 and earned a doctorate at 26.
“Dr. King laid down the case for affordable education for all Americans, including Polish children—from the ghetto and the barrios, to the Appalachian mountains and the reservations—he was a proponent for education for all and he believed that strong minds break strong chains and once you learn your lesson well, the oppressor could not unlearn you.”
Rev. Al Sharpton, the founder and president of the National Action Network (NAN), said that NAN works with Education for a Better America to partner with school districts, universities, community colleges, churches, and community organizations around the country to conduct educational programming for students and parents.
“The mission of the organization has been to build bridges between policymakers and the classrooms by supporting innovations in education and creating a dialogue between policymakers, community leaders, educators, parents, and students,” Sharpton said. “We’re promoting student health, financial literacy, and college readiness in our communities, just like Dr. King did.”
King was a figure to look up to in both civil rights and academia, Sharpton told the NNPA Newswire.
“Then, when you look at his values, he always saw education, especially in the Black community, as a tool to uplift and inspire to action,” Sharpton said. “It’s definitely no coincidence that a number of prominent civil rights groups that emerged during Dr. King’s time, were based on college campuses.”
Sharpton added that King routinely pushed for equality to access to education.
“Just as importantly, he always made a point to refer education back to character—that we shouldn’t sacrifice efficiency and speed for morals,” Sharpton said. “A great student not only has the reason and education, but a moral compass to do what’s right with his or her gifts. It’s not just important to be smart, you have to know what’s right and what’s wrong.”
Dr. Wornie Reed, the director of Race and Social Policy Research Center at Virginia Tech who marched with King, said when he thinks of King and education, he immediately considers the late civil rights leader’s advocating that “we should be the best that we could be.”
“King certainly prepared himself educationally…early on he saw that education played a crucial role in society, but perceived it as often being misused,” Reed said. “In a famous essay that he wrote for the student newspaper at Morehouse in 1947, he argued against a strictly utilitarian approach to education, one that advanced the individual and not society.”
Maryland Democratic Congressman Elijah Cummings, who remembers running home from church on Sundays to listen to King’s speeches on radio, said King had a tremendous impact on education in the Black community.
“Dr. King worked tirelessly to ensure that African Americans would gain the rights they had long been denied, including the right to a quality education,” said Cummings. “His fight for equality in educational opportunities helped to tear down walls of segregation in our nation’s schools.”
Cummings continued: “He instilled hope in us that we can achieve our dreams no matter the color of our skin. He instilled in us the notion that everyone can be great, because everyone can serve and there are so many great advocates, who embody this lesson.”
In support of education equality, civil rights leaders across the country are still working to ensure all students, regardless of color, receive access to experienced teachers, equitable classroom resources and quality education, Cummings noted further.
For example, the NAACP has done a tremendous amount, across the country, to increase retention rates, ensure students have the resources they need, and prepare students for success after graduation—whether it be for college or a specific career path, Cummings said.
During his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech in Oslo, Norway, King said: “I have the audacity to believe that peoples everywhere can have three meals a day for their bodies, education and culture for their minds, and dignity, equality, and freedom for their spirits.”
The need for high quality education in the Black community is universal and the route to get there may be different, but education does matter, Jackson said.
“Dr. King told me he read a fiction and a non-fiction book once a week. He was an avid reader and, in the spirit of Dr. King, today we fight for equal, high-quality education,” said Jackson. “We fight for skilled trade training, affordable college education and beyond.”

Newswire : Senators Kamala Harris and Cory Booker join powerful Judiciary Committee

By Frederick H. Lowe


 Sen. Kamala Harris and Sen Cory Booker

(TriceEdneyWire.com) – Senator Kamala Harris (D-California) and Senator Cory Booker (D-New Jersey) yesterday were selected to join the Senate Judiciary Committee, a very powerful committee that plays a key role in considering U.S. Supreme Court, federal appeals court and district court nominations.
Harris replaces former Senator Al Franken (D-Minnesota) who resigned from office on January 2 after several allegations of sexual misconduct had been leveled against him. Booker’s appointment was made possible by Democrat Doug Jones’s election to the U.S. Senate following a special election in Alabama. The election gave Democrats another seat in the Senate.
Harris is the second black woman to serve on the Judiciary Committee. Former Senator Carol Moseley Braun (D-Illinois) was the first. Booker is the first black man to serve on the committee.
Booker tweeted from @corybooker : “Excited to join the Judiciary Committee. It’ll be my mission to check awful actions by Trump & Sessions; keep working to advance the cause of reforming our broken justice system; and to bend the arc of history closer toward equal justice for all.”
Harris tweeted from @SenKamalaHarris: “Thrilled to share that I’ve been appointed to the Senate Judiciary Committee. You have my commitment that I will fight for justice on behalf of Californians and all Americans.”
Republicans still have a one-seat advantage on the committee of 11 to 10. Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) is committee chair and Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) is the ranking Democrat.
The Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies hailed both appointments. “The appointment of Senators Harris and Booker to the Senate Judiciary Committee is another important step in the movement to create a more representative Senate and will have a meaningful impact on how policy is made,” said Spencer Overton, president and CEO of the Joint Center, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank for black-elected officials.
The Judiciary Committee has oversight over the Department of Justice, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and components of the Department of Homeland Security.
The committee considers legislation that impacts immigration, criminal justice and intellectual property.

Doug Jones meets with ANSC delegation to discuss plans and priorities

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ANSC delegation members who met with Senator Doug Jones are left to right: Dr. Carol P. Zippert; John Zippert, ANSC State President; Gus Townes; Senator Doug Jones; Karen Jones; Attorney Everett Wess; Robert Avery; Attorney Faya Rose Toure; Attorney Sharon Wheeler; Senator Hank Sanders.

Special to the Democrat
By John Zippert, Co-Publisher

Doug Jones, Alabama’s newly elected Senator, met with a delegation of Alabama New South Coalition members on Saturday, January 6, 2018, in Birmingham. All of ANSC delegation members played an active role in the ‘Vote or Die Campaign’ to register, educate, mobilize and turnout voters in the December 12, 2017 Special Election, in which Jones defeated Judge Roy Moore.

Jones was coming off his first week in Washington D. C. where he was sworn-in to his new position. Jones was accompanied to the swearing-in ceremony by former Vice President, Joe Biden. Jones was sworn-in along side Tina Smith, a new Senator from Minnesota, who will fill the un-expired term of Senator Al Franken who resigned. Smith was accompanied to the swearing-in by former Vice President Walter Mondale, from Minnesota.
Jones thanked the ANSC and the Vote or Die Campaign for their support and help in winning a closely fought contest with Judge Roy Moore. He said he appreciated “the early and continuing efforts of ANSC, ANSA and Vote or Die from the beginning of the race, starting at the first primary and continuing all the way through.”
Members of the ANSC delegation expressed congratulations and support to Senator Jones and indicated that they realized that “ a movement orientation was needed not just an ordinary political campaign, to create the excitement and interest, to generate the kind of turnout that was required to win this election.”
Jones said that he would work to represent all of the people of Alabama and he was looking for priority issues to work on that would unite voters – Black and white, urban and rural – in the state.
Jones said he was definitely going to push for reauthorization of CHIP – Children’s Health Insurance Program, which serves 150,000 children in Alabama and 9 million nationwide.
Another priority was working to keep rural hospitals open, which would help places in north Alabama, as well as the Alabama Black Belt, from losing their hospital and having to travel long distances for medical services. Jones said he would work with Congresswomen Terri Sewell, who has proposed adjustments to raise the low reimbursement rates paid to rural hospitals under Medicare and Medicaid.
Jones said building, repairing and improving infrastructure, including more than roads and bridges, and extending to water and waste water systems, broadband communication services and other community facilities. He said that he was trying to get assigned on Senate committees that dealt with these issues.
Jones indicated that he does not support cuts to “entitlement programs” like Medicare, Medicaid and Food Stamps which help low income people to balance the budget.
On Monday, it was announced by Minority Leader Chuck Schumer that Senator Jones would serve on the: Housing, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP), Banking, Homeland Security and Government Affairs (HSGAC) and Aging Committees.
Senator Jones assured the ANSC delegation that he would have an active and robust staff around the state to provide information and constituent services to people in Alabama. He was still staffing his offices and was still receiving resumes from persons interested in serving on his staff in the state and in Washington. As reported last week, he has chosen Dana Gresham, an African-American, to serve as Chief of Staff. Jones indicated that he might develop a mobile office to travel to rural and more remote communities to provide services to constituents that cannot easily travel to offices in larger cities.
Senator Jones said that he would continue to communicate on a regular basis with the delegation about the upcoming state elections in 2018 and his own re-election campaign in 2020. Jones said that he would participate in the upcoming Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma, the first weekend in March, and other activities related to supporting voting rights.