The Alabama Department of Environmental Management is facing significant state and federal budget cuts over the next two years. This is a most serious matter and the cuts could undermine the agency’s ability to staff and manage some of its federally-required programs. In late February, ADEM Director Lance LeFleur reported to the Environmental Management Commission (EMC) that the Governor’s office might be forced to cut the agency’s current budget by 15% and its 2012 budget by 20% to 25%.
ADEM gets about half of its budget from the federal government, and Lance said he expected a cut in that revenue stream, as well. Under President Obama’s budget proposal, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency faces a 13% cut, a reduction that is likely to filter down to the state level.
Director LeFleur also informed the EMC that the cuts are “potentially catastrophic,” especially considering that ADEM’s budget is at the same level it was 20 years ago. During that same 20-year time frame, the regulatory responsibilities that the EPA has placed on ADEM have greatly increased. He said the agency is focusing on preserving core functions that protect public health and is looking for more ways to streamline operations through automation. The department is working on a web-based system for people to report environmental problems and is working with regulated industries to have monitoring reports submitted electronically.
Despite these efforts, the latest cuts to ADEM’s budget could possibly lead to an EPA takeover of one or more of the critical federal programs that the state agency currently administers. While a federal takeover is extremely rare, EPA has threatened ADEM with this kind of move in the past – and may well carry through on its threats if ADEM can’t demonstrate that it has the personnel or funds to do the job. Hopefully, the Governor and legislators will find a way to keep that from happening.
If you need additional information on this matter, contact David Byrne, a lawyer in our Toxic Torts Section, at 800-898-2034 or by email at David.Byrne@beasleyallen.com.
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