I am going to take a special look at one important state agency and discuss how it fared in the general fund budget passed by the Alabama Legislature. The legislators all but eviscerated the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) in the budget. The agency lost a whopping 83 percent of its budget, with funding dropping to a paltry $280,000. In addition, ADEM will be required to pay $1.2 million into the General Fund out of fees it collects from scrap tire and solid waste disposal.
The severe budget cut has the potential to affect citizens and businesses in Alabama with a raft of fee increases to pay for services the agency is required to maintain by law. If the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) decides ADEM is not able to effectively administer the Clean Water Act permitting program in Alabama, the EPA can remove the state’s authority and take over the permitting program itself. Every industry, utility or wastewater treatment operation that discharges pollutants in Alabama waters is required to obtain a permit from ADEM. If the EPA takes over this program, these businesses would have to travel to the EPA’s regional office in Atlanta to obtain the permits.
ADEM Director Lance LeFleur said losing the Clean Water Act permitting program would be an “absolute disaster” for the state, stifling new business recruitment efforts and tying up permits in federal agendas and red tape. Since 2008, ADEM has been woefully underfunded, falling at about 49th in the nation. In order to recoup the revenue from these latest funding cuts, and to pay back the money into the General Fund as is being required, ADEM will request a 20 percent increase in permit fees across the board. The request will be presented to the Alabama Environmental Management Commission. If the board votes no, an EPA takeover is almost a certainty.
ADEM’s budget woes are not only bad news for the agency, but for environmental groups that have been complaining for years that ADEM is not funded well enough to effectively monitor Alabama’s waterways. Groups like the Alabama Rivers Alliance have been worried since 2010 that ADEM lacked the manpower to enforce environmental laws, allowing violators to slip through the cracks.
This situation is dire in a number of respects. I’m not real sure what the answer is, but it surely does sound like Alabama’s citizens, and those who want to do business here, are going to take the hit directly in the pocketbook once again due to ADEM being literally “gutted” in the budget. I have to wonder what the lawmakers who are in control are thinking.
Sources: Al.com and Yellowhammernews.com
Contact us today for a free legal consultation with an experienced attorney.
Fields marked *may be required for submission.
If you would like to subscribe to the Jere Beasley Report digital edition, simply visit our Subscriptions page and provide the necessary information or call us at 800-898-2034.
Attorney Advertising - Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome.