Us Against DEM
A coalition of environmental and health advocacy groups in Alabama wants to reform the state’s Department of Environmental Management — starting with its name. Saying the agency is too concerned with management and insufficiently concerned with protection, the coalition called yesterday for a new “Department of Environmental Protection” characterized by a different leadership structure, stricter enforcement, more public input, and better funding. The Alabama DEM administers federal environmental laws such as the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts; complaints about the agency have been flying for years and range from insufficient public access to the information it gathers to its reported habit of turning a deaf ear on African-Americans and low-income people with environmental concerns. Coalition member Mark Johnston said of the DEM that, “It needs to be completely restructured,” but Alabama DEM Director Jim Warr said it would take legislation, not just internal reshuffling, to address the most frequently raised concerns.