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Last updated 5:34AM ET
February 25, 2021
EPA Says ADEM Not Following Polluter Guidelines
(APR - Alabama Public Radio ) - The federal Environment Protection Agency has warned Alabama's environmental watchdog office that federal guidelines on hazardous waste inspections and penalizing polluters are not being followed by the state.

EPA said the Alabama Department of Environmental Management lacks proper documentation on whether polluters had been fined for violations and does not have a written policy on how fines are calculated, making it impossible to determine if fines were appropriate and imposed in a fair manner.

The federal agency said ADEM had "effective compliance and enforcement programs," exceeding national averages in many areas. But it said the state agency needs to adopt a formal written system for issuing penalties and more aggressively go after companies that violate pollution permits repeatedly.

The Press-Register reported the EPA findings Wednesday.

"We completely agree with the EPA's assessments and are working on those issues," said ADEM spokesman Scott Hughes.

The EPA report said the state agency issues letters citing violations but does not set a date to be in compliance or explain the penalty for continued violations.

The report cites several instances where letters did not lead to compliance by a violator.

"ADEM repeatedly issued Letters of Violation instead of escalating enforcement by pursuing appropriate enforcement action," the EPA report said.

Hughes, the ADEM spokesman, told the Press-Register that "the repeated issuance of Letters of Violations will become the exception and not the rule" as the agency addresses EPA's criticisms.

Hughes also promised that ADEM will become more aggressive in dealing with violators. "We are incorporating changes into our enforcement strategy," he said.

"ADEM allows too many repeated violations before they begin to take violations seriously. They need to be more aggressive," David Ludder, an environmental lawyer who previously served as ADEM's chief lawyer, told the Press-Register. "They fail to disclose how they arrived at penalty amounts and they fail to take into consideration all of the penalty factors required by state law."

Hughes said the agency would start including written explanations of any penalties issued to address EPA's criticism.


Information from: Press-Register,

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