The “Make Me” State: How Environmental Injustice Still Prevails in the Alabama Department of Environmental Management

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Marianne Engelman-Lado
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There are communities across Alabama where residents are disproportionately affected by environmental pollution on the basis of race. These communities have made their complaints known to the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), but according to these communities ADEM has not sufficiently addressed their concerns. As a result, environmental justice communities and advocates have pushed for internal reform at ADEM, filed civil rights complaints against ADEM with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and supported legislation within the Alabama State Legislature that would reform ADEM’s environmental justice programming. Despite these efforts, ADEM has still not adequately addressed environmental justice issues in Alabama even though there were critical moments in its history where it should have. Moving forward, ADEM can look to other state environmental agencies to understand where it can improve its own environmental justice activities by creating a stakeholder advisory board or developing an environmental justice mapping tool. A federal environmental justice bill may also address certain environmental justice concerns. Ultimately, change will not come easily to ADEM.