Why Environmental Justice?

A person’s ZIP code, race, or socioeconomic status should not determine whether or not they can live a healthy life.

Environmental justice is at the core of who we are for a very simple reason: communities of color and lower incomes are disproportionately affected by pollution. We aim to protect everyone’s right to breathe clean, healthy air. Birmingham was built in the late 1800s on the strength of the iron and steel industry. Nearly 150 years after its founding, The Magic City has a new identity as a growing hub for finance, education and healthcare. The Clean Air Act of 1970 and other regulations prevent and reduce pollution from manufacturing plants, chemical factories, and other major facilities. However, the fact of the matter is that these operations still pose risks to our health and threaten the vibrancy of our communities still today.

Right now, just a few minutes from downtown Birmingham, thousands of people live in communities boxed in by railroads and heavy industry. Smokestacks rain soot and chemicals down on the residents and their property every day. Those who suffer the most from dirty air tend to have the least amount of power to create and affect change. In other words, pollution is a matter of environmental and health justice. We work with residents, community leaders, and resource partners to find solutions to this ongoing problem. Our work in education, organizing and promoting better policies are critical to help disadvantaged communities reduce the burden of toxic air on their communities and families.

Birmingham’s Dirty Secret

In 2014, Gasp produced a short documentary called “Toxic City: Birmingham’s Dirty Secret,” which highlighted several individual stories from those neighborhoods. (Watch the trailer above.) In 2014, Gasp petitioned the EPA to look into potential contamination in the nearby Tarrant and Pinson Valley areas that border the 35th Avenue Site. That investigation was approved and is ongoing. We also have two pending Title VI complaints with the EPA against the Jefferson County Department of Health alleging the the air permits for Walter Coke and ABC Coke have a disparate impact on predominantly African-American communities.

Our Work

Our work on ongoing air pollution in the Northern Birmingham communities involves neighborhoods that were subject to Birmingham’s 1926 unconstitutional racial zoning laws. These communities were unlawfully restricted to live among polluting industries due to unconstitutional, racially discriminatory zoning laws. Research also shows that zoned-for-blacks neighborhoods were located in or near industrial sites and are four times more likely than white neighborhoods to contain heavy industry.

Photo Gallery

These are photos taken from the documentary film, “Toxic City: Birmingham’s Dirty Secret.”

Our Commitment

Gasp is committed to helping the impacted residents and reducing the pollution. Our involvement includes:

✊ “Toxic City: Birmingham’s Dirty Secret”

✊ Reviewing air permits from polluters in environmental justice communities

✊ Supporting grassroots organizations in the community

✊ Serving as a resource partner to the North Birmingham Community Coalition

✊ Engaging leaders in the greater Birmingham area on the plight of impacted communities

✊ Enlisting the assistance of researchers to gather and analyze data

✊ Operating the AirWatch hotline so residents can report air pollution

Get Involved

Whether you can volunteer in the community, collect petition signatures, or write a letter to the editor, we need your help!

Recent Blog Posts

Securing Environmental Justice for Northern Birmingham

Tidying up my family's summer vegetable and flower gardens brought some calmness to a hectic week. With every season and year that passes, playing in the dirt as therapy gains greater significance for me. I recall when my boys (now teenagers) were young, giving them a...

Gasp Responds to Corruption and Bribery Charges Related to North Birmingham

The following is a statement from Gasp Executive Director Michael Hansen regarding corruption & bribery charges related to North Birmingham: I was stunned to learn the extent of the conspiracy involving former-Rep. Oliver Robinson, Balch & Bingham, and Drummond...

Federal Roundup: Trump’s First #100Days Edition

The news is a buzz this week with assessing President Trump’s first 100 days in office. NPR did a great Q&A with Cokie Roberts about this Presidential benchmark and its significance, if any. I have been doing my best to keep you all up to speed since day one of the...

Renew Alabama Conference to Shine a Light on Climate Change

Countering a national agenda which seeks to divide us will require us to discover our shared values. Renew Alabama is a new coalition united under a common banner of social, environmental, and climate justice. Grounded in our shared humanity, experiences and faith,...

BREAKING NEWS: Alabama Supreme Court Rules in Favor of Gasp

The Alabama Supreme Court today denied a petition from ABC Coke (a division of Drummond Company) and the Jefferson County Board of Health for writ of certiorari in ABC Coke and Jefferson County Board of Health v. Gasp, Inc. In other words, the Alabama Supreme Court...

Federal Roundup: Recent Executive and Legislative Actions

It’s been a few weeks since I updated everyone on executive and legislative actions. Sadly, this is not because there has been nothing to update; so this will be a long one! However, one reason this update is delayed is because I attended an inspiring conference two...

Federal Roundup for March 6

Wondering what's been going on since I blogged about the most recent updates two weeks ago? Don't worry, we've got you covered! This is the latest installment in our series on federal executive and legislative actions. Several new developments have cropped up and we...

My Experience at the Women’s March in Birmingham

When we were asked if Gasp would participate in the Women’s March in Birmingham, we enthusiastically agreed. The March stands for principles Gasp absolutely supports. Plus, it would be great to set up a table and spread the word about healthy air and clean energy to...

Alternative Facts: Air Pollution, Climate Change & Health

This past Sunday, a Meet the Press interview featuring Counselor to President Donald Trump Kellyanne Conway went viral after she coined the phrase "alternative facts." I couldn't help but chuckle when I heard this euphemism coming out of the new White House. (I also...

EPA Makes Positive Changes to Comply with Civil Rights Act, but Uncertainty Remains

On December 29, 2016, the EPA withdrew a proposed rule to amend its nondiscrimination regulation regarding compliance information for Title VI of the Civil Rights Act. Last year Gasp weighed in on the proposed changes and objected to the removal of deadlines in the...
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