Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Vantsevich

Volunteer Spotlight: Anna Vantsevich

Why I Chose to Get Involved
by Anna Vantsevich

Here’s the thing. We all share the air. It doesn’t matter what neighborhood you live in, it doesn’t matter what state you live in, or what country for that matter. Air circulates and moves. It’s quality affects every single person, even those that have the privilege to live in areas that currently have better air quality and top-notch air filter systems at home. Every single person is affected by air, either immediately or in the long run. This is the main reason that I chose to get involved with Gasp, the group that believes everyone deserves healthy air.

Hi, my name is Anna and to say that I love being outdoors would be an understatement.

I LOVE being outdoors. And this trait seems to be in my blood.

My great-grandfather was a forester in Dobrush, Belarus. One of my favorite stories of him is how he would bring back edible nuts for my mom, a young girl at the time, saying that a squirrel sent her the tasty treat as a gift.

My mom inherited this love for nature and passed it on to me. From the day I was brought home from the hospital, my mom took me for walks in a nearby forest Every. Single. Day. – rain, snow, sleet or shine.

Me, the bundle, and my beautiful Mom.

As I grew up, this love for being out in the sun (or rain, or wind, or snow), didn’t change.

Enjoying Red Rock Canyon (and LOTS of sunscreen), Nevada

Having fun at the Valley of Ten Thousand Smokes, Katmai National Park, Alaska. Since I couldn’t do a cool yoga pose, I went for the classic boat pose. Look at that form! 😄

But you don’t have to travel far from home to enjoy the great outdoors!

Red Mountain Park, right here in Birmingham, is one of my favorite hikes.

During my travels I started to read about the environment — and about air quality. It’s difficult to see the quality of air, which is why I think its importance is easy to dismiss, but poor air quality is felt by our health, our environment and our economy. For example, did you know that United States loses approximately $150 billion per year to air pollution-related illnesses? Not to mention that poor air quality leads to an estimated 60,000 premature deaths in the USA every year. [1]

There are huge losses associated with air-pollution. Just as there are huge gains associated with healthy air. That’s why we need to talk about both. I look forward to exploring these topics (and more!) in upcoming blogs.

In the meantime, take a deep breath in through the nose imagining fresh, healthy air coming into your body. As you exhale through the mouth, breathe out any grogginess you feel. Repeat a few more times to bring lightness and clearness into your body and mind.

Till next time.

Wishing you joy, safety and ease,
Anna

References
[1] https://www.weather.gov/safety/airquality

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Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant: Trey Glenn Edition

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant: Trey Glenn Edition

This post focuses on former EPA Region 4 Administrator and former ADEM Director Trey Glenn’s alleged involvement in the EPA/Superfund corruption scandal in our “Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant” series

 

Today’s spotlight is on Trey Glenn, who until recently served as EPA’s Region 4 Administrator, appointed by President Trump. When the illegal activities were occurring, the corruption-adjacent activities were executed by many, including Trey Glenn. Glenn was indicted on state ethics charges on November 13, 2018 and resigned on November 18, 2018.

 

At the time that the criminal behavior of Robinson, Gilbert and Roberson occurred, Glenn was part owner of SE+C Consulting. SE+C was hired by Drummond for technical consulting and community outreach under the guise of “Get Smart Tarrant” to the public.

 

Get Smart Tarrant was, in reality, nothing more than an astroturf front group — a sophisticated misinformation campaign was paid for by Drummond and The Alliance for Jobs and the Economy (AJE) — a group we will touch on in later posts. Get Smart Tarrant was developed and executed by a consortium including: Balch & Bingham, former State Representative Oliver Robison, SE+C, and individuals who worked for or contracted with the aforementioned entities.

 

Below are exhibits from the 2018 USA v. Gilbert et al trial. This evidence relates to Glenn’s activities stemming from a contract between SE+C and Balch & Bingham:

 

1) Trey Glenn utilized his connections and experiences to “sell” SE+C Consulting to Drummond and Balch & Bingham as the right contractors for their important job at hand — oppose EPA’s efforts in north Birmingham and Tarrant. One specific way Glenn undermined Gasp’s work was sending an advance copy of Gasp’s intended presentation to the ADEM EMC in December of 2014 (Glenn received the presentation from Scott Phillips, who you will hear more about in another post, and Glenn then sent that presentation to Joel Gilbert).

 

 

2) SE+C played a significant role in designing and executing the opposition efforts against listing the 35th Avenue Superfund site on the National Priority List (NPL). Had the NPL listing been successful, the hundreds of additional properties in north Birmingham may have been cleaned up; funds could have been allocated to a community group working on these issues; and relocation for those who want it might even be on the table.

 

 

3) Engaging with and misinforming community members was an intentional strategy of Balch and Drummond. Trey Glenn’s firm (SE+C) was the lead designer of the Community & Stakeholder Outreach Strategy.

 

 

4) Trey Glenn was involved in pressuring ADEM to oppose EPA’s efforts to investigate Tarrant. In 2014, Gasp petitioned EPA to investigate potential contamination issues in Tarrant. The EPA agreed to investigate and concluded that their initial findings warranted further testing.

 

 

The billing documents from SE+C provide interesting insights into the depth and expense of this operation:

 

Hoover High School Bio-Bucs: Testing the Air

Hoover High School Bio-Bucs: Testing the Air

by Christian Lam, Maggie Khan and Andrew Gelderman

First of all, what is the BioBucs? 

The Hoover High School BioBucs is the Hoover High School environmental science research competition team. The club was created with an ultimate goal of being recognized as a Green Flag School by the National Wildlife Federation, but has taken on many more projects around our school campus and community. Within two years, we’ve established a pollinator/sensory garden for Special Ed, built a solar-powered phone charging station, conducted a Hoover High light audit, and participated in three Lexus Eco Challenges so far.

We were inspired to monitor the air by Gasp’s documentary Toxic City: Birmingham’s Dirty Secret since Birmingham is so close to home.

Our Most Recent Project

We won the 2018-19 Southeastern Regional Lexus Eco Challenge! A large part was thanks to our collaboration with Gasp. In Spring 2017, we worked with Gasp volunteer Jonathan Self and intern, Vaishali N and built the AirBeam sensors that works in conjunction with the AirCasting App. Through this combo, we were able to record the particulate matter in the air in three different locations: Hoover High, Southern Research STEM Lab, and Sloss Furnace. The PM 2.5 of Sloss Furnace peaked at 347 even in the rain, while Hoover High peaked at 9 on a clear day. When it’s raining, accumulated air pollution sticks to the rain and travels into the ground. Who knows what the Sloss’s PM count would’ve been on a clear day.

Below is a gallery of pictures from our air quality testing adventures and more: 

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant: A Post-Corruption Trial Update

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant: A Post-Corruption Trial Update

Sunlight is the Best Disinfectant: A Post-Corruption Trial Update

After the corruption trial of Joel Gilbert (Balch & Bingham) and David Roberson (Drummond Company), Gasp will begin sharing documents in evidence and explaining how and why this story matters, and where we go from here.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (Nov. 24, 2018) —The trial of the Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert and Drummond Company executive David Roberson is over, and a jury of their peers found them guilty of all charges.  On October 23, Joel Gilbert was sentenced to five years in prison; David Roberson was sentenced to 30 months.

Gasp has taken a special interest in this trial due to our work in the impacted communities since 2010. Much of the criminal and criminal-adjacent activities were in direct response to some of our positions and work regarding the contamination issues. To wit, Gasp was mentioned in Balch and Bingham billing documents introduced into evidence almost 500 times.

Lining a politician’s pockets to receive favors is, unfortunately, a common occurrence in our state and most Alabamians aren’t surprised at all when such news breaks. However, it is uncommon for an executive from a powerful coal company and a partner from the premier law firm representing them to be indicted, found guilty, and be sentenced to prison.

The Balch & Bingham/Drummond trial was not your typical story of a dirty politician getting paid for favors, though. The trial revealed the guts deep inside the successful execution of a corrupt plot: corporate astroturfing, strong-arming regulators, extensive ghost-writing for elected officials, employing “spokespeople” to distribute propaganda, and engaging in downright immoral behavior.

To be clear, there were multiple people, organizations and entities who played a role in deceiving residents in Tarrant and in North Birmingham. The scheme was elaborate, well-funded, strategically designed, and far reaching.

Gasp’s tiny staff (we have two full-time employees and one part-time employee) has been drinking from a firehouse trying to follow along since the trial began this summer. To say nothing of the spent subsequently reviewing the thousands of pages of court documents released.

We think it is imperative that the public have access to the vast quantities of information which reveal the ugly underbelly of corporate strategies deployed to ensure profits are prioritized over people; over our health and our children’s health.

That’s why, now that Gilbert and Roberson have been sentenced, we are going to begin sharing documents from trial evidence along with our interpretation of the context. In an effort to have some semblance of order in the voluminous files, we will categorize them based on subject matter or on an individual who played a role.

It costs money to download all of these files from the Court record (so far, about $400.00). If you can help support this exercise in transparency, and pursuing justice for the Northern Birmingham and Inglenook communities, please make a donation here.

It has taken longer than anticipated to roll out this effort to shed light on the players in this elaborate scheme because ABC Coke, which is owned by Drummond, applied for their Title V permit renewal a year early.

On that note, please make plans to attend this very important public hearing on November 15.

Meet Gasp Interns: Gabrielle Gordon

Meet Gasp Interns: Gabrielle Gordon

Meet Gasp Interns: Gabrielle Gordon

Gabbi Gordon is a UAB student completing an internship with Gasp through UAB’s Academic Small Business Alliance (ASBA) program. Thanks to ASBA for the partnership!

What is your major at UAB and why did you choose it? I am majoring in biomedical sciences, I want to become a doctor and thought biomedical sciences would be an awesome opportunity to learn about the human body from a clinical perspective.

What do you hope to do after you graduate? I plan on attending a graduate school for my master’s in science and then medical school.

What is your dream job? A history orator for the UN. I think with my medical background it would be amazing for me to travel the world and work with developing countries learning about their lives.

What do you hope to learn while volunteering with Gasp? I hope to learn more about leadership, community involvement and more about the air quality that is affects Alabama.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you? I believe clean air is a fundamental right. As biomedical sciences student, I understand the devastating effects of poor air quality. Many respiratory illnesses are attributed to poor air quality. GASP’s mission to reduce air pollution is something we desperately need.

What is your favorite food? I am obsessed with baked Mac and Cheese.

What are your hobbies? Reading, cooking, baking and traveling. Right now, my plan is to visit every state park and national forest in Al, TN, and GA before going to medical school.

Who or what are your influences? I don’t have an influencer or a mentor in mind. However, I think people who are honest, desire good for humanity and hardworking are great influencers.

What are some other fun facts about yourself? I have travelled the entire eastern seaboard in one summer.