Environmental Justice Community Organizer

Environmental Justice Community Organizer

Environmental Justice Community Organizer

Birmingham, AL

About the Position

As the EJ Community Organizer, first and foremost you will be an active listener in communities. You will be the eyes, ears and voice of Gasp in impacted communities. The EJ Community Organizer will build community power to address environmental issues affecting their communities. They will also be responsible for assisting with membership recruitment, coalition building, advocacy, and achieving other priority organizational objectives. You’ll serve as an ambassador for Gasp’s advocacy, education and litigation efforts in the community and an unbiased problem solver for reducing air pollution throughout greater-Birmingham. Finally, you will be a leader in promoting the economic, environmental, and health benefits of clean air.

The ideal candidate must have a strong commitment to empowering the people of Greater-Birmingham with the knowledge, skills and opportunities to effectively advocate for themselves. This position reports directly to the Executive Director and will work closely with the Outreach Director and Staff Attorney, as well as partner organizations like People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination (PANIC). The EJ Community Organizer will develop meaningful, mutually beneficial relationships with leaders and residents in impacted communities, particularly the neighborhoods of Fairmont, Harriman Park, Collegeville, North Birmingham, Acipco-Finley, Tarrant, Inglenook, and East Birmingham.

About Gasp

Gasp is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization with a mission to advance healthy air and environmental justice in the Greater-Birmingham area through education, collaboration and advocacy. Gasp strives to reduce air pollution, to educate the public on the health risks associated with poor air quality and to encourage community leaders to serve as role models for clean air and clean energy development. Everyone has a right to breathe clean air.

The Ideal Candidate:

  • Has a bachelor’s degree in environmental science, public health, political science, psychology, communications or other relevant field.
  • Has 1-3 years of relevant experience in community organizing, social justice, advocacy, nonprofit organizations, or other related work.
  • Has demonstrated the ability to speak confidently in a public forum.
  • Is proactive, curious, self-motivated and highly organized.
  • Demonstrates a strong interest in community and social justice issues.
  • Is able to train community leaders to take action effectively in the public arena.
  • Can work with diverse faith institutions and racial/ethnic communities.
  • Possesses strong interpersonal skills.
  • Is familiar with and has a connection to impacted communities in the Birmingham area.
  • Is willing and able to travel up to 25% of the time.
  • Bilingual English-Spanish is a plus. (English fluency is required.)

Key Responsibilities

The EJ Community Organizer will meet regularly with Gasp staff and PANIC leaders to plan and evaluate work progress. A significant part of the duties will involve helping to develop and implement a Birmingham environmental justice vision and workplan. Some of the primary responsibilities will include the following:

Building Grassroots Power

  • Assist People Against Neighborhood Industrial Contamination (PANIC) to help advance their agenda to list the 35th Avenue Site on the National Priorities List.
  • Identify, engage and develop community members, grassroots leaders, youth, and clergy of various faith traditions, by conducting one-on-one relational meetings.
  • Attend workshops, trainings or professional development opportunities related to grassroots organizing.
  • Support and train in community, faith, and school settings to build the leadership pipeline.
  • Provide educational presentations to schools, neighborhood associations, civic clubs, and other groups throughout the greater-Birmingham area.

Civic Engagement & Advocacy

  • Assist attorneys in the production of comment letters, briefs, documents such as Notices of Intent to Sue, legal motions, and other pertinent legal case duties in a timely and efficient manner.
  • Organizes non-partisan civic and voter engagement campaigns.
  • Attend and speak at public meetings, hearings, and community events.
  • Monitors local, state, and federal decision-making bodies such as the Birmingham City Council, Jefferson County Department of Health, Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Alabama Legislature, etc.
  • Develop relationships with staff of strategic partners, community leaders, allies, and policymakers who can help advance our environmental justice agenda.

Membership and Community Outreach

  • Participate in tabling events throughout the year.
  • Enhance membership database by collecting and entering information.
  • Recruit new members and supporters.
  • Serve as an organizational spokesperson when called upon.
  • Support staff with event planning, production, and follow-up.

Perks of the Job

This is a full-time position with competitive pay based on education, experience and other qualifications. We offer generous leave policies including paid vacation, sick time (we prefer to call it “wellness time”), parental leave, etc. We have a relaxed office atmosphere and a culture built on trust and honesty. Gasp offers health and dental insurance through Blue Cross & Blue Shield of Alabama. You will have the potential to earn bonuses based on job performance and fundraising success. In addition, you will have ample professional development opportunities to support your long-term career goals. Finally, you’ll sleep well at night knowing you’re doing important work to make the world a better place!

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Competitive Salary

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Health & Dental

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Flexible Schedule

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Paid Time Off

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Professional Development

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Sleep Well at Night

Interested?!

We will accept applications through May 31. To apply, please send your resume, a 1-page cover letter, and a list of 3 references with the subject line EJ Community Organizer Position to Executive Director Michael Hansen at [email protected].

We strongly encourage people of color, Indigenous people, women, and LGBTQ+ people to apply. Gasp is an equal opportunity employer that does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national or ethnic origin, religion, disability, genetic information, age, veteran status, sex, sexual orientation , gender identity or expression or marital status.

‘What’s Up With that Sherman Concrete Plant?’

‘What’s Up With that Sherman Concrete Plant?’

Recently, there has been a lot of buzz about Sherman Industries relocating one of its concrete batch plants from Five Points South to Five Points West. This news broke after the company requested an air pollution permit from the Jefferson County Department of Health on April 14. Around the same time it was revealed that the Southside site was proposed to be rezoned for a mixed-use development by Birmingham POD, LLC, which Bham Now reports is connect to a Denver company called Residential Ventures.

Residents requested a public hearing from the Department of Health on the air pollution permit and also urged City Council to exercise its authority to re-zone the property in Five Points West as specified in the Community’s 2015 Western Area Framework Plan. The Department of Health will hold a public hearing on June 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the Birmingham Crossplex.

We’ve been getting tons of questions about this from the media, residents, and leaders. So we thought it would be a good idea to answer a few of the most common questions we’ve been getting.

What is a concrete batch plant?

Concrete is made from water, cement, and aggregate (such as sand, crushed stone, slag, fly ash). A batch plant — or batching plant — is just the name of a facility where those ingredients are combined to make concrete.

What’s the main air pollution concern with a concrete plant?

The primary pollutant of concern is particulate matter, or PM. Also called particle pollution, PM is made up of tiny solid particles and liquid droplets in the air. PM comes in many different shapes and sizes and can include everything from acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, and metals, to microscopic bits of soil, pollen, and dust.

Concrete batch plants have a reputation for creating significant amounts of fugitive dust, which consists of tiny crushed up bits of things like sand, silica, aggregate, cement, and metals. Fugitive dust is not emitted from the manufacturing process itself but is rather distributed into the air through other means. In other words, it’s not what you would see coming out of a smoke stack, but instead what you’d see blowing around the property — hence the term “fugitive.” According to the EPA, fugitive dust accounts for 92% of the coarse particle pollution (PM10) in the United States.

What’s a “minor source permit”?

A typical concrete batch plant in the United States has to obtain what is called a “minor source permit” for its air emissions. In Jefferson County, those permits are issued by the health department. Under the Clean Air Act, facilities that emit more than 100 tons per year of any single criteria air pollutant (such as particle pollution), more than 10 tons per year of a single air toxic, or more than 25 tons per year of any combination of air toxics have to get a “major source permit.” Sherman Industries’ plants do not meet those thresholds but do have emissions; therefore, they must get is a minor source permit.

Where does fugitive dust come from?

Some of the most common sources of fugitive dust at concrete batch plants include transfer of the aggregate material to the site; truck and/or equipment loading; aggregate storage piles; and traffic to, from, and near the site.

Does a “minor source permit” mean there’s nothing to worry about?

Air pollution is leading environmental risk factor for premature death and disease in the world. Because particulate matter is microscopic, it can be inhaled into your lungs and can negatively affect the heart, lung and even brain health. Research has shown that particle pollution is linked to neurological diseases like dementia, Parkinson’s Disease, and multiple sclerosis. It also stunts the cognitive development of children and can permanently damage the brain. Exposure to air pollution is linked to stroke, heart disease and other cardiovascular health issues. As little as 15 minutes of exposure to particle pollution can result in an increase in blood pressure. Finally, The most obvious symptoms of air pollution exposure come from the respiratory system. Asthma, COPD, lung cancer, and numerous other lung diseases are known to be directlly linked to breathing dirty air. There is no safe level of exposure to particle pollution. 

Who is the most at risk?

In general, the people most at risk to the harmful effects of air pollution are children, seniors, pregnant women, and people with preexisting health troubles like asthma, COPD, and diabetes. In addition to those vulnerable groups, research has consistently shown that people of color and low-income families are disproportionately burdened by air pollution. In fact, Birmingham ranks in the top 15 urban areas with the largest disparity in air pollution exposure between whites and nonwhites, placing an undue burden on poor communities and people of color. Clean, healthy air is a right, and one’s skin color or socioeconomic status shouldn’t determine their opportunity to live a healthy life.

What can I do?

Attend the Department of Health hearing on June 6 mentioned above and voice your concerns about Sherman’s draft air permit. Talk to your City Councilor about what they’re doing to proactively prevent things like this from happening again, especially without consulting with the community first. If you’re opposed to the re-location, call Sherman and ask them to consider a different location not in the heart of a densely populated residential area.

By the way, how do I report air pollution concerns in Birmingham?

Whether you see a plume of smoke or smell something, you should always report that instance of air pollution. If you have air pollution concerns in your community and you live in Jefferson County, this is how to get those complaints on the record:

  1. If you see air pollution (for example, a plume of black smoke) take pictures. Not only is this evidence of the problem, but it helps identify the type of pollution and source of the problem you’re dealing with.
  2. Submit a complaint to the regulatory agency. In Jefferson County, you report air pollution to the Department of Health (JCDH). When you submit your complaint, be very specific. Include the date and time you noticed the air pollution. If you experienced a smell, describe it as best you can. (For example, did it smell like tar or rotten eggs?) The best ways to report pollution to JCDH are:
    • Call 205.930.1276 or 205.930.1230
    • If you have a picture, email it with your complaint to: [email protected]
  3. After you report the pollution to JCDH, tell us. We will do our best to help you investigate and solve these issues. Share your complaint with us by calling 205.701.4272 or emailing Haley Lewis at [email protected]. You can also share your complaint at gaspgroup.org/airwatch.

Groups Sue Trump’s EPA for Coke Oven Cancer Pollution

Groups Sue Trump’s EPA for Coke Oven Cancer Pollution

WASHINGTON, D.C. (April 15, 2019) — Today Earthjustice on behalf of Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future, Gasp, Louisiana Bucket Brigade, and Sierra Club, sued the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for improperly regulating coke ovens – producers of known carcinogens – thus failing to protect communities throughout the country. Over a decade ago, EPA found that carcinogenic emissions from coke ovens destroy air quality and cause devastating health complications, yet plaintiffs in the case argue the agency failed to act to protect nearby communities from this threat.

“The pollutants spewed by coke ovens cause cancer and other serious illnesses. Fourteen years ago today, EPA admitted that it couldn’t say whether its own regulations adequately protected people from this threat and promised to do something about it. Since that day, EPA hasn’t taken a single step to fulfill its promise. It’s long past time for EPA to do its job and protect people in places like Birmingham, Ala., Clairton, and Erie, Pa., and St. James Parish, La.,” said Earthjustice Attorney Tosh Sagar.

“EPA determined years ago that coke ovens produce known carcinogens and that millions of residents in nearby towns and cities breath these carcinogens in. This is just one in a long litany of EPA’s failure. It’s time EPA does its job to review and revise standards for coke ovens in order to protect these people and meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act,” said the plaintiffs in a joint statement.

Coke ovens used usually for iron making superheat coal producing more than 40 highly toxic air pollutants – including benzene, arsenic, and lead – that escape poorly-sealed oven doors every time coal is added to bake or coke is removed from an oven. These poisonous gases not only cause breathing problems but are also known carcinogens that threaten nearby residential communities.

In 2005, EPA issued regulations for emissions from coke oven batteries. But these regulations didn’t address many of the points in the coke oven plants that are responsible for significant emissions. Even worse, EPA itself recognized that it could not know whether the 2005 regulations adequately protect people from these carcinogenic gases.

EPA promised to address this problem, but 14 years have passed and EPA has done nothing. In just the last few years, EPA admitted in federal court that it similarly failed to review and update standards for more than 40 other sources of hazardous air pollutants. Thus, EPA’s failure to review and revise standards for coke ovens is just one example of its disregard for using the Clean Air Act to protect communities. This lawsuit aims to enforce the Clean Air Act by requiring EPA to properly regulate coke oven facilities that produce known carcinogens.

Examples of the Impact of Coke Facilities:

  • U.S. Steel’s Clairton Coke Works in Allegheny County is the largest coke plant in the country and decidedly has the greatest impact on deteriorating air quality in western Pennsylvania. Decades of consent orders, multi-millions of dollars in fines paid, and more recently, tougher enforcement by regulators have not resulted in Clairton operating in a manner protective of air quality. “Forcing EPA to finally set standards for these emissions will go a long way to protecting people living near coking facilities like Clairton in western Pennsylvania and across the country,” said PennFuture President and CEO Jacquelyn Bonomo.
  • In Birmingham, there are two coke plants less than two miles from each other within low-income, overwhelmingly African-American communities. One of the two plants, Drummond Company’s, ABC Coke, is the largest merchant producer of foundry coke in the United States. In February, the U.S. Department of Justice announced the company would be fined $775,000 for violating the Clean Air Act. The Asthma & Allergy Foundation of America ranks Birmingham in the top 10 in its Asthma Capitals report.
  • The residents of the St. James Parish, La., already experience some of the highest cancer rates in the nation and Nucor plans to add to their burden by building a new, massive coke oven plant. If EPA reviewed and updated these standards, Nucor would have to build this plant using the most-up-to-date pollution controls. But if EPA doesn’t act fast to review the standards, the residents of St. James parish will be subjected to carcinogenic gases as a result of Nucor’s old, dirty technology for decades to come. “Nucor made the decision to put its polluting facility in the middle of a historic black community, and now that community is bearing the brunt of its pollution and the government’s failure of oversight. It’s long past time for the law to be enforced,” said Anne Rolfes, director of the Louisiana Bucket Brigade. 

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MEDIA CONTACTS

Tosh Sagar
Earthjustice attorney
202-797-4300
email

Anne Rolfes
Louisiana Bucket Brigade
504-484-3433
email

Michael Hansen
Gasp
205-746-4666
email

Judy Kelly
Citizens for Pennsylvania’s Future
412-805-8494
email

Jane Williams
Sierra Club
661-256-2101
email

Katie’s Corner: My First Month Interning at Gasp

Katie’s Corner: My First Month Interning at Gasp

My name is Katie Causey and I am a junior at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I am majoring in Biomedical Science with a minor in chemistry. My long-term career goal is to become a physician to improve the quality of human health.

So far working as one of Gasp’s spring interns for 2019 has opened up my eyes on the reality of what poor air quality does to our health. As a pre-med student I have always been concerned about various factors that contribute to our overall well-being, but to be quite honest I have never thought about air pollution from a public health standpoint and what we are exposed to on a daily basis. This semester my main project and focus is to educate the school systems in Jefferson County on what Gasp’s aspirations are, what they stand for, and hopefully implement the amazing programs that they have to offer.

I have had the privilege to talk with some schools about their previous endeavors with Gasp and others about future involvement with Clean Air, Healthy Kids. When I was around the students and listened to their concerns, all I could think was that I wish that I had had this kind of exposure earlier on in my academic career. A couple weeks ago I also had the pleasure of going to a local school to inform them about what exactly the Gasp program entailed and how it would best benefit their school.

As a result of some schools’ dedication to this program, Gasp was able to show the others what they had already accomplished by bringing tangible products of the classroom’s success. I would love to for this to act as as a domino effect and let the involvement of other schools and their achievements speak for itself. I believe that the more the general public is educated on what is happening and what needs to be done, it is one step closer to having exceptional air quality in our great city of Birmingham, Alabama.   

 

Gasp Delivers Blistering Letter to Environmental Management Commission, ADEM

Gasp Delivers Blistering Letter to Environmental Management Commission, ADEM

On Friday, February 15, Haley Lewis, our staff attorney, hand delivered a rebuttal to inaccurate statements made by Alabama Environmental Management Commission (EMC) members and the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) during the regular meeting of the Commission. 

The letter — addressed to EMC chair Dr. Samuel Miller, EMC member Lanier Brown and ADEM Director Lance LeFleur — attempts to correct several inaccurate or misleading statements by the three men during the December 14 2018 AEMC meeting in response to a presentation made by me (Executive Director Michael Hansen).

In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency proposed adding the North Birmingham 35th Avenue Superfund Site to the National Priorities List, a designation under federal environmental law that allocates resources to cleaning up communities with high levels of industrial contamination. That EPA proposal, among other things, prompted Drummond Company and its law firm Balch & Bingham to develop a campaign to undermine the effort. That campaign involved pressuring public officials and regulators, including  LeFleur, to oppose the NPL proposal and other EPA actions. That campaign came into question after the indictments of former Rep. Oliver Robinson, Balch & Bingham attorney Joel Gilbert, and Drummond executive David Roberson. Robinson pleaded guilty to several corruption charges, while Gilbert and Roberson went to trial and were convicted on six corruption counts.

Evidence during the trial of Gilbert and Roberson revealed the extent to which the campaign leaned on ADEM, the governor’s office, the attorney general’s office, state legislators, local elected officials, and other public officials to thwart the NPL recommendation from EPA. It revealed a “shadow government” run by influential corporate interests and powerful lobbyists masquerading as community outreach and public relations. In the end, EPA never did include the 35th Avenue Site on the NPL and residents of those communities continue to bear a disproportionate burden of toxic pollution.

Last December, in light of the evidence from that trial and other information learned through the media over the past two years, I gave a presentation at that meeting to ask the EMC to direct LeFleur to change ADEM’s position on the proposed addition of the North Birmingham 35th Avenue Superfund Site to the National Priorities List. The premise of my presentation was that LeFleur’s position was wrong and, especially in light of the very clear influence of Balch & Bingham and Drummond on the Department and the EMC, they should reconsider and instead support the EPA proposal. The EMC then proceeded to grill me about matters not pertinent to my presentation, including a contentious back-and-forth between me, Brown, and Miller. After the EMC finished cross-examining me, Director LeFleur was then offered time by the EMC to rebut my presentation point-by-point.

The letter, embedded below, is our response to those misstatements and poorly drawn conclusions. Our position remains steady: the EMC must direct ADEM Director Lance LeFleur to change the Department’s position on NPL. And ADEM must tell EPA that it supports listing the 35th Avenue Superfund Site on the National Priorities List.

In addition to that well-reasoned conclusion, we also urge EMC members and Director LeFleur to visit the community with us and meet the residents whose health and quality of life are daily affected by living on the frontlines of toxic air pollution and corporate greed.