Securing Environmental Justice in Birmingham

Race, Class & the Environment

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.

Even today, 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 on ongoing air pollution in the North Birmingham neighborhoods of Fairmont, Harriman Park, Collegeville, and North Birmingham. 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.

What is Environmental Justice?

The environmental justice movement was born out of research and writing from leaders like Dr. Robert Bullard, who exposed the disparities in environmental exposures and health outcomes between white and black communities. Books like Dumping in Dixie led to the term “environmental racism.” The Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as “the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies.” In other words, a person’s ZIP code, race, or socioeconomic status should not determine whether or not they can live a healthy life.


Michael Hansen

Executive Director

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 205.701.4270

Nina Morgan

Climate & Environmental Justice Organizer

Email: [email protected]
Phone: 205.701.4020

Toxic City: 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.) Some of the neighborhoods highlighted in the film were subject to Birmingham’s 1926 unconstitutional racial zoning laws — showcasing the intersection of racist house laws, zoning, and environmental policy, the result of which is a textbook case of environmental injustice.

Toxic Risk in Jefferson County

Below is a map of the major sources of air emissions in Jefferson County, Alabama, based on EPA's 2017 Risk Screening Indicators Score (RSEI) data, a model that combines information from the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI) about the amounts of toxic chemicals released with factors like the toxicity and potential human exposure. The colors on the map show the percentage of the neighborhood's population that are people of color. Darker red means more people of color. Below the map is a list of the top polluters in Jefferson County based on the most recent RSEI data.



Photo Gallery

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

Get Involved

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

Alabama Groups File Motion to Intervene in ABC Coke Consent Decree

The groups filed a motion to intervene in ongoing efforts to approve a proposed settlement to address ABC Coke’s illegal emissions of benzene and the impacts on communities around northeast Birmingham and Tarrant, Ala.

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...

FAQs About ABC Coke’s Permit: What You Need to Know

Last fall, the Jefferson County Department of Health posted ABC Coke's Title V pollution permit renewal application. (Title V is just a provision of the Clean Air Act.) We asked for (and received) an extension on the public comment period to allow us and residents of...

Toxic Birmingham: Power, Pollution and Corruption

Media Inquiries: Please contact Michael Hansen, Executive Director, at 205-320-9670 or [email protected] Note: This is a living story. We will update this article periodically with new information, additional context, and more links as we discover them — and find...

Settlement Alleges Clean Air Act Violations by Drummond’s ABC Coke

Drummond Company has reached a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Jefferson County Board of Health (JCBH) for alleged violations of the Clean Air Act at the ABC Coke in Tarrant, Ala. The consent decree,...

Environmental Agency Leaders Indicted for Criminal Violations in Alabama

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASEMedia Contacts:Michael Mullen, President, Environmental Defense Alliance, 334-807-1365, [email protected] Michael Hansen, Executive Director, Gasp, 205-746-4666, [email protected] Agency Leaders Indicted for Criminal...

Mayor Randall Woodfin Steps Up for North Birmingham

Mayor Randall Woodfin Steps Up for North Birmingham Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin this week sent a letter to the EPA urging the federal agency to place the North Birmingham Superfund Site on the National Priorities List. The EPA first proposed putting the site on...

Gasp, Conservation Groups Demand Lance LeFleur’s Resignation or Termination

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Eleven Conservation Groups Call for ADEM Director’s Resignation or Termination ahead of Annual Job Evaluation BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 30, 2018) — The bribery and corruption trial U.S. v. Gilbert, et al yielded many disturbing revelations,...

Official Statement: Convictions a First Step in Securing Justice for North Birmingham

OFFICIAL STATEMENT Corruption Convictions First Step in Securing Justice for North Birmingham BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (July 23, 2018) — On Friday, July 20, a jury found Balch & Bingham Attorney Joel Gilbert and Drummond Company Vice President David Roberson guilty of six...

Who Does Trey Glenn Work For?

Who Does Trey Glenn Really Work For? Financial disclosures show the EPA Region 4 Administrator was paid at least $5,000 by Balch & Bingham for ‘Drummond/ABC Coke project' by Michael Hansen | March 9, 2018 Yesterday I wrote a lengthy story about then-Sen. Jeff...
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