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

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...

Jeff Sessions, Corruption & Environmental Injustice in North Birmingham

Mother Jones is reporting that Attorney General Jeff Sessions was “deeply involved in coordinating the effort to thwart the EPA cleanup” in north Birmingham than we initially thought.

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...

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...
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