The state of Alabama and the federal government appear to be on a collision course when it comes to the 2016 fiscal budget. More specifically, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is concerned about the funding, rather lack thereof, that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) is set to receive, according to AL.com. The budget is so lacking that there currently is, in fact, not really a budget at all. Very little, if anything at all, has been allotted to the ADEM in recent proposals.
Actually, that’s not entirely true. If negative values count, ADEM is on track to be nearly 7.7 million in debt in 2016. This comes from provisions that call for the environmental department to pay into a general fund from the money they collect in fees, pollution permits, and waste disposal. Lance LeFleur responded to this possibility in a report prepared by the Alabama Environmental Management Commission:
“These revenues are not general tax revenues, they are fees charged for a specific service,” LeFleur wrote. “Alabama would, for the first time, not only be providing zero financial support to environmental programs, it would convert the financial support environmental programs receive from self-generated sources to a funding source for the general fund.”
Of course the EPA won’t stand by and allow such matters to occur without repercussion. If changes aren’t made they could take over the states water permitting program. The federal government uses their claim to water rights for a variety of reasons, not the least of which because 70% of industrial waste is dumped into bodies of water that can pollute a usable water supply.
As LeFleur goes on to say in his piece, this could have a dire impact on economic development of Alabama. Lynn Battle, a spokesperson for ADEM and LeFleur, responded via email to AL.com:
“No new or existing permit holder wants EPA to issue or administer its water permits,” Battle said. “EPA oversight, resulting in delays and excessive regulatory involvement, would be expected to substantially curtail economic development resulting in loss of new and existing jobs.”
The other option they would have is to increase things like permit fees — an option that is equally unappealing to businesses in the industry. Alabama is already ranked near the bottom in terms of most environmental categories and it doesn’t look to be changing anytime soon. If anything can spark a change, however, it’s the heavy hand of Uncle Sam.