Court grants voice to GASP and SELC in Birmingham law enforcement case

Alabama state circuit court awarded GASP and Southern Environmental Law Center request for intervention, filed by the groups to stop ongoing air pollution violations at the Bluestone Coke plant in North Birmingham.

The Bluestone Coke plant has been violating its air pollution permit for more than a decade. Residents of predominantly black neighborhoods near the plant, including Harriman Park, Fairmont and Collegeville, have been exposed for years to high levels of toxic and visible air pollution and noxious odors.

“Hardly a day goes by that this pollution directly affects me – I’m afraid to let my grandchildren play outside in the summer because the air quality is so bad and I’m worried for their health, ”said Lamar Mabry, a Collegeville resident. “Bluestone Coke should not be allowed to operate at the expense of my family’s quality of life. ”

Using furnaces that burn coal to produce coke, a high-carbon fuel used in steelmaking, the “coking” process produces carcinogens and particulates.

Senior lawyer Sarah Stokes, left, works with a class member from the University of Alabama at Birmingham to install an air monitoring device at a church in north Birmingham.

The Jefferson County Department of Health recently cited Bluestone for serious violations of its permit to protect air quality from dangerous emissions from leaking coke ovens at the plant, which the company did not has not resolved. In August, the ministry rejected Bluestone Coke’s request to renew its Title V operating license, required by the Clean Air Act.

Bluestone appealed the permit denial to the Board of Health and quickly obtained a stay of the denial, allowing the plant to continue operating while the permit process is ongoing. for long-standing and ongoing violations of federal and state air pollution laws. The circuit court granted the request of the GASP and the SELC to intervene in this case.

GASP and SELC collected ambient air samples in 2019 and 2020 around the plant for laboratory analysis, which showed high levels of benzene and naphthalene, two toxic air pollutants associated with coking. Many neighbors in the area have a history of heart, lung and neurological health problems, including cancer.

“We want to make sure that any compliance plan for Bluestone protects the surrounding communities that have suffered the brunt of this pollution,” said senior counsel Sarah Stokes, “and that all legal steps are necessary to prevent future violations. “.

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