A complaint filed by residents of Uniontown, Alabama, is one of 17 cases pending at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of Civil Rights. More than half of these cases have been pending for at least a decade.
- The Uniontown complaint, filed by 35 residents in 2013, alleges that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management twice violated civil-rights law when permitting the Arrowhead Landfill. Residents say the landfill has disproportionately harmed the surrounding black property owners.
- The Alabama Department of Environmental Management has been the target of 11 civil-rights complaints over 17 years — among the most of any state environmental agency, according to EPA records. ADEM insists it complies with Title VI of the federal Civil Rights Act of 1964.
- To issue a discrimination finding in a case, the EPA must determine that an alleged act of environmental harm has affected a community of color more so than others. In Uniontown, according to the complaint, the percentage of African-Americans is higher than in all 33 states that can send trash to the Arrowhead Landfill combined — 87 to 15 percent, respectively.
- Under guidelines drafted in 2000, the EPA has allowed targets of civil-rights claims to raise what it calls a “rebuttable presumption,” essentially arguing that there is no discrimination if a facility complies with environmental standards. Recently, however, EPA officials have issued a draft “position paper” promising to eliminate such a defense.