Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Indictment of Trey Glenn, Trump EPA administrator for the Southeast, suggests Superfund scandal might generate a reckoning for Alabama's white elites

Trey Glenn
Just when it seemed the North Birmingham Superfund scandal had ended -- and the Donald Trump administration could not get any dirtier -- along came Alabama indictments yesterday to show both of those propositions are off target.

Trey Glenn, the Southeast regional administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was indicted yesterday by a Jefferson County grand jury for violating state ethics laws. Among the charges: multiple violations of Alabama’s Ethics Act, including soliciting a thing of value from a principal, lobbyist or subordinate, and receiving money in addition to that received in one’s official capacity. Scott Phillips, former member of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission (EMC), was indicted on similar charges. Both have ties to the Balch Bingham law firm.

Yesterday's indictments were shockers, since a federal jury found a Balch Bingham lawyer (Joel Gilbert), and a Drummond Co. executive (David Roberston) guilty of bribery in a July trial connected to the Superfund scandal -- and former state lawmaker Oliver Robinson pleaded guilty to accepting bribes. It seemed clear at the time that U.S. Attorney Jay Town went after only a sampling of legal, corporate, and political types who could have been subject to criminal charges.

The state indictments of Glenn and Phillips suggest Town, in fact, let a number of rogues off the hook, leaving these compelling questions: How many more white-collar types might be held criminally accountable? Could Glenn and Phillips represent a new, more wide-ranging round of indictments?

Donald Trump appointed Glenn to the EPA position (covering Kentucky, Tennessee, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi) in August 2017. Before that, Glenn was a creature of the Alabama corporate swamps, working with the Balch Bingham law firm, Drummond Co., and the Business Council of Alabama. Along the way, Glenn acquired a reputation as an operative with shaky ethics and little concern for the environment. In a column yesterday at, John Archibald declared himself "toxic shocked" by the charges against Glenn and Phillips:

Can this be happening? Really? Charges against powerful Alabamians who admittedly worked to protect the interests of powerful friends while demeaning low-income residents who must live and die with their choices?

I never dreamed they’d face the music in Alabama. I thought for sure judgment would come for Phillips and Glenn only at the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter would decide whether to send them toward a brownfield down below.

When Trump named Glenn to the EPA role, Alabama conservative honchos sang hosannas. They included U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL), who said:

“As an accomplished environmental engineer from Alabama, Trey Glenn is well-prepared for this new role and challenge as the EPA Region 4 administrator. Having served as the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, he understands the value and importance of state authority and control.”

Gov. Kay Ivey joined the happy chorus:

“His experience as director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management places him in a unique position to be prepared to work with these southern states. We are also especially glad to know someone with in-depth knowledge of Alabama will be overseeing our region.”

Shelby and Ivey obviously know, and like, "a shill for polluters" (John Archibald's term for Glenn) when they see one. But their judgment is not looking so good at the moment, and it's likely to look even worse over the coming months.

Where is all of this heading? We don't have a clear answer at the moment, but we sought insight from the Web site, which has led the way on reporting of the Superfund scandal. From the site's post yesterday on the Glenn and Phillips indictments:

As we wrote in August, Phillips was given the boot by the Birmingham-Jefferson County Port Authority after Balch partner Joel I. Gilbert was convicted on all six federal counts.

During the criminal trial, Glenn admitted handing off confidential work product of public charity and environmental group GASP to Balch-made millionaire Gilbert during day 7 of the criminal trial.

And we are told this is only the beginning!

Where should all of this be headed? Jeff Martin, of the Montgomery Independent, provided insight on that question in an article dated August 22, 2018, shortly after guilty verdicts had been reached in the federal Superfund trial:

Environmental organizations throughout Alabama have joined together in asking Governor Kay Ivey to hold the Alabama Environmental Management Commission (EMC) accountable for actions revealed during the recent bribery and corruption trial in Birmingham. That investigation resulted in one Alabama lawmaker pleading guilty to bribery and half-dozen guilty verdicts against a partner in a prestigious law firm and the Vice President of Drummond Company.

These organizations want to make it clear that ADEM Director Lance LeFleur is not the only one that needs to be held accountable for the inappropriate actions of the state agency and it’s governing commission, all of which was revealed during the trial. The EMC should be as accountable to the people of Alabama as they are to the regulated industries they oversee. . . .

North Birmingham Superfund cleanup
Members of the EMC apparently have no objective to protect the environment. The only reason most are even appointed and serve on the EMC is because they or their employer have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo. . . .
While three men will likely go to prison as a result of the investigation and trial, as I’ve written before, that number should probably be closer to a dozen. Everyone from Luther Strange to US Attorney General Jeff Sessions has this stench on them.

But, the man in charge of the investigation, US Attorney Jay Town serves at the pleasure of AG Sessions. (Trump, of course, fired Sessions last week, so Town might be on shaky ground.) Town was also a political advisor to Strange. So it should come as no surprise that he has announced no more charges are expected and the investigation is complete.

So with the trial concluded and most escaping retribution, it is back to business as usual in Alabama.

Jeff Martin, like many observers, expected the status quo to remain solidly in place. But yesterday's stunning news suggests an overdue shake-up among Alabama's white elites might be coming around the bend.

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