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Opinion | The stupidity is still surprising

Congratulations, Guy V. Martin, you’ve managed to surprise me.

That’s not easy to do. At least, not where it concerns someone writing dumb things or carrying the water for a rich person or an even richer company.

I’ve been covering politics in this state for a long time. So, I know a thing or two about dumb things. 

Plus, I work for the Alabama Political Reporter, where viewpoints from all sides are welcomed, even the lunatic fringe of the far right. Bill and Susan Britt, who run this place, believe in an open source of communication, so they rarely, if ever, turn away an opinion — even if they disagree with it.

So, I’ve read a lot of ridiculous, right wing commentaries, in which facts are twisted until they die and Superman-sized leaps in logic are made.

Basically, what I’m saying is, it would take a huge amount of stupidity, combined with even more shamelessness, to even come close to surprising me.

But, Guy, dadgumit, you pulled it off.

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Your column praising the ethical virtue of Balch and Bingham and Drummond Coal, and making the claim that both companies — employees of each were recently convicted of a massive scam — have been unfairly maligned by the media and the “Obama EPA,” was one of the most absurd, fact-less and idiotic opinion pieces that I’ve ever encountered.

It was so devoid of facts and so thoroughly inaccurate about basic events, when I didn’t immediately see a “sponsored content” label on it, I questioned briefly whether it was satire.

To be certain, no sane individual not named Balch, Bingham or Drummond believes a word of what you wrote. The transgressions of that law firm and that coal company, along with the abhorrent actions of Alabama’s Department of Environmental Management, the Birmingham NAACP, several state and local lawmakers and the current U.S. Attorney General, are well documented, well established as fact and inarguable.

Even among the straight-ticket Republican voters, you would be hard pressed to find anyone who believes that Balch, Drummond and others conspired to prevent the EPA from performing a proper cleanup of the 35th Avenue Superfund site.

In fact, if anything, the overwhelming majority of people believe that MORE people should be in prison over this scam.

Starting with Alabama’s former AG, Luther Strange, who inserted the State of Alabama’s legal arm in between poisoned children and the help they desperately need. The EPA relies on responsible elected officials working with the agency to correct incidents of mass pollution, and it relies on those elected officials to stand up for the citizens of their state.

But Strange, and others, had black kids on one side and green dollars on the other. And you know what we most often choose here.

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So, out came the Balch-drafted letters. Our AG, without a shred of knowledge of the case or the legal authority to get involved, signed his name to three of those letters.

Those letters were meant to slow the EPA’s ever-expanding superfund site, which was headed quickly towards Drummond’s primary plant. And see, that’s really what all of this was about — stopping that progression before the soil in Tarrant was tested.

Because once that soil was tested, and those tests came back showing pollutants, Drummond was going to be on the hook for millions more in cleanup fees.

So, there were letters and scams aplenty, including the one Oliver Robinson participated in — the grassroots effort to convince Tarrant residents to decline EPA testing of their soil.

They also pressured the county school superintendent into declining testing at the elementary school. And pressured the mayor. And the council. And the city attorney.

And they applied this pressure by claiming that Tarrant would suffer from decreased property values if a superfund site went up in their town. Because, you know, Tarrant, with its poison soil, is a hotbed of economic activity at this point.

But none of that stopped you, Guy, from ignoring all of those facts, all of that evidence presented in open court, and all of those guilty verdicts, and writing an opinion piece in which you claim Balch has “set a high bar in ethical standards that others envy” and boast about the law firm’s “check-mating” of the EPA’s cleanup efforts in Tarrant.

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It is, in totality, the most nauseating, infuriating and pathetic piece of writing I’ve encountered in a long, long time. But maybe, given what I know about this state, it shouldn’t be such a surprise that some lawyer would be willing to write such utter dreck on behalf of big money companies.

On the other hand, maybe someone from Balch wrote it and you just slapped your name on it.


Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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