MONTGOMERY — The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said Wednesday afternoon that its federal funding, including grants, is not changing despite changes in Washington, D.C.
Earlier in the day, the agency was still assessing the impact of a freeze in grants from the Environmental Protection Agency.
“The normal grants to the state are forthcoming,” said Lynn Battle, a spokeswoman for ADEM. “We don’t know about new grants, but the ones that have already been awarded, we’re under the impression they’re fine.”
President Donald Trump’s administration put a freeze on new contracts or grants awarded by the EPA, The Associated Press reported Tuesday. That announcement concerns local environmental groups who say the money not only supports clean air and water initiatives, but economic development.
Battle said she did not immediately have information about the number of EPA grants that come into the state, but said ADEM does receive some.
According to the EPA’s website, Alabama has a $16.8 million grant for its Safe Drinking Water State Revolving Fund, used for the “completion of cost effective water treatment, storage, and distribution facilities in the state.”
In 2016, about $60 million of ADEM’s $154 million budget was from federal and local sources, according to the Legislative Fiscal Office. It’s not clear how much of that was in the form of grants. The state’s General Fund contributed about $200,000 to the agency. Fees made up the rest of the funding.
EPA grants also go directly to communities, including brownfield grants that help assess and clean up contaminated sites where industries once stood. The goal is to get them back in use and on tax rolls.
In 2013, Decatur used a $400,000 brownfields grant to assess properties along Sixth Avenue Southeast and the riverfront.
A grant freeze is worrisome, said Stefanie Francisco, development and communications director for Conservation Alabama, an environmental lobbying organization.
“I think there might be a general idea about the EPA that doesn’t take into account the work on the ground that happens,” Francisco said. And that work requires funding.
On its website, the EPA has an extensive list of grants awarded in the state, though they’re not broken down by date or whether they’re still active.
“It you look at the list, there are things on there we all think are important,” Francisco said. “Air pollution monitoring and mitigation, radon testing, the removal of old, leaking oil tanks. We rely on these a lot more than the average person might think.”
Last year, the Mobile Baykeepers found out it had qualified for a $91,000 grant to expand a school program connecting the environment on the coast and the economy. Now the funding is on hold, Executive Director Casi Callaway said Wednesday.
“We will definitely keep trying and looking for money from other sources,” Callaway said. “We’re really going to need the local community to invest in the protection of clean water, especially if we don’t have federal support.”