Special Interest Piece

Birmingham and Science

Birmingham and the Environmental Protection Agency

March 19, 2017 by Jeff Hirschy, Communications Director.

As many of you know, the budget proposed by the Trump Administration and supported by the Republican Congress contains large cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency. According to The New York Times the EPA will face a 31% budget cut if this budget is implemented. This cannot stand. While the results of the EPA cannot been seen, felt, or touched sometimes, they are evident every time you travel to downtown Birmingham.

Birmingham, Alabama was founded in 1871 around the crossing of two railroads. In addition to these railroads, Birmingham had all the necessary materials for the production of steel. Soon, the combination of these things (a transportation network and natural resources) spawned a massive industrial city, a city soon to be nicknamed ‘The Magic City’. Birmingham received that nickname because of its rapid growth and powerful industrial base. Its industrial base (steel, mining, and other industry) powered the city for the first hundred years of existence.

Birmingham covered in smog By the late 1960s and the early 1970s, the results of that industrial base was lots and lots of smog over downtown Birmingham. This was not considered a threat, but actually seen as a symbol of prosperity.
Finally, things came to a head when the smog and pollutants released by that powerful industrial base were trapped by a high pressure system that would not leave the area. The base kept belching smoke and pollutants and finally local officials went to the federal government to help. The newly born Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and Birmingham was the site of the first declaration of the emergency powers of the Clean Air Act in the United States.

Because of those emergency powers, Birmingham had to clean up its act and improve its air quality. Today downtown Birmingham looks like this:

Birmingham, clear blue sky So, the next time you’re in downtown Birmingham, remember the role the EPA played in making sure that Birmingham and its people had clean air and continue to have clean air to grow, learn, play, and work in. The Environmental Protection Agency is not a Republican agency or a Democratic agency but a human agency and is deserving of all the funding we can send its way.




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