GASP, MEJAC, and Sierra Club Notch Win in Fight Against Air Pollution in Alabama

EPA Agrees that Plant Barry Pollution Permit Violates Federal Air Standards

Emily Bosch,

MOBILE, AL - Last week, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a petition submitted by Sierra Club, GASP, and the Mobile Environmental Justice Action Coalition (MEJAC) that asked the agency to step in to enforce pollution controls at Plant Barry near Mobile, AL. 

Plant Barry is owned and operated by Alabama Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company. At issue is Plant Barry’s Title V permit, which determines the amount of air pollution the coal plant is allowed to emit under federal National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS), established by the Clean Air Act. 

In February 2021, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management issued a final permit that Sierra Club’s expert analysis found allowed Plant Barry to emit levels of sulfur dioxide (SO2) that can cause exceedances of federal NAAQS rules. SO2 is a gaseous air pollutant and major contributor to fine particle air pollution in the United States that numerous studies have shown to be linked to premature deaths. When setting the one-hour SO2 NAAQS, the EPA determined that exposure to SO2 in even very short time periods, such as five minutes, causes decrements in lung function; aggravation of asthma; and respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity.  

SO2 pollution impacts communities in the area who already experience the disproportionate consequences of environmental racism and environmental degradation. The reach of Plant Barry’s SO2 plume includes a high percentage of Black and Indigenous populations. Additionally, rates of poverty and cancer in this area are elevated. 

Ramsey Sprague, President of MEJAC, issued the following statement:

“Environmental Justice has a long way to go, but EPA’s leadership on the letter of the law when it comes to basic Clean Air Act reporting, monitoring, and record keeping standards is key to ending the cycle of abuse that far too many communities have suffered under for far too long. “MEJAC is encouraged by EPA’s rejection of the ADEM Clean Air Act pollution permit for Plant Barry. We are committed to ongoing, fair scrutiny of power plant pollution with partners like GASP and Sierra Club, especially where it impacts communities already overburdened with many other types of pollution.”

Michael Hansen, Executive Director of GASP, issued the following statement:

“The EPA decision to grant key parts of our petition shows the value of groups like MEJAC, Sierra Club, and GASP holding both polluters and government agencies accountable. State and local agencies are far too often asleep at the wheel, and they are now on notice. ADEM now has the opportunity to draft a stronger, more protective permit for Alabama Power’s Plant Barry. We hope they take this opportunity seriously, because the people of South Alabama all deserve clean, healthy air to breathe.”

Charline Whyte, senior campaign representative for the Sierra Club Beyond Coal Campaign in Alabama, issued the following statement:

“We know that without enforcement, the Clean Air Act won't magically let Alabamians breathe easy. When industries want special privileges to hurt our health, we have to make sure the rules get enforced. 

“We are pleased to see that the EPA decided to step in and protect Alabamians from dangerous air pollution. The Sierra Club and our allies at GASP and MEJAC have been raising alarm bells for more than a decade that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management is failing to do the job of protecting us from pollution that makes us and our families sick.


About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with millions of members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action. For more information, visit