Former Alabama Department of Environmental Management Employee Had Doubts About Plane

Brian Sanford, a former inspector for the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, expressed doubts about the usefulness of the department’s aerial surveillance program when it was started in 2005, comparing Director Trey Glenn to “Homer Simpson.” The program has come under fire recently after Governor Bob Riley took a political trip using the program’s plane.

In blog entries from that time period, Sanford wrote:

“What’s so crazy about the whole thing is that our new leader [Director Trey Glenn] wants to get us our very own plane! The State budget is already meager and our department’s particular slice of the pie is probably the smallest. Raises are few and far between and we don’t even have any of the testing equipment in our section that I learned how to use this week. Yet we’re now going to buy a plane? All I can do is imagine that Homer Simpson has taken over our agency and his first thought on how to solve everything was to put people in planes!”

Sanford also explained how the program worked:

“[Director Trey Glenn] decided we need to conduct aerial reconnaissance in order to locate unpermitted activity. The order came down yesterday apparently, and ever since, they’ve been in a mad rush to slap together a plan for tomorrow. Two of our people will be up in a plane, on loan from another State agency, while four of us will be on the ground in our own, separate vehicles, equipped with GPS units and laptops. When the plane spots an area they want us to check out, they’re going to radio us the lat and long, which we then have to input into an Excel spreadsheet and then import to a MS Streets program to map out where it is and how to get to it.”

When asked about the possibility of using Google Earth, raised in a post on Left In Alabama, Sanford said that he explored the possibility while working at the department, and ruled it out at the time because of the time-sensitive nature of the job:

“Google Earth, in this case, is not practical. I’m not sure how often it’s updated now, but I doubt it’s any more often than it was two years ago. The purpose of the aerial recon was to catch unpermitted construction and mining in areas that wouldn’t be easily observable from roads. While mining jobs last a long time, construction will often be complete within a few months time, during which sedimentation runoff damage to streams and rivers will have occurred. Therefore, real-time information is necessary to find such offending sites, and Google Earth couldn’t provide that. I know, because I suggested it, and got permission to download and examine it. I compared it to known, permitted sites, and the satellite imagery was not up-to-date.”

Sanford also said that Alabama’s laws need to be changed to better protect the environment. Unlike inspectors in other states, such as Georgia, ADEM inspectors lack the authority to immediately shut down job sites as soon as violations of the state’s environmental regulations are discovered. Rather, the violations must be reported back to the department, and work their way through several layers of bureaucracy before action can be taken. Often, by the time inspectors are empowered to act, the damage to the environment has already been done.


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8 Comments on “Former Alabama Department of Environmental Management Employee Had Doubts About Plane”

  1. tim Says:

    Was your friend fired from ADEM? Maybe he’s just disgruntled.

  2. Michael Says:

    He worked out a notice and left for a different job.

  3. Karl Says:

    I’m right you’r wrong. you all are idiots. Me no like airplane.

  4. BB Says:

    Is this the same Brian that could not along with anyone at ADEM? The same Brian that wouldn’t do his work, and was considered a lazy worker by his fellow workers. It must be, because I do not recall any other Brian Sanford working at ADEM in my 5 years at the department. Now I fully understand his point of view.

  5. Michael Says:

    I will let Brian defend himself, if he chooses to do so. However, I will say that I have never known a more diligent or hardworking person than Brian Sanford.

    If this is a personal attack by someone upset that the department’s record is being questioned, I would think that in itself speaks to whether the department has something to hide. If the department is willing to defend its record, I will listen. If the best it can do is resort to smear tactics and personal attacks, I will let that speak for itself.


  6. Brian Says:

    This is the Brian Sanford who worked in the Non-Point Water Source, Construction section just over two years ago. I don’t recall not doing my work, though I would often find myself without any work to do at the end of the day, having completed everything assigned to me. If it appeared that I wasn’t doing anything it wasn’t because I was lazy, it was because I had already finished everything. I detest boredom and usually find things to do, when possible. Many were the days when I would ask my immediate supervisor if there were something more I could do. I also do not recall “not getting along” with my co-workers. I’m by no means the life of the party, but when I returned to Alabama to visit my parents about half a year after I left ADEM, I met my boss and 4 or 5 of my co-workers for a pleasant lunch one afternoon, near the office. While we were all catching up, I was told by my immediate supervisor that her boss had feared from the day I was hired that I wouldn’t remain with the department for a long time. And indeed, when I did turn in my two week notice, everyone in my section expressed their sadness at my departure.

  7. Frank Says:

    I worked for ADEM 12 years. There’s no need for a plane. If there was, ADEM could rent one as needed. But ADEM never needed to rent one before Trey arrived. When word came down, people were rolling their eyes and thinking “What?? Trey’s gonna get it for this” (and rightly so). That was the first thought. Second thought in upper management’s mind would have been “I bet if i can make up an environmental reason for using it, it’ll will get me in good with Trey.” “Fellow coworkers” calling another ADEM worker “lazy” is not something you hear there unless it’s one of the guys that have been there 30 years. This should not be interpreted to mean “they work hard”. It just means they don’t complain about others being lazy.

    Too much depression there. Self-initiative is squashed. There are a few who don’t get depressed after a year, are able to find it a good outlet for their work ethic, and play the social game really well (mainly not getting anyone mad at you). Those become good managers. Turnover rate is 15% per year, and 90% of those are the top quality people leaving.

    But people shouldn’t criticize ADEM. It receives money to enforce specific regulations and it does a good job at it. It does not receive any money to help the environment. ADEM did not choose Trey Glenn as its leader. Politicians did. ADEM did not choose to buy an airplane. Politicians did.

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