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For Immediate Release – February 1, 2024
Sierra Club Leaders to Join Dr. Robert D. Bullard on February 5th Black History Month Kickoff “Journey to Justice” Tour in South Alabama
Environmental Leaders Will Tour the Historic Black Shiloh Community Threatened by Highway Flooding and a Fossil Gas Pipeline
Dr. Robert D. Bullard, who is often called the “father of environmental justice, ”and a delegation of Sierra Club leaders from the South Region will visit Elba, Alabama on February 5th and tour the flood-damaged Black Shiloh community as part of the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice Black History Month “Journey to Justice.” Elba is Bullard’s hometown. He received a call from Shiloh residents in June 2023 to “come home and help them get justice.” The Bullard Center’s Rapid Response Team made its initial “fact-finding” visit in July 2023. The Black Shiloh community has been burdened with ongoing flooding after the U.S. Highway 84 expansion in 2018.
The Alabama native reached out to the Sierra Club—an ally of his for more than three decades. The Sierra Club published two of Bullard’s 18 books, including Unequal Protection: Environmental Justice and Communities of Color (1994) and The Quest for Environmental Justice: Human Rights and the Politics of Pollution (2005). In 2013, Sierra Club honored him with its John Muir Award and in 2014 named its Dr. Robert D. Bullard Environmental Justice Award after him.
The environmental leaders will hear from Shiloh homeowners who suffer flooding during heavy rains. The state of Alabama and the federal government have been slow to fix the flooding problem. A Fall 2023 ABC News investigation uncovered major flooding challenges in the community—especially among the elderly, persons on fixed incomes and military veterans.
The community tour will give the environmental leaders an opportunity to witness first-hand the horrific conditions Black homeowners and landowners have endured for six long years. The goal of the tour is to grow the partnership with the millions of Sierra Club members and supporters to help amplify the Shiloh residents' voices in their fight against this “poster child” for environmental injustice in 2024.
The tour will be led by longtime Shiloh resident and community leader Pastor Timothy Williams. Before the highway was built, land in the Shiloh community was level and the community did not flood. The highway was elevated—placing the community in a bowl with stormwater draining downhill—flooding homes, property and businesses. Today, Shiloh becomes a lake during hard rains—flooding septic systems and causing sewage backups in homes.
The constant flooding of the land is causing subsidence, with homes sinking into the red clay and contributing to structural damage to homes' foundations. Sadly, flood-related claims are being denied by insurance companies. Some residents are now at risk of losing their homeowners insurance altogether. Shiloh homeowners are left with mounting bills from the flooding. These extra flood-related costs are especially burdensome for elderly and low-income families on fixed incomes. The Bullard Center started a GoFundMe Shiloh Flood Fund to assist the flood victims pay these extra costs. Donations are still accepted.
Shiloh is a historic community. Some Black residents’ land has been in their families since Reconstruction. Now their inheritance is being washed away by flooding. Bullard and his colleagues chronicled the disproportionate negative impacts of highways on Black communities two decades ago in their 2004book, Highway Robbery: Transportation Racism and New Routes to Equity.
Shiloh residents also face a threat from a fossil gas pipeline they recently discovered. The gas pipeline ran dozens of feet away from Shiloh residents’ homes prior to the US 84 highway expansion. It was later rerouted along the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) right of way, just a few feet from residents’ homes. A gas pipeline leak occurred in the Shiloh community on the evening of December 31, 2023. Southeast Gas Company was called, and they replaced two gas pressure regulators. Shiloh community residents are requesting that ALDOT give Southeast Gas permission (use of its right of way) to relocate the gas pipeline away from their homes.
Although the highway flooding and pipeline problem was created more than six years ago under the Trump-Pence administration, the community and its allies are calling on the Biden-Harris administration’s USDOT Secretary Pete Buttigieg to take proactive steps this Black History Month and use its oversight authority to leverage federal transportation funding such as the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, Inflation Reduction Act and related infrastructure dollars to correct the flooding and pipeline problem in Shiloh.
Bullard, who serves on the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council will be leaving Alabama after the community tour and heading to Washington, DC to attend the Biden-Harris administration Black History Month kickoff celebration at the White House on February 6th. The “call for environmental justice for Shiloh in 2024” will be taken all the way to Washington, DC.
The visit will start with a Press Briefing and Community Tour at 12:00 pm CST in Shiloh, AL (Location: 14632 US Highway 84 Elba, AL 36323), which will be followed by a brief discussion of Next Steps from 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm CST. Along the tour, Shiloh homeowners will describe their concerns, priorities, and needs that members of the Bullard Center’s Rapid Response Team will use to coordinate technical, legal, communications, and funding assistance resources to address the problems identified by the residents.
Media Coverage: Media planning to attend in person are encouraged to RSVP by 12 P.M. CST on Sunday February 4,RSVP to David Castillo at David.Castillo@tsu.edu.
About the Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice
The Robert D. Bullard Center for Environmental and Climate Justice at Texas Southern University was launched in 2021 to address long standing issues of systemic inequality and structural racism that cause disproportionate pain, suffering and death in Black and other people of color communities. The Bullard Center works to promote environmental, climate, economic, energy, transportation, food and water and health justice. Texas Southern University is a student-centered comprehensive doctoral university committed to ensuring equality, offering innovative programs that are responsive to its urban setting, and transforming diverse students into lifelong learners, engaged citizens, and creative leaders in their local, national, and global communities.