Federal indictments handed down in bribery case involving efforts to block EPA cleanup of poor Birmingham neighborhood

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The U.S. Attorney’s office in Birmingham has indicted three people in a burgeoning case involving an Alabama lawmaker and alleged efforts to stop a Superfund pollution cleanup effort in a low-income Birmingham neighborhood.

Two attorneys from the powerful Balch and Bingham law firm and a representative of Drummond Company are accused of conspiring with former Alabama Rep. Oliver Robinson (D-Birmingham) in an effort to persuade residents in the North Birmingham neighborhood to oppose expanded cleanup efforts.

The indictment alleges that the EPA notified five companies, including a Drummond Company division, they could be responsible for tens of millions of dollars in cleanup costs and fines.

The three men named in the indictment are attorneys John Iverson Gilbert and Steven George McKinney, and also David Roberson, who the indictment says served as Drummond’s vice-president for government and regulatory affairs.

The indictment alleges the men funneled payments to Robinson, who represented the area, and in turn, Robinson argued publicly “to protect the residents of North Birmingham” in opposing the designation of a Superfund site or placing the area on a national priorities list for cleanup.

Robinson pleaded guilty on Sept. 7 to bribery, conspiracy, fraud and tax evasion charges and his plea agreement with prosecutors required assisting their ongoing investigation.

The indictment alleges the men provided Robinson with $28,000 in checks for his efforts to block the Superfund expansion.

The charges include conspiracy to defraud the U.S., bribery, money laundering and wire fraud.

Our news partners at AL.com have done extensive reporting on the case.

The alleged efforts were related to an EPA finding described in the indictment.

“EPA designated an area of north Birmingham, Alabama, including the neighborhoods of Harriman Park, Fairmont, and Collegeville, as the 35th Avenue Superfund Site based on elevated levels of arsenic, lead, and benzo(a)pyrene found during soil sampling,” according to the indictment.

It continues, “In July 2014, EPA began considering a petition filed by GASP, a Birmingham, Alabama, environmental advocacy group, to expand the 35th Avenue Superfund Site into the Tarrant and Inglenook areas of north Birmingham and to conduct a preliminary assessment of pollutants allegedly deposited there by ABC Coke and others.”

 

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