Balch’s Wilted Flower Ripped to Shreds

During the criminal trial of Balch & Bingham partner Joel I. Gilbert last summer, Lance LeFleur, the Director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), became le fleur fanée on the witness stand.

As we wrote last year:

The words from the [witness] stand shows a web of politicians and paid goons who appear to be all intimidated or controlled by Balch & Bingham. Balch ran the operation, called the shots, and appears to have had everyone’s undivided attention.

Yesterday, Kyle Whitmire ripped the Wilted Flower a new one:

When Drummond Co. and Balch & Bingham pressured the Alabama Department of Environmental Management to reverse course on toxic soil cleanup in north Birmingham, ADEM Director Lance LeFleur rolled over like a dying fish in an Alabama river.

When 3M self-reported toxins it had dumped in the Tennessee River, the agency he heads didn’t bother to tell anyone — including the people who drink from that river.

And when a Birmingham TV reporter asked about a disastrous fish kill on the Mulberry Fork, where a [Tyson Farms] chicken plant poisoned the water there, too, LeFleur wouldn’t answer questions about that, either.

“This is an ongoing enforcement matter and we owe it to these people to give them due process as we do for anybody,” he said.

In 2015, the EPA wanted to clean up that soil by adding the area to its National Priorities List. All it really needed was an OK from Alabama that it would pick up 10 percent of cleanup costs until it forced local polluters to repay those expenses.

Initially, LeFleur and ADEM said they had no problem with the plan, but one of those potential polluters, Drummond Co., and its law firm, Balch and Bingham, got to LeFleur, applying pressure directly and — through Gov. Robert Bentley — indirectly, until LeFleur told EPA the state agency had changed its mind.

If a state agency can change its mind, then federal prosecutors can change their minds, too.

The Public Integrity Section of the U.S. Department of Justice should take a deeper, closer look at the Wilted Flower, Balch & Bingham, and any alleged “official acts” done for the benefit of Drummond, 3M, or Tyson Farms.

And U.S. Attorney Jay E. Town should reconvene the Grand Jury as soon as the evidence is gathered, and as the Wilted Flower said, “give them due process as we do for anybody.”