Some residents of Uniontown, Ala., are being sued for $30 million by Green Group Holdings LLC, the owner of Arrowhead Landfill, for complaining about noise, rodents and odor, which the company says is libel and slander.
Inside Climate News has a feature story looking at the landfill:
Lawsuits like this one are often called Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation or SLAPP suits. The goal is to burden defendants with legal costs as a way of silencing dissent. Twenty-eight states have enacted protections against SLAPP suits, on the grounds that they infringe on First Amendment rights. Alabama is not one of them. Georgia, where the plaintiffs are headquartered, is.
"The issue here is not the plaintiffs' free speech rights, which we respect, the issue is that they have knowingly made false and defamatory statements with the intent to do damage to our business and reputation," said Michael Smith, who represents Arrowhead in the lawsuit.
Rowland, the lawyer for the ACLU who has filed a motion to dismiss Arrowhead's suit, disagrees.
"This is technically a free speech case," said Rowland, "but the deeper story is one of community activism and racial justice. These are people who live in an overwhelmingly impoverished town that has become a political punching bag for an unhealthy environment. That is a reality that can't be explained without talking about race."