Media Controversy Rages in Mobile Alabama Over Oil Storage Tanks

View of downtown from Africatown

A view of downtown Mobile from Africatown: Glynn Wilson

By Glynn Wilson –

MOBIlE, Ala. – While the national news is rife with stories about the death of the Keystone XL Pipeline out west, the ongoing climate talks in Paris and the low price of oil internationally, a local petroleum industry front group and the politicians and media they are trying to buy seem hell bent on making Mobile the only place in the world to welcome the thick, dirty Canadian tar sands crude oil over an outmoded and dangerous rail system.

And the only way they seem to know how to fight the concerns of local citizens worried about the future environmental health of the city and its residents is to buy ads accusing them of being outside agitators?

In an ongoing series of advertisements in the local conservative alternative weekly Lagniappe, a group calling itself “Keep Mobile Growing” is putting out propaganda that harkens back to the days of George Wallace, racist politics and civil rights under the guise of talking about “Myths vs. Facts.”

In the latest ad from the December 2 issue of the paper, the group claims in so-called Myth 13: “The opposition to above-ground storage tanks is the result of a local grassroots movement.” The Fact, according to the ad, is supposedly this: “It is well documented that national groups, such as the Sierra Club, are working in communities across the country to achieve their agenda of stopping all forms of fossil fuel production and transportation. National organizers are active in Mobile on this issue. These national organizers move from community to community, caring little about the negative effects their fear mongering creates or the devastating economic impact of their extreme and unreasonable proposals.”


This kind of language in Alabama political fights actually dates back to before George Wallace. It was Governor John Patterson, while declaring a state of martial rule in Montgomery in the early 1960s, who said his action was necessary “as a result of outside agitators coming into Alabama to violate our laws and customs” which has led to “outbreaks of lawlessness and mob action.”

Never mind that Rosa Parks, who refused to move to the back seat on a Montgomery bus, was a local resident. Somehow it had to be blamed on “outside agitators,” in those days often referred to as “Communist Sympathizers.” It didn’t work then. Two major civil rights and voting rights bills were passed. Black people got their equal rights.

But will it work now? Who is guilty of “fear mongering” and extremism in Mbile?

One of the local activists who was pictured in the ad, David Underhill, is a long-time Mobile resident who sometimes speaks for the Mobile Bay Sierra Club, not the national Sierra Club. In response to the most recent ad, he posted a comment on the local group’s Facebook page pointing out the “real myth.”

“Mobile Bay Sierra Club has received zero help from national Sierra on this issue — no budget, no office, no staff, no nothing,” Underhill said. “Everything done here by Sierra has been the work of volunteers, in alliance with others striving to prevent the surrender of the city to a toxic future and to promote sane, healthy, economically promising alternatives.”

There is nothing new or creative under the sun in Alabama. This is the only kind of political language they can come up with to promote the capitalist status quo? And the local media just buys into it hook, line and sinker — like a dumb fish, er fish wrapper.

If you want to see the issue covered by a real independent watchdog press, check out these stories from the past couple of years.

Mobile Residents Say No to Canadian Tar Sands Crude Oil Tank Farms

Canadian Tar Sands Crude Oil Threatens to Flood the Gulf Coast by Rail

Mobile Alabama’s Historic Africatown At Risk From Tar Sands Oil Storage Tanks, Pipelines

It’s not the outside agitators or the local media the petrochemical industry should be worried about. It’s the bright, white spotlight that can be shined on the darkness of their enterprises by the spread of new media on the Web.

If you are an individual or group that cares about the truth being published and the right outcome being achieved, perhaps you will consider clicking here to make a donation and help fund the Web Press.

Or you can jump into bed with the Membership of Keep Mobile Growing, an alarmist outfit that claims to be worried about how industry “is facing proposed regulatory hurdles at the local level that many in our region believe will adversely impact business and our economic health, resulting in severely curtailing or even eliminating energy- and maritime-dependent business at the Port of Mobile. Our industries must work to ensure our story is responsibly communicated to our communities, our state and our region.”

“Responsibly communicated?”

You can see more of these ridiculously false ads here.

There’s actually little evidence that the Mobile Planning Commission, the City Council or the Mayor are listening at all to concerned local citizens, much less outside agitators. There is every indication that the political leadership of Mobile is quite willing to sacrifice the entire future of the area to rising sea levels due to climate change from human induced global warming by being the only port on the continent willing to take, store and ship the Canadian Tar Sands crude abroad.

Glynn Wilson is a Web publisher and editor, a veteran free-lance writer and a native of Alabama with two degrees in journalism and communications from the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. While he is a native of Birmingham, he got his start working for newspapers in Baldwin County back in the 1980s and now winters in Mobile.

Click here to make a donation and help fund the Web Press.

More Photos



Downtown Mobile view from site for new coal terminal: Walter Simon


How do you entice tourism to a polluted, industrial port city?: Glynn Wilson


A sign designates the historic nature of Africatown near Mobile, home to some of the last known slaves illegally shipped to the U.S., where activists say another “environmental injustice” against poor, minority people is underway

© 2015, Glynn Wilson. All rights reserved.


  1 comment for “Media Controversy Rages in Mobile Alabama Over Oil Storage Tanks

  1. dunder
    November 29, 2015 at 8:35 pm

    A warped comedy is playing in Mobile. Outside agitators are smearing local folks as outside agitators.

    An ad campaign promoting waterfront tank farm expansions has now descended to accusing opponents of not being a grassroots uprising against these schemes. Instead the alarmed citizens are being portrayed as puppets or dupes of distant sinister groups, like the Sierra club, aiming to ruin the fossil fuel industry by wrecking ports like Mobile.

    This absurd accusation reverses truth. The Sierra club members and others opposing the tank farm invasion of the waterfront are all unpaid volunteer residents. But the promoters of this invasion include local attorneys, engineers, and PR pros in the pay of interests near and far who operate the global energy business. These interests and their local partners are indeed agitating the community by trying to transform it into a major hub for handling fossil fuels.

    It’s a familiar pattern, as old as ancient empires and as recent as the present. Companies seeking resources to exploit recruit and highly reward a few locals to serve as their agents. These favored few may become wealthy while their own communities are plundered and ruined.

    This isn’t a hopeful future for the unfavored in the Mobile area. And the architects of such a dismal future are designing it while the leaders of all the world’s nations are gathering in Paris to steer away from the manic burning of fossil fuels that is giving the climate a fever. But the tank farm schemers don’t care. They proceed as if nothing matters except advancing their own business interests.

    That is true outside agitation, with the assistance of their paid local agents.

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