Author: Virginia Martin

Regulators Discount Climate Effects, OK Sabal Trail Pipeline

Conservationists trying to shut down a new natural gas pipeline that starts in Alabama failed to convince federal regulators that greenhouse gas emissions from burning natural gas for power would have a “significant” effect on climate change.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission this week voted three to two along party lines to reissue certification for the Sabal Trail and related pipelines. The Sabal Trail runs from near Alexander City to central Florida.

The pipeline has been in service for several months, but environmental attorneys had hoped it would be stopped after a federal appellate court last year ruled the commission, known as FERC, failed to adequately consider potential climate impacts before initial approval.

“It’s disappointing that federal regulators continue to move us backwards on issues of environmental protection and climate action at a time of such great urgency,” said Michael Hansen, executive director of the Birmingham-based clean-air advocacy group Gasp. Read more.

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The Next 100: Woodfin Outlines Recommendations Committees Made on Neighborhoods, Economic Development and Schools, Among Others

Mayor Randall Woodfin in his “The First One Hundred” event Thursday evening presented the findings of his transition committees and vowed to make several changes to the structure of Birmingham’s city government based on the reports.

Woodfin gave his presentation during an event at the Alabama Theatre. Though the event’s title ostensibly referred to Woodfin’s first 100 days in office – a benchmark reached March 8 – Woodfin mostly ceded the spotlight to the heads of his transition team’s five citizen-led committees. He responded briefly to their suggestions at the end of each committee’s presentation.

Among the changes he said would be coming, Woodfin said he’s willing to form a formal partnership with the city school system. He also said he will reshape the mayor’s office’s division of economic development to the Department of Innovation and Economic Opportunity, and he said he would create the Mayor’s Office of Social Justice during his next 100 days.

A 35-page booklet titled “The Woodfin Way: A Citizen-Led Transition for Progress in Birmingham” summarized the transition team’s findings and Woodfin’s resulting plans. The booklet was handed out during the event and is available online.

Transition committees reporting during the event were on neighborhood revitalization and public safety, education and workforce development, entrepreneurship and economic development, transparent and efficient government and social justice. Read more.
Read the full version of “The Woodfin Way: A Citizen-Led Transition for Progress in Birmingham.”

100 Days and Counting: Bham Mayor Randall Woodfin Set to Discuss Reports on His Top Issues

March 15, 2018 — Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin is slated to present his transition team’s reports this evening at the Alabama Theatre during an event commemorating his first 100 days in office.

Woodfin’s transition team is led by former Birmingham-Southern College President Charles Krulak and former Alabama Power executive Bobbie Knight. It consists of five citizen-led committees focusing on various priorities in Woodfin’s administration: neighborhood revitalization and public safety, education and workforce development, transparency and efficient government, entrepreneurship and economic development, and social justice.

In the weeks following Woodfin’s inauguration, the committees held public meetings to gauge citizens’ concerns, the results of which were published on Woodfin’s campaign website. Reports from follow-up meetings among city officials and transition teams will be the focus of Thursday evening’s event. Read more.

Ethics Law, School Safety, Monuments: Issues Remain As Legislators Try To Hurry Home in Election Year

Alabama legislators have been hoping to end the legislative session by the end of March this year so they can hit the campaign trail, but if they’re going to meet that deadline, they have a lot of work to do in a short amount of time.

It’s not just the state budgets, which traditionally are not passed until the waning days of the session. Legislators have yet to reach agreement on several of the issues they said were important going into the session. Among them were issues related to the state’s ethics laws, guns in schools and management of special elections.

Legislators return to work Tuesday. Technically, they could meet until April 24, but if they want to meet their own deadline and turn their attention to re-election, they’d have about two weeks to wrap up their legislative work.
Read more.

Storm Season is Coming and Concord Still Has no Shelter, JeffCo Commissioner Says

Jimmie Stephens said he had had enough.

The president of the Jefferson County Commission made it clear during a meeting Tuesday that he was tired of facing Concord residents with unfulfilled assurances that they would get the storm shelter for which they have waited seven years.

“They lost family members, they lost homes and they’ve waited seven years to get this done and it hasn’t been done yet,” Stephens said in the commission’s committee meeting. “When you live in the Concord community, when you live in the Oak Grove community and you’re looking for a safe place to get out of a storm, it’s not if you’re going to have one it’s when you’re going to have another. It’s hit every time.”

Read more.

Humane Society in Search Again for a New Home

March 6,2018 – The Greater Birmingham Humane Society is looking for another place for its new home after Jefferson County commissioners acknowledged that another entity is interested in developing the old Trinity Steel property in North Titusville.

Commissioner David Carrington said during the commission’s committee meeting Tuesday that the Trinity Advisory Committee met and approved the property being used for economic development. Subsequently, the Jefferson County Economic and Industrial Development Authority met and rescinded the zoning authorization to the city of Birmingham. Read more.

Birmingham Council OKs Complete Streets Policy to Improve Street Access for Foot and Bicycle Traffic

March 6, 2018 — The Birmingham City Council voted Tuesday to amend the city’s transportation plan to include a “Complete Streets” policy, which would make streets more accessible to foot and bicycle traffic in addition to cars and public transit.

District 5 Councilor Darrell O’Quinn, who heads up the council’s Transportation and Communication Committee, described the ordinance’s passage as “a historic moment for the city of Birmingham.”

“I don’t think most folks realize it, but I truly believe that at some point in our future, maybe 15 or 20 years down the road, people will look back at this day and say, ‘We turned a corner here,’” he said. Read more.

Ivey, Cobb Lead Their Parties in Fundraising for the Governor Campaign

Gov. Kay Ivey has amassed a campaign war chest almost equal to that of her three opponents combined as the campaign for the Republican gubernatorial primary enters its final three months.

On the Democratic side, former Alabama Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb has a slight fundraising advantage over her chief opponent, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox.
Read more and see lists of contributors to each candidate.

Coal Ash Ponds Leach Toxins into Alabama Groundwater, Waterways, Analysis Finds. ADEM Fines Power Companies, but Route to Remedy Uncertain.

Significant levels of toxic materials are leaching into the state’s groundwater and waterways from the millions of cubic yards of coal ash stored in massive, unlined storage ponds adjacent to six electrical power generating plants, including plants in Shelby, Jefferson and Walker counties.

On Friday, the Alabama Department of Environmental Management proposed fines of $250,000 for each case. Five of the plants are owned by Alabama Power Company.

Groundwater tests were required of utilities by the Environmental Protection Agency last year, and the utilities’ analyses of results were announced Friday. A “statistically significant increase” over background levels of pollutants was found seeping into groundwater at each plant, the analyses found. The utilities were cited by ADEM for causing or allowing the unpermitted discharge of pollutants from the power plants to “waters of the state.”

Alabama Power spokeswoman Amoi Geter said, “We have taken reasonable and responsible actions at every step of the way and do not believe the amount of the penalty is warranted.” Read more.