Category: Environment

Alabama Power Parent Southern Company Commits to ‘Net Zero Carbon’ by 2050 but Won’t Quit Fossil Fuels

Alabama Power Company’s parent organization told shareholders it will reduce its greenhouse carbon emissions to “net zero” by 2050 for all its electric and gas operations, replacing its 2018 commitment to a “low-to-no carbon” future for all.

The company will, however, continue to use fossil fuels to generate most of its energy and depend on carbon-reduction technology and energy-efficiency, tree-planting and other programs to offset its use of natural gas and coal to generate energy.

 Southern’s CEO, Tom Fanning, also said the company may be able achieve 50% of its goal by as early as 2025.
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Nonprofits Target Open Records Law With Suit Against Three State Officials

Two environmental groups filed suit this week under the Alabama Open Records Act seeking to force state officials to turn over documents related to the 35th Avenue Superfund federal bribery trial.

Over the past few years many nonprofits, news organizations and others have attempted to use the law to gain access to information but often have been stonewalled by agencies and their officers.

The Environmental Defense Alliance and Gasp, a clean air and human rights advocate, filed a lawsuit claiming that Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall, the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management and a member of the Alabama Environmental Management Commission violated the Open Records Act by denying access to public records.
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EPA Rejects Move to Strengthen Air Pollution Limits

The Trump EPA announced this week that it will not lower the current limit on particulate air pollution, an action that disappointed but didn’t surprise public health scientists and clean-air advocates who pointed to a new Harvard study connecting the pollution to a higher mortality risk from COVID-19.

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler’s decision flew in the face of the agency’s own career scientists, who had urged adoption of stricter air quality standards for what is commonly referred to as soot.

Wheeler was backed up by a majority of the agency’s independent advisory group on air quality, including Corey Masuca of the Jefferson County Health Department. Read more.

PSC Hearing Starts Monday on Alabama Power Request to Add $1.1 Billion in Energy Capacity

Alabama Power Company says it needs to add $1.1 billion in energy sources to meet future demand for electricity. Major industries, environmental groups and clean energy advocates are among those opposing the move.

The company says adding the resources, predominantly from natural gas generation, will allow it to meet customer needs for years to come. It estimates the expansion would cost residential customers an average of $4 per month. Alabama Power reduced its prices by 3% this year, meaning an estimated $4.50 per month reduction for the typical residential customer.

A multi-day hearing on the matter will be heard by an administrative law judge beginning at 10 a.m. Monday before the issue goes to the Public Service Commission offices. Read more.

‘Alternative Cover’ Landfill Bill Moves Forward; ADEM Says Coal Ash No Longer Permitted Material

MONTGOMERY — The Alabama House of Representatives on Thursday approved legislation that clarifies landfills’ ability to use materials other than dirt to cover new garbage each day. Previously approved “alternative cover” materials have included shredded vehicle components from scrapped cars, contaminated soil and coal ash.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management said Thursday that it no longer allows the use of coal ash as cover and, while a Walker County landfill still has a permit to use it, it soon will not.

Sponsor Rep. Alan Baker, R-Brewton, said House Bill 140 is needed to codify what ADEM has allowed for about three decades.
“It would be up to ADEM to decide in permits what covers are allowed,” Baker said on the House floor. Read more.

More Alabama Farmers Sign up to Grow Hemp

Jon Hegeman’s newest crop looks like marijuana. It’s got towering, feathery flowers — aka buds — and those tell-tale multi-fingered leaves.

“This is the closest thing you’ll have in Alabama to marijuana,” said Hegeman, a hemp farmer and president and co-owner of Greenway Plants.

For the first time in almost 90 years, it’s now legal to grow hemp in the U.S., including in Alabama. The passage of the 2018 Farm Bill removed hemp from a list of drugs the federal government says have a high potential for abuse and no accepted medical use. Read more.

McClintock: Discovery of Warm Water Under Glacier Bodes Ill for Sea Level Rise

News of warmer water under a huge western Antarctic glacier should catch the attention of folks along coastal Alabama, a UAB polar scientist said this week.

Last week scientists announced that sea water under the Florida-sized Thwaites Glacier is 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than expected. That’s a finding that UAB polar scientist James B. McClintock expects will push expected sea level rise toward the upper range of the 0.9 to 3.6 feet predicted last year by the United Nations International Panel on Climate Change.

“This is something we care about in Alabama, because it’s going to increase the calculations for sea level rise on the Gulf Coast. It’s going to be important to you if you’re living in especially low-lying areas like Bayou la Batre or the western side of Dauphin Island, for example,” McClintock said.

McClintock, a UAB Endowed University Professor of Polar and Marine Biology, is scheduled to deliver talks Thursday to the Cahaba River Society annual meeting and Saturday during a community dialogue of the Citizens’ Climate Education-Birmingham. Read more.

Gasp, SELC Challenge ABC Coke Consent Decree

A fight over ABC Coke’s air pollution in Birmingham and Tarrant entered federal court Tuesday as groups charged that a consent decree agreement approved last spring is too weak to guarantee that unlawful discharges of the cancer-causing chemical benzene will stop. The action came in response to a government motion two weeks ago to finalize the consent decree. The Jefferson County Department of Health said today that it supported making the decree final. Read more.

Local Effort Backs Carbon Emission Fee With Monthly Rebate to All Households

The most efficient way to combat climate change is to make fossil fuel use more expensive, an International Monetary Fund study found last October. The IMF also said sending the money from a tax or fee on coal and oil straight to citizens would blunt the economic disruption of that strategy. Read more.

McClintock, Hammett, Others Set for Feb. 8 Event on Climate Solutions

McClintock, Hammett, Others Set for Feb. 8 Event on Climate Solutions

A Feb. 8 event at the McWane Science Center on how to deal with the changing climate is scheduled to draw participants from multiple points of view, including energy industry heavyweight Seth Hammett, UAB polar researcher James McClintock and atmospheric scientist Katharine Hayhoe of Texas Tech University.

“Faith Meets Business: Climate Solutions for the Common Good” is billed as a community dialogue and will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. It is sponsored by the nonprofit Citizens’ Climate Education-Birmingham. Read more.