Category: Environment

After 14 Years, Dovertown Community Is Weary, but Still Fighting Strip Mining

For 14 years, residents of the Walker County community of Dovertown, near Cordova, have lived under a cloud. Coal companies have been wanting to strip-mine a nearby area along the Black Warrior River’s Locust Fork tributary.

The threat to the 200 people who live there is existential, they believe, as they’ve seen other small towns nearly fade away once the ground around them was shoveled away to get at a seam of coal.

At issue is whether the Alabama Surface Mining Commission will issue a new five-year permit to Mays Mining Inc. for the No. 5 Mine. Some of the people of Dovertown plan to speak in opposition at an informal public conference called by the commission for Wednesday, April 17. Read more.

After Recent CASAC Meeting, Former Chairman Says, “If I Were Still Working for EPA, I Would Resign”

The recent public hearing of a top air pollution advisory committee exposed faults so grave that a former chair of the group wrote an article in the Washington Post on Tuesday that was headlined, “If I Were Still Working At the EPA, I Would Resign.”

Jefferson County air pollution engineer Corey Masuca, a member of the committee, wouldn’t go that far, but on Thursday he told BirminghamWatch that he thought the Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee did need greater support from the Environmental Protection Agency to properly evaluate whether current pollution standards are adequate to protect public health. Read more.

Officials Investigate Fish Kill Along Black Warrior River

WBHM

State officials are looking into a fish kill that happened near Alabama Power’s Plant Gorgas in Walker County. The coal-fired plant sits along a tributary of the Black Warrior River. Riverkeeper Nelson Brooke says he first heard about the incident Friday morning from a local fisherman. Brooke says he was not allowed to access the fenced area of the creek near the power plant, but counted at least 100 dead fish downstream. Read more.

Air Pollution Panel, in Divisive Session, Asks EPA to Reverse Course and Provide Expert Help

EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler was asked Thursday by a key advisory committee to give it more expert help to review the hundreds of recent scientific studies on the effects of microscopic particles of soot on human mortality.

The action came as a surprise as the deeply divided Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee met Thursday to try to agree on language of a draft report. A majority of the seven-member panel, including Corey Masuco of the Jefferson County Department of Health, agreed it was not large enough and its members did not have enough expertise in epidemiology and some other fields to plow through and adequately assess the large body of research developed since its most recent report. Plus, the committee has a fast-tracked December 2020 deadline. Read more.

Birmingham Council Passed a Stormwater Runoff Ordinance That Complies With Federal Rules

After a protracted and often confused discussion, the Birmingham City Council passed a “post-construction stormwater ordinance” Tuesday, codifying a series of design specifications for new construction projects in the city and bringing Birmingham into compliance with Alabama Department of Environmental Management rules.

The ordinance largely centered on changes to construction practices that would bring new development projects — and the way those developments manage stormwater runoff after construction is completed — into compliance with regulations. Read more.

Palmer, Who Doubts Climate Crisis, Picked for House Climate Crisis Committee

Alabama has a voice on the recently appointed House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, but whether “climate crisis” is in Rep. Gary Palmer’s vocabulary is in question.

Palmer, elected from Alabama’s Sixth District, is one of six Republicans appointed to the panel by Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-California. Democrats have a majority eight members appointed by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, D-California, who said the panel would help Congress respond to “the existential threat of the climate crisis.”

Palmer, in a statement announcing his appointment, said he wants the committee to “focus on sensible solutions” but did not acknowledge a crisis and placed “climate change” in quotation marks.

That’s not a surprise to some local environmental activists. Palmer was described as a “known climate denier” by the Sierra Club’s Stephen Stetson, who called his appointment “further dismaying proof that congressional Republicans have no real plan to take action on what’s confronting us.” Read more.

Gas Tax Proposal Punishes Clean-Fuel Vehicles, Ties Alabama For Nation’s Highest Fees, Groups Say

Environmental groups are alarmed that the gas tax bill filed in the Legislature today would make owners of electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles pay more to the state than owners of gas-fueled vehicles.

A summary version of the special session bill makes it less onerous than an earlier version but still is causing concern that the EV and plug-in hybrid owners would be penalized for using technology that pollutes less or not at all, conservation advocates say. After the concessions, Alabama’s fee would be tied with Georgia for the highest in the nation.

The gas tax would fund the Gov. Kay Ivey-backed infrastructure bill, called the Rebuild Alabama Act, and is estimated to cost the average driver an additional $55 a year in gasoline tax, according to authors of the legislation. But EV owners would pay a $200 annual license and registration fee; plug-in hybrid vehicle owners would pay $100. There would be no fee for conventional hybrid vehicles.

That’s down from the original bill’s $250 for EVs and $150 for hybrids. Read more.

It’s Not Just Alabama. Coal Ash Toxins Foul Groundwater in 91 Percent of Nation’s Coal Ash Sites.

Alabama’s not the only state with highly polluted groundwater from coal ash basins.

In December, electric utilities in Alabama confirmed that 100 percent of regulated coal ash storage pits were within five feet of groundwater, failing the Environmental Protection Agency’s standard for protecting the water supply from a myriad of cancer-causing and otherwise toxic chemicals.

Since then, one state after another has found similar results from tests mandated by the EPA. Records released of 265 power plants around the United States show arsenic, lithium and other pollutants are in the groundwater at 91 percent of the sites where combusted coal residue is stored.

The national data was to be revealed today at a noon press conference by the nonprofit watchdog group Environmental Integrity Project with assistance from Earthjustice, a nonprofit environmental law organization.
Read more.