Category: Environment

ADEM Holds First of Three Public Hearings on Alabama Power’s Coal Ash Pond Disposal Plans

Environmentalists and members of the coal industry filed into West Jefferson Town Hall Tuesday evening to give feedback on a proposed permit to allow Alabama Power Company to cover a local coal ash pond and leave the pollutants in place.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management hosted Tuesday’s event as part of its efforts to gather public comments on the permit, which specifically concerns the Plant Miller Ash Pond near West Jefferson. The permit outlines requirements for managing the coal ash, including facility maintenance and groundwater monitoring.

Alabama Power is seeking to treat and remove water from the pond before covering the coal ash in place, according to its website. Material located within 450 yards of the river would be excavated and moved farther away. Alabama Power also would monitor groundwater around the facility for at least 30 years. Read more.

Gov. Kay Ivey Surveys Aftermath of Hurricane Sally

WBHM

Gov. Kay Ivey visited parts of Alabama’s coast Friday to survey damage from Hurricane Sally, which struck the coast on Wednesday as a Category 2 storm.

“What I’ve seen this morning in the fly over – it’s really, really bad,” Ivey said. “I think that I only saw two piers that were still standing. The rest are just sticks in the water.” Read more.

Hurricane Sally Just the Latest Storm to Attack the Environmentally Fragile Alabama Coastline

The eye of Hurricane Sally crept onto land near Gulf Shores bringing heavy rains and a strong storm surge for hours on end. Both are threats to the fragile environment along the coast. The storm surge began eroding sand dunes even before the hurricane arrived, according to the Weather Channel, as well as swamping piers and low-lying areas. The hurricane was packing winds upward of 100 mph at its peak, and rain in some areas was estimated at 20 inches or more, according to the National Weather Service. BirminghamWatch about a year ago published several stories looking at the effects climate change and the more severe weather it’s causing are having along Alabama’s coastline.

Cloudy Future for Dauphin Island, a Canary in the Coal Mine of Climate Change

By Hank Black
Along coastal Alabama lies Dauphin Island, a narrow, shifting strip of sand inhabited by a laid-back vacation town that is becoming more endangered with every passing storm and every incremental rise in the warming waters of the Gulf of Mexico.

Dauphin is one of perhaps 2,200 barrier islands that make up 10% to 12% of the globe’s coastline. They help absorb the blows of nature and suffer greatly for it, either eroding dramatically from catastrophic hurricane forces or gradually, almost imperceptibly, from constant wave action.

These sandy, offshore bodies are potent poster children for our planet’s warming, part of a natural, 100,000-year cycle that, according to most scientists, has greatly accelerated since the birth of the Industrial Age. Read more.

PSC Allows Alabama Power to Raise Fee Charged to Solar Power Users

UPDATED — The Alabama Public Service Commission this morning unanimously voted to allow Alabama Power to increase the monthly fee it charges customers who have solar or other alternative power sources.

On recommendation of the PSC staff, commission President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh joined commissioners Jeremy Oden and Chip Beeker in approving without discussion the increase from $5.00 to $5.41 per kilowatt-hour. That would raise the cost to customers with a typical five kilowatt system from about $25 to $27.05 per month.

The vote came over the objections of representatives from environmental groups, who contended that the fees were punitive and intended to discourage the use of renewable-energy power sources such as solar panels. Read more.

ADEM: 3M to Pay to Clean Up PFAS Chemicals It Illegally Dumped in North Alabama

The 3M Company and Alabama regulators have entered into a consent agreement that will require the company to clean up pollution from “forever chemicals” from its plant in Decatur and other sites in the Tennessee Valley area.

The chemicals are in a class of environmentally persistent pollutants known as per- and polyfluiorinated substances and commonly referred to as PFAS chemicals. 3M has produced PFAS chemicals for decades at Decatur. The compounds are used in non-stick and non-absorbent materials such as cookware, fabric protectants and firefighting foam. They do not break down in the environment.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced the consent order Friday. It requires the company to clean up the chemicals and commits it to assessing sites in north Alabama counties to determine the presence of PFAS and take steps to reduce their levels.

ADEM Director Lance LeFleur stated that the order is the nation’s “most far-reaching and significant enforcement action to date” concerning PFAS. Congress has pressed the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to develop national standards for the chemicals. LeFleur said the agreement “puts Alabama ahead of the game in regulating these harmful compounds,” and increases the department’s control over the substances. Read more.

Court Decisions Boost Hopes of Pipeline Opponents

An Alabama clean-water advocate has applauded a federal judge’s order to shut down, at least temporarily, a section of the Dakota oil pipeline in North Dakota. Opponents of the pipeline sought the order, issued on July 7, on grounds that it threatens the Standing Rock Sioux reservation’s drinking water and sacred grounds.

That and other recent court decisions have boosted the hopes of environment, public health and clean-energy advocates who seek to reduce or end the nation’s use of fossil fuels to generate energy. Even oil and gas industries say the “increasing legal uncertainty” that overhangs energy and industrial infrastructure projects will challenge their ability to contribute to U.S. energy needs.

Read more.

This Fourth of July Will Be Different – Except for the Heat

It’s the Fourth of July and you just ate a red pepper to cool down from the heat. Well, maybe there are better ways to cool down, but without a doubt it’s going to be hot on the Fourth. This year’s holiday will differ from previous years, with less of the usual trappings of parades, fireworks displays, concerts and picnics because of the pandemic, but as usual, you can count on scorching heat. Read more.

‘I Can’t Breathe’: Connecting the Green and Black Movements

In the few weeks since the death of George Floyd, environmental advocacy groups have been checking their mission statements and action plans for any hints of racial insensitivity and to examine how best to support movements such as Black Lives Matter and unite against injustice in environment and race.

The phrase “I can’t breathe” is the link that joins the environment and the racial justice movements. That was George Floyd’s and Eric Garner’s plea and also the cry of people of color whose health problems are associated with air pollution and other toxicities that disproportionally surround their lives. Garner, after all, lived in a neighborhood that received an F grade from the American Lung Association’s 2018 State of the Air report.

 In the wake of Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis, several nonprofit environmental organizations were quick to issue strong statements opposing police brutality and promise a period of self-reflection and rededication to principles of diversity and racial equity.
Read more.

PSC Gives Thumbs-Up for Alabama Power to Increase Fossil Fuel Use, Delays Solar Request

UPDATED — Alabama regulators voted today to give the go-ahead to Alabama Power Company’s request to add almost 2 million megawatts of energy from natural gas sources to its capacity to generate electricity. The plan, proposed last year, would include a new 726-megawatt gas unit at its Plant Barry near Mobile.

The commission also voted to delay consideration of Alabama Power’s additional request to add 400 megawatts in solar-plus-storage generation to its inventory.

Combined, the requests are estimated to cost Alabama Power $1.1 billion, which ultimately would be paid by its customers. Read more.