Category: Environment

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.
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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.

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.
Read more.

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.