Category: Environment

More Extreme Weather in Gulf States Means More Power Outages. Are Energy Companies Ready for It?

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is off to a busy start, and forecasters say it is likely to be as active as last year, when thousands were without power for weeks after hurricanes Laura, Zeta, Cristobal and Delta hit the Gulf South.

Climate studies show that a more-active hurricane season is just one of the new normals that climate change is bringing to the region, and with that comes bigger threats to the power grid. Read more.

Farmers Prefer Too Much Rain to Too Little but Say Enough’s Enough as They Watch Crops Drown

MONTGOMERY — Alabama farmers are looking at this summer’s unusually heavy rains as both a blessing and a curse.

Large amounts of rainfall are great for crops such as corn and wheat, but vegetable and fruit growers are having to abandon a large portion of their crop, especially in south Alabama.

“We’ve probably gotten a year’s worth of rain in three months,” Jeremy Sessions, a farmer in Mobile County told Alabama Daily News. Read more.

Environmental Groups Appeal Judge’s Cahaba River Ruling to the Supreme Court

A lawsuit seeking to compel the Birmingham Water Works Board to permanently protect Cahaba River watershed lands is advancing to the Alabama Supreme Court.

The Cahaba River Society and Cahaba Riverkeeper are appealing a Jefferson County Circuit Court’s recent decision to throw out the lawsuit against the BWWB they filed in March. In it, they allege the board has failed to comply with a 2001 consent decree ordering it to protect undeveloped land around the Cahaba watershed. Read more.

Hack Exposes Vulnerability of America’s Energy Supply Lines

Colonial Pipeline’s shutdown of its 5,500-mile pipeline Friday after a ransomware attack brought attention to the vulnerability of the energy infrastructure on which the country relies. The New York Times reported Sunday that it was unclear when the pipeline, which carries nearly half of the East Coast’s fuel supplies, would reopen. This is not the first time the public’s attention has been turned to the things that can go wrong with the energy supply. In 2016, BirminghamWatch’s Hank Black wrote about the pipelines that run through the state and the Southeast:

Alabama Has Thousands of Miles of Gas and Oil Pipelines, Mostly Out of Sight and Mind

By Hank Black, September 23, 2016

The Colonial Pipeline gasoline spill in Shelby County was a wake-up call for the public and the government about just how critical oil and gas pipelines are to America’s energy supply needs, and how such an incident could impact the environment.

The Cahaba River Society said the spill “very narrowly missed” entering the river, less than a mile away. CRS field director Randy Haddock, PhD, said pipeline safety isn’t top-of-mind until a significant incident occurs. “As the acute phase of this event ends, we expect to start having conversations” among advocacy groups, industry, government, and others about how to prevent or limit damage when another incident occurs, Haddock said. Some experts say the 50-year average age of the nation’s pipelines is cause for concern.

Alabama has 6,748 miles of interstate pipeline, plus more than 57,000 miles of smaller main and service lines that distribute product from a transmission pipeline. By comparison, Mississippi has 10,450 miles of interstate pipe, and Arkansas has 7,212 miles. Read more.

Eco Groups File Claim That Alabama Power Charges Unjust Fees on Solar Power

Conservation groups have filed a petition with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, claiming that Alabama Power has imposed “unjust” charges on customers using solar power.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, along with Birmingham law firm Ragsdale, LLC, filed the petition this month on behalf of environmental advocacy group GASP and four Alabama Power customers with solar installations. The petition calls on FERC to compel the Alabama Public Service Commission to enforce federal laws protecting solar customers from unfair treatment by their utility. Read more.

How to Prepare for a Tornado

It comes with the turf when you live in the South. Tornado season typically begins in March and lasts through May. Maybe you’ve weathered multiple storms or perhaps it’s your first season. Either way, it can be difficult to keep up with the latest on how to prepare. We’ve got you covered with this guide. Read more.

Enviro Groups Argue Ala. Power Plant Permit Could Violate Federal Sulfur Rules

Gasp and the Sierra Club have challenged a permit issued for operation of Plant Barry, near Mobile, saying it could allow the plant to emit sulfur dioxide at levels that violate federal standards.

Sulfur dioxide is a major contributor to fine particle air pollution that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has determined can, even in exposure of five minutes, cause decrements in lung function, aggravation of asthma, and respiratory and cardiovascular morbidity. Studies also have linked it to premature death. Read more.

Environmental Groups Say Water Board Isn’t Effectively Protecting Drinking Water Supply

Two local environmentalist groups are suing the Birmingham Water Works Board alleging it failed to comply with a 2001 consent decree that ordered protection of undeveloped land around the Cahaba River watershed, a major source of Birmingham’s drinking water.

Cahaba Riverkeeper and the Cahaba River Society, represented by the Southern Environmental Law Center, have filed a complaint in Jefferson County Circuit Court hoping to compel the BWWB to place permanent protections, overseen by an independent third party, on its land holdings surrounding the Cahaba River, the Little Cahaba River and Lake Purdy.

The lawsuit cites the worry that, because the land in question is “some of the last undeveloped land in a rapidly urbanizing area,” the BWWB may cave to “intense development pressure.”

In some cases, plaintiffs say, the board already has. Read more.

Settlement Reached to Address ABC Coke Pollution

Birmingham-based clean-air advocate Gasp and the Southern Environmental Law Center have announced “significant improvements” to a consent decree to address ABC Coke’s illegal emissions of benzene and its effects on communities around northeast Birmingham and Tarrant.

SELC intervened on behalf of Gasp in January 2020 to protest requirements set out by the consent decree agreed to by the Jefferson County Board of Health and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency with the Drummond Company – which owns ABC Coke. SELC made the case that the requirements were inadequate to address ongoing violations and control of pollution from benzene, a known carcinogen. Read more.

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.