Category: Environment

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.

Caught Off Guard: The American Southeast Struggles With Climate Change

Reporters from Southeastern newsrooms hold leaders in their communities accountable for reducing carbon emissions and preparing for climate change-related emergencies.

Like hundreds of other cities, Louisville, Kentucky, is searching for a path to address climate change.

Mayor Greg Fischer has declared a climate emergency, proposed a climate action plan and set a goal of reducing citywide carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050.

To get there, however, Fischer needs the cooperation of the region’s electric utility, Louisville Gas and Electric Co., which depends on coal and, with its related companies, has committed only to cutting carbon emissions 70 percent from 2010 levels by 2050.

Even that more modest commitment, though, is now in doubt, based on recent comments by LG&E’s chief operating officer, Lonnie Bellar, at an energy conference last fall, dominated by coal interests. In discussing his company’s own carbon reduction plan, Bellar declined to make any promises about a clean energy future.

At the fall meeting of the Southern States Energy Board, an organization of Southern governors and lawmakers, Bellar said his company was planning for different carbon reduction options, “free of commitments.”

”We want to continue to provide energy to our customers at a low reasonable cost,” he said. “If that means coal it means coal. If that means some other resource, it means some other resource.”

Louisville illustrates a fairly common obstacle: communities with little control over the monopoly electric utilities that serve them.
Today, in Caught Off Guard, InsideClimate News and nine newsrooms across seven Southeastern states are publishing stories on the progress and problems their communities face in relation to climate change. The region lags behind others in renewable electricity and faces some of the biggest global warming threats in the nation.

In reporting their stories, the journalists found communities struggling with funding, or with a lack of political will, and the need for technological breakthroughs to meet climate change head on. Read more.

In West Alabama, Life Is Hard. Warmer Weather Forecasts Worse Problems. How Bad Could It Get and What Can Be Done?

The Black Belt already has more than its own share of problems, and warming temperatures aren’t making things easier for the residents.

Disease-causing organisms thrive in standing water during warmer weather, and in the Black Belt there’s plenty of that. The area’s soil doesn’t drain well because of the heavy clay, and the region has been beset with more extreme weather, flooding and sewer system overflows.

Scientists now are even predicting that the weather in the Black Belt, and in much of the state, will be too hot for the state bird — the Northern Flicker, or yellowhammer — to continue living here during the hottest months of the year.

The wood pellet factory trend is coming to the Black Belt, with promises of supplying much-needed jobs and helping to stabilize emissions of the heat-trapping carbon dioxide, but there are questions about whether either of those benefits will come to pass.

Farmers are taking many steps to make their operations consume fewer resources and create fewer environmental problems, but even many of them fear their efforts are too little too late.

BirminghamWatch recently probed problems caused in the Black Belt by the warming weather patterns and efforts to work on those problems. Read the full series:

In West Alabama, Life Is Hard. Warmer Weather Forecasts Worse Problems
Audubon Study Finds Warming Climate May Be Inhospitable to Alabama State Bird
Wood Pellet Plants in Job-Hungry Southern Towns Prompt Environmentalists’ Warnings
Cattle, Catfish and Cover Crops: Alabama Farms Play Role in Slowing Climate Change

Despite Pledges, Birmingham Barely Out of Gate on Energy Efficiency, Renewables, Sustainability

This story was written as part of a collaboration among InsideClimate News and nine media outlets in the Southeast.

Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin promised in December to pivot toward prioritizing sustainability during the remaining two years of his term in office, moving toward fulfilling a pledge he made during his 2017 campaign.

“We’ve got a whole lot more environmental justice and sustainability issues to address within the next two years,” he said, “but we’ve laid the groundwork and foundation to address these environmental issues in our city.”

But for some, Woodfin’s administration — and Birmingham’s municipal government as a whole — has been frustratingly inert when it comes to environmental issues.

“The bottom line is, the city doesn’t have a strategy for addressing sustainability or environmental justice or climate change or anything related to those issues,” said Michael Hansen, executive director of Gasp, a Birmingham-based nonprofit focused on environmental justice advocacy. “The mayor campaigned on all of those issues, and several of the councilors talk about them from the daïs, but they don’t ever actually do anything about them.”

Birmingham’s lack of a clear sustainability plan has placed the city at a disadvantage compared to other cities nationwide. The American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy’s 2019 city clean energy scorecard, for instance, ranked Birmingham as 72nd among 75 major cities in terms of sustainability efforts, saying the city “has substantial room to improve across the board” and should push toward codifying goals for clean and renewable energy “to jump-start its efforts.” Read more.

Caught Off Guard: The American Southeast Struggles With Climate Change

InsideClimate News

Reporters from Southeastern newsrooms hold leaders in their communities accountable for reducing carbon emissions and preparing for climate change-related emergencies. Read more.