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.
Reporters from Southeastern newsrooms hold leaders in their communities accountable for reducing carbon emissions and preparing for climate change-related emergencies. Read more.
President Trump imposed a stiff tariff on cheap solar cells and panels imported from China and other countries, a move industry experts said may decimate the growth of solar energy in Alabama and stunt it elsewhere in the country.
The tariff starts at 30 percent for the first year.
“That level would squash Alabama business for us and similar businesses that operate in Alabama to provide turnkey solar systems to residential and small commercial customers,” said Larry Bradford, of north Alabama’s Southern Solar Systems.
About $5.6 billion in projects in just four Sunbelt states – Georgia, Florida and the Carolinas – could be jeopardized by a tariff, according to E&E News, which follows energy and environmental matters.
The tariff could have been worse, though. It drops by 5 percent each of the four succeeding years. It also exempts a substantial portion of initial imports each year.
Alabama is particularly vulnerable to the added cost of a tariff, experts in the field say, because policies of investor-owned utility Alabama Power Co. already limit solar energy penetration in a variety of ways that make solar installations more expensive here. Read more.