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A Book of Interest

Act of Congress:  How America’s Essential Institution Works, and How It Doesn’t
By Robert G. Kaiser
Alfred A. Knopf, New York
417 pages (2013)

Beginning in 1963 the author has held several positions (including reporting on the U.S. Congress) at The Washington Post.  In this, his eighth book, he reports on the difficult tasks associated with the enactment of the Dodd-Frank financial reform bill that was a result of the Great Crash of 2008.

Kaiser was able to interact extensively with Senator Christopher Dodd, Congressman Barney  Frank, and key members of their staffs during the many months that led to the passage of the financial reform bill.  This access to key people revealed much about the difficulties in passing a major piece of reform legislation, especially when the legislation is opposed by politically powerful interests.

While both Dodd and Frank were knowledgeable in finance and legislation, Dodd’s forte was making the legislative process work, mostly in the Senate, while Frank was especially adept in the intricacies of finance.

The author provides valuable insights into the legislative process, lobbying, financing of election campaigns, and related topics.

For those interested in the legislative process, especially legislation designed to reform the  financial system, this book is a useful case study.

Submitted by David Newton

Oppose efforts to repeal conservation requirements for federal buildings

Senator Hoeven (ND) intends to introduce a bill in the Senate that would repeal Section 433 of the Energy Independence and Security Act. This provision, which is currently law, was passed is a key provision of the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. It mandates the eventual phase out by 2030 of fossil fuels used by federal buildings. Take Action Here


Congrats to Sierra Club Georgia for their tireless work on getting the state to use more clean energy. Last week the state Public Service Commission voted to require Georgia Power to add more solar to its portfolio.

This decision came after our coalition responded with serious action to the Koch brothers trying to rally their "supporters" to oppose clean energy. And who helped the environmentalists in this fight? The Tea Party! Everyone loves clean energy!


August 2013

Southeast Alabama Water Symposium in Dothan. We need YOU at the Alabama Water Policy Symposium!

August 08, 2013 from 08:30 am to 04:00 pm
This symposium is one of a series being held statewide to gather stakeholder input into the ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive water management plan for our state. Each symposium concentrates on a specific water management theme. All Alabama citizens, stakeholders, and elected officials who want their voices heard in the discussion and development of a comprehensive water management plan should attend. Now that the governor has taken leadership and put this process into motion with the formation of his Alabama Water Agencies Working Group (AWAWG), we, as concerned citizens, have a responsibility to play our part. Learn more, see the full agenda and register here.

Proposal for Fracking in the Bankhead Forest

There has been an expression of interest in exploring for coal-bed methane in the Bankhead National Forest. The Bureau of Land Management will make the announcement of these lease sales later this year. The lease parcels include approximately the southern half of the Bankhead - below the southern boundary of the Sipsey Wilderness, Cranal Road, and eastward at about the same latitude across the forest. Wild and Scenic River corridors, such as the Sipsey are excluded, but Brushy Lake is in the path of the proposed drilling. The process for extracting coal bed methane involves vertical fracking and is not thought to be as destructive as the horizontal drilling for natural gas in shale that has gotten so much publicity.

Alabama Senators Paul Bussman, Roger Bedford, Gerald Dial and Jerry Fielding and Representative Randy Wood have all expressed theiropposition to the proposal for fracking in the Bankhead forests.
Anyone who spends time in and values the Bankhead Wilderness is encouraged to find out more about this proposal and make their voices heard.The next meeting of the Bankhead Liaison Panel will be held on Thursday, August 29 at 6:00pm, venue yet to be determined, but most likely somewhere in Double Springs, Alabama. The agenda for this meeting will focus on the upcoming mineral lease sales. The Forest Supervisor, Steve Lohr, will be present to field questions, and possibly someone from the BLM and Alabama Oil and Gas Board as well. Although public comments will not be accepted “on the record” at this meeting, it will be an opportunity for those interested in the future of the Bankhead National Forest to interface directly with the Forest Supervisor and let him know how you feel about industrial development in the Bankhead National Forest.

For more information and to sign up for email alerts go to the following link at the web site:
You may also call the Alabama office of Wildsouth at 256-974-6166.

Letter to the Editor from David Newton

Recall the misinformation put forth years ago during discussions of tobacco and human health.  Similar actions are being undertaken by powerful interests who desire to create confusion about climate disruption and whether humans contribute to it.

Based on a new report by the minority party of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, misinformation may have influenced many of the votes cast in 2012 by members of the U.S. House of Representatives.   This report titled "Climate Disconnect" compares climate change voting records of Members of Congress with the temperatures in their districts in 2012. 

There were almost 33,000 record high temperatures in the U.S. last year.  In Alabama’s 3rd Congressional District, 55 record high temperatures were recorded in 2012.  And last year, our Congressman Mike Rogers cast 41 anti-climate votes and zero pro-climate votes.

There are numerous sources from which to obtain facts about climate disruption.  One factual website by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration is at

It is time to provide the facts on climate disruption to members of the Congress.  To contact Congressman Mike Rogers, call Anniston, 256-236-5655; Opelika, 334-745-6221; Washington, 202-225-3261.

David Newton
336 Carter St.
Auburn, AL 36830
(H) 334-821-9817

Update: Opposition to Proposed Pipeline and Tar Sands Threatening Mobile's Drinking Water

Recently we learned that Canadian National Railway (CN) is shipping Canadian tar sands oil, sometimes called bitumen or heavy crude, into Mobile on heated rail cars like the ones that recently exploded in Canada. Because tar sands oil does not flow, it will need to be offloaded using a steaming process. ARC Terminals, which is also in the process of expanding their tank farm storage facility, has applied for a permit to build a rail car unloading facility on a leased parcel of property at 56 Beauregard Street (near downtown Mobile) and to then pump the oil to tanks on Blakely Island. We suspect (but have not confirmed) that a controversial forty-one mile long pipeline currently under construction by Plains Southcap will be used to move the tar sands oil from Mobile, through the Big Creek Lake watershed, to the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula, MS. Big Creek Lake is the sole source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of residents in the metro-Mobile area.

See this information from MobileBayKeeper: What’s so amazing about the job of being the Mobile Baykeeper and yet so completely challenging is how often we are faced with a new issue that our local community has never had to address.  The latest is oil and gas pipelines and the transportation of differing types of crude oil.  While crude oil is piped and transported across the nation on a regular basis, more and more accidents are occurring that require the community take a very close look at each project before simply signing off.

Our first step in any new project is research, so to begin to answer the question posed to us fairly regularly of late, we have to tease out the pieces.  First off, there are two separate pipelines that will affect our community: Pipeline 1) GCAC’s Mobile River pipeline and Pipeline 2) Plains Southcap, LLC Mobile to Mississippi line.  Both will be carrying crude oil, but only one – that we know – will carry tar sands crude oil.  Click here to learn why tar sands is worrying communities across the United States and Canada. (more of the commentary here) (from Carol Adams-Davis, Mobile Bay Sierra Club)

Saving Shepard Bend

Saving Shepherd Bend from Southern Environmental Law Cntr. on Vimeo.

Conservation Groups Urge Stronger Protections for Alabama’s Coosa River as Federal License is Reissued for Hydroelectric Dams

(from Alabama Rivers Alliance) Conservation groups filed a federal rehearing request on July 19 over the reissued license for a series of Alabama Power hydroelectric dams on Alabama’s Coosa River. In order to reverse the dams’ significant damage to the Coosa – once one of the most biologically diverse rivers in the world – the groups have asked for more thorough environmental studies to ensure protections are in place to balance the river’s ecological needs with hydropower production. 

“The Coosa River dams continue to play an important role providing power, but the river is also one of the state’s most prized natural resources, and we must balance both those needs,” said Catherine Wannamaker, senior attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Alternative dam operations exist to better restore and prevent future damage to the Coosa, so we want to make sure this licensing process establishes reasonable protections.”

On June 20, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission reapproved a license for the seven Alabama Power dams that span 225 miles along the Coosa River. The license will regulate dam and reservoir management activities for the next thirty years. On behalf of Alabama Rivers Alliance and American Rivers, the Southern Environmental Law Center filed a petition for a rehearing in part because the federal agency did not complete a thorough environmental impact statement as part of the relicensing.

Construction of the dams on the Coosa River wiped out more than 30 freshwater species, one of the biggest extinction events in North America during the 20th century. The decades that followed have seen a continuing decline in biodiversity and the loss of endangered species and habitat due to the dams’ impact on the flow of water and the river’s lack of oxygen. Today, numerous additional freshwater species in the project vicinity are listed as endangered or threatened by federal agencies. Read the full release here:

SIERRA CLUB's Best Internship Ever

We're traveling across the country with the Sierra Club, creating videos and royally embarrassing ourselves. Above is our most recent video, and below are photos, blogs and videos that chronicle our summer adventures. Two interns, 10 weeks, many destinations. Take a peek and share! Learn more about their exciting summer here.


Alabama is one of 12 states involved in a lawsuit filed against U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) seeking documents they claim prove the agency's legal relationship with environmental groups. Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange joined Republican attorneys general for 11 other states suing over whether the EPA is in cahoots with groups such as Greenpeace and the Sierra Club that use "sue and settle" (what environmentalists might call "trying to protect the planet from polluters") tactics. The tactic occurs when an organization files a lawsuit against a federal agency over environmental rules and the agency capitulates as a way to impose regulations without a state's input.

(This was originally announced by the Business Council of Alabama--quite a shame that our state is wasting our precious tax dollars attacking a federal agency trying to keep our air clean and our water potable)

Sierra Club Outings

Summer is in full swing--but we've had lots of rain!! It may be hot; it may be warm (it is probably hot!). It's time to get out! Take a great hike. Or just enjoy gathering with friends to discuss environmental issues! Come join us on the trail or just out for a stroll down the mountain! more>>>