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A Book of Interest

Bailout:  An Inside Account of How Washington Abandoned Main Street While Rescuing Wall Street
by Neil Barofsky
Free Press, New York
257 pages (2012)

Unaccountable Book Cover

Appointed the new position by President Bush, the author spent a couple of years (2009-2011) as Special Inspector General for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (SIGTARP).  His duties in this new agency were to establish and supervise "a full-fledged law enforcement agency" that would also prepare regular audit reports to the Congress "on how the Treasury Department was carrying out the bailout."  It was sometimes a bumpy ride for this former Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, who was more accustomed to dealing with a variety of criminal and civil cases that were very different from the political labyrinth one often finds in Washington.

While the Congress generally approved of the work of SIGTARP, relations with the Treasury Department became less than ideal.  As the sub-title suggests Barofsky concluded "Main Street" suffered mightily from the recent financial turmoil, but the financial institutions that were the primary cause were mostly rescued by funds supplied by taxpayers.

While the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (signed July, 2010) offers the potential of additional oversight of financial institutions, "there is now broad recognition that it has not solved the problem it was meant to address -- the power and influence of banks deemed too big to fail."  Barofsky also stated:  "As recent history has repeatedly shown, though massive campaign contributions, relentless lobbying, and multimillion-dollar payouts awaiting government officials who join Wall Street firms, no legislation can confer the necessary fortitude upon the regulators."

These observations provide additional evidence for the continuing need of voters to pay attention to the actions (and non-actions) of their government.

Submitted by David Newton

 

Cahaba River Society Annual Meeting

SAVING THE CAHABA TOGETHER

Leadership for Collaboration
Barry Fagan, PE/PLS, CPESC Environmental Coordination, ALDOT. Learn how ALDOT is collaborating with CRS and others as the agency strives to become a leader for state-of-the-art stormwater management

Cahaba Blueway Vision
Matthew Leavell, RA, LEED AP Project Manager, AL Innovation Engine. A local/state/national partnership will turn a dream into reality: a series of public recreation access sites up and down the River, linked with tourism attractions in Cahaba communities

CRS ANNUAL MEETING 2013
Thursday, February 7. 5:30pm
Birmingham Botanical Gardens

Alabama Water Rally--March 15-17 at Camp McDowell in Nauvoo, AL

Join us for our 15th annual conference!

Online registration is now open! For information about sponsorship, scholarships, River Hero nominations, this year's highlights, frequently asked questions, and more, click here.

 

January 2013

Clean Energy and Climate Legacy 2013

On January 14, 2013, the Sierra Club launched a new campaign urging President Obama and the agencies he leads to take bold administrative action for clean energy and to fight climate disruption. In the months leading up to Earth Day, April 22, 2013, the Sierra Club will mobilize for 100 Days of Action, with rallies, Town Hall meetings, and other actions across the nation, demanding action to boost clean energy and slow the costly and destructive effects of climate disruption. learn more here

 


Successful 2012 for Sierra Club of North Alabama

What an exciting year! If you see Charlotte Buening or Steve Jackson, thank each of them for bringing back the ‘gold’ to North Alabama. Charlotte received an Alabama Sierra Club Chapter award for Exceptional Educational Outreach. And Steve received an award for a most excellent series of environmental programs. Both were active in coordinating a series of outreach activities. And if you attended ‘Chill Out on the Mountain’ and/or the Holiday party and thought about second or third helpings of the aromatic chili or delicious ham/turkey, again, thank Master Chefs Steve and Charlotte.
Tom Burley, who works all activities with his wife Judy, provided a number of training events that not only helped you ‘Get Outdoors,’ but provide aid either on the trail or following damaging weather. It started in the Spring with Outdoor Leaders Training 101 and 201 with Michael Stewart and Tom’s Basic First Aid. For Leaders who planned water activities and working with children, additional training was provided. In July, available to all was an excellent and memorable Wilderness First Aid weekend class. And in addition to coordinating 122 outings, Tom and Judy led several “Burley Hikes.” Let’s not forget our Outdoor Leaders who volunteer their time to make your time on the trail, in the water, or on a backpack safe and enjoyable.

In the Spring, we piloted Tikes on Hikes, which brought out our youngest hikers, ages 2 to 3 years old, and their parents. It was education combined with fun on-trail activities, the beginning of a shared child-parent memory. During the warmer summer months, we participated in children’s summer camp programs, planting green seeds with 3 to 12 year old future environmentalists.
We reached to our members through an excellent monthly e-newsletter, put out by Jack Drost, and through social media, watching our quality Facebook page steadily get more Likes. A Thank You to Michael Steward for co-administering our Facebook page, Steven Baty, our Webmaster, and Jayanthi Srikishen, Publicity, for their coordinated efforts to keep you informed of our activities.
Here’s looking forward to an equally exciting 2013. Come join us!
- Sandy Kiplinger, North Alabama Sierra Club


100 Days of Action to Stop Climate Disruption

President Obama said it himself during his inaugural address yesterday: To ignore the threat of climate change would be to "betray our children and future generations. The path toward sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition. We must lead it."

It's up to all of us to make sure the president can set America on the right path with bold climate solutions and clean energy innovation -- starting on day one of his second term. Climate disruption is solvable if President Obama and the federal agencies he leads take bold action.

Get involved in National Sierra Club's 100 Days of Action to Stop Climate Change campaign from now through Earth Day.


New Interactive Web Tool Gives Citizens Detailed Info About Alabama’s Toxic Coal Ash

Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Appalachian Voices, Southern Environmental Law Center, and NC Conservation Network launched the first-ever comprehensive online tool that allows Alabamians to find specific information about coal ash impoundments near them. The site, www.SoutheastCoalAsh.org, includes information on the health threats associated with this toxic waste from coal-fired power plants, safety ratings of the coal ash impoundments, and how citizens can advocate for strong federal safeguards. 

Alabama is one of nine states covered by the site, which is being launched four years after a massive coal ash dam in Kingston, Tenn. catastrophically failed, releasing a billion-gallon flood of coal ash that poisoned some 300 acres, destroyed two dozen homes and filled the Emory River with toxic sludge. The coalition developed the website to call greater attention to the lurking dangers of coal ash in the South, where nearly 450 impoundments hold roughly 118 billion gallons of the toxic waste. (read the full report here--from Alabama Rivers Alliance)


DISOBEY

In case you missed it, last week Michael Brune and Allison Chin announced that the board approved a one-time act of civil disobedience to help stop the Keystone XL tar sands oil pipeline.

The announcement scored us numerous media hits. More details on what type of civil disobedience will take place will be announced soon. We're hoping Mike Brune handcuffs himself to Senator James Inhofe - it'd make a great movie.


Stormwater Runoff - A Serious Threat to our Waterways

Stormwater runoff, or water that “runs off” of roofs, roads, parking lots and other surfaces when it rains is the number one source of pollution to our waterways.  If you haven’t already noticed, it rains a lot in coastal Alabama, and the City of Mobile does not have an adequate plan in place to manage stormwater.  On December 19, 2012 the Alabama Department of Environmental Management  (ADEM) filed a complaint against the City of Mobile for the City’s failure to carry out the obligations of a consent order for the City’s violations of its stormwater permit. (from Mobile Baykeeper's latest blog. Read the full blog post here>>>)


Lands Unsuitable for Mining Petition

Letter recently sent in by the Alabama Sierra Club:

Alabama Surface Mining Commission
Attn:  Ann Miles
P. O. Box 2390
Jasper, Alabama 35502

The Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club supports the "Lands Unsuitable for Mining" petition filed by the Black Warrior Riverkeepers and others.  These 2000 plus acres of land along the Mulberry Fork River are already classified as "Public Water Supply" which should, without a doubt, qualify this land to be unsuitable for surface mining. 

The permitting of additional mines in the Mulberry Fork watershed will cause a further decline in the water quality for the greater Birmingham area residents and businesses that rely on this water.  The lands that surround and the waters that drain to the Mulberry Intake for the Birmingham Water Works need to be protected from surface mining and its byproducts.  In the absence of appropriate zoning regulations, the task of protecting this important source drinking water rests with your Commission.  We ask that you designate these lands as unfit for mining.

If we understand the intent and purpose of the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act of 1977 under which you are operating, then one of your duties is to determine when mining is not appropriate.  Permitting additional surface mining in the Mulberry Fork watershed would negatively affect a public water supply; therefore, these 2000 plus acres are neither appropriate nor suitable under SMCRA for surface mining.

Please protect the water supply and water quality.  Please designate the lands described in the petition as "Lands Unsuitable for Mining."

                                                                                                Sincerely,

                                                                                                Margo S. Rebar, Chair
                                                                                                Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club

Download the petition from Black Warrior Riverkeeper here and send your own comments in. Keep our rivers clean (or, in the very least, keep them from getting dirtier)


Georgia Power Phases Out Old, Expensive Coal Plants

ATLANTA, GA – In a victory for clean air and public health, Georgia Power announced its plans to phase out 15 total aging coal and oil-burning units at Plant Branch, Plant Yates, and Plant Kraft as the utility prepares to begin its multi-year planning process at the Georgia Public Service Commission later this month. Nationwide, coal use is at its lowest levels in decades as cleaner sources of energy are declining in price and coal is becoming more expensive, and with today’s announcement, 129 coal plants nationwide have been slated for retirement. Although Georgia Power has been slow to invest in clean energy generation to meet Georgia’s energy needs, today’s announcement demonstrates that coal-fired power plants are no longer able to provide competitively priced electricity in the Peach State. (read the full release here)


2013 Alabama Sierra Club Work Plan

Now that we have been successful in our joint Forever Wild campaign, it is time for us to undertake another statewide campaign. National Sierra Club is offering limited staff support in developing a statewide plan if it is in line with one of National campaigns. Bob Hastings, Peggie Griffin, and Margo Rebar were given the task to consider several options: Beyond Coal; Clean Energy; Protecting Water.

After discussion and after considering the emphasis of several retreat speakers on water issues in Alabama, we settled on a campaign to convince the state to adopt a water management plan which includes good protection for environmental flow of streams throughout the state. Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA) has been working on this issue for a decade or so. We propose that Alabama Sierra Club work with the ARA coalition to educate our citizens and officials about the importance of a management plan and to influence the language included in the management plan to protect natural water flows which protect species. By way of background, Alabama is the only state without a statewide management plan which puts our state at a great disadvantage in our "water war" with Georgia and in encouraging clean industries, improving agricultural practices, protecting our drinking water supplies, and providing protection for species diversity.


Sierra Club Outings

Winter is Here! Spring must be just around the corner!! 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>>>