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Note: Contributions, gifts, and dues to the Sierra Club-Alabama Chapter are not tax deductible. They support our effective, citizen-based advocacy and lobbying efforts here in Alabama. Thank you in advance for supporting the Sierra Club's conservation programs in Alabama.


Take Action: Send a Thank You for Clean Water

(from Sierra Club Currents) In March, the Environmental Protection Agency, in partnership with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, proposed a new rule to clarify which waters of the United States are protected under the Clean Water Act. For too long, dirty fossil fuel companies and land developers have polluted our lakes, rivers, and streams by exploiting the uncertainty over which waters are protected. As a result, the drinking water sources for more than one-third of all Americans are at risk. This new rule will finally restore protections, as originally intended, to almost all of the nation's fresh waters, including smaller upstream waters that are critical to downstream communities.

Clean water is a necessity for the health of our families, our environment, and our economy -- not to mention our enjoyment.

Send a Thank You Now


Grassroots Activism: Panthers vs. Big Oil

(from Sierra Club Currents) The battle over proposed oil drilling near the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge isn't over, but we achieved a great victory last week. Thanks to the thousands of comments sent in and the many activists who attended and spoke at hearings, the Big Cypress Advisory Committee voted four to one to recommend denial of an exploratory oil drilling permit.

learn more about this battle in nearby Florida here.


PLEASE NOTE!

PROCEDURE FOR SENDING MATERIAL TO THE ALABAMA SIERRAN

Many thanks to Margo Rebar, Roe Hyche, Bob Hastings, and Peggie Griffin for agreeing to be the new newsletter committee.

The newsletter is put together monthly, and material for the newsletter should be sent to plgriffin@comcast.net, with a subject line of "For the Editorial Board" no later than the 15th of the month.

Group newsletter editors may continue sending group meeting information and calendars of events to Joe Watts at joe@joewatts.com, no later than the 25th of each month.

Guidelines for Material:

Join the Alabama Chapter on facebook! (just click the logo below to join the group page)

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Wilderness First Aid Training

The weekend of May 30th, the North Alabama Sierra Club is offering a comprehensive two and a half day first aid course that will teach you the wilderness medical skills you need to handle backcountry emergencies. From the Patient Assessment System through traumatic, medical, and environmental emergencies, we will cover a wide variety of topics designed to prepare you to act if an accident occurs when you are out on the trail.

This is a 20 hour course over two and one half days. The course begins at 6:00pm on Friday, May 30 with Adult CPR/AED certification. The class will resume at 8:00am Saturday and Sunday and runs through 5:00pm both days. There will be both classroom time and hands-on practice scenarios.

Practice scenarios may take place outside in various weather conditions; be prepared for inclement weather. Participants will have to pass both a written and a practical test. Red Cross CPR certification is a prerequisite for this course. Successful completion of this training results in an American Red Cross Wilderness & Remote First Aid certification valid for two years. The cost is $80 which includes both CPR/AED and WFA certification.

For applicants possessing a current Adult CPR/AED the cost is $60 and training will be Saturday and Sunday only. Proof of CPR/AED certification must be provided in advance. Lunch will be provided onsite each day. For further information contact Tom Burley at tdburleyhiker@bellsouth.net

 

May 2014

Lobbying Grant from National Sierra Club

Robert W. Hastings

I am pleased to announce that the Alabama Chapter has received a lobbying grant of $13,637 from the National Sierra Club office. The grant provides funding for Conservation Alabama as our primary environmental lobbyist in the state, and for Alabama Rivers Alliance for work on the state's water management plan. Thanks go to Tammy Herrington of Conservation Alabama for spearheading the application for this grant, and to Gwyn Jones of the National office who guided us through the application process.

Conservation Alabama maintains a fulltime presence in Montgomery to make sound environmental policy a reality for the state.  Conservation Alabama writes a weekly blog to inform activists of the previous week’s activity in the state house and to give a preview of the week to come.  In addition, they update constituents via social media through Facebook and twitter. Its Action Alert System keeps activists informed of pending legislation that needs our action. You can read Conservation Alabama's 2014 Alabama Legislative Recap here.

And thanks to Mitch Reid for leading the Alabama Rivers Alliance program to give Alabama a quality and effective water management plan.

Websites for these two organizations are at www.conservationalabama.org and www.alabamarivers.org.


Alabama Tar Sands

Adam Johnston, Alabama Rivers Alliance and Alabama Sierra Club

Alabama, the River State, is world-renowned for its biological diversity and unique ecosystems and is home to more aquatic biodiversity than any other place in North America. Our state’s rich geological history is one reason we have such biodiversity.

Today, Alabama's geologic resources continue to provide amazing ecological functions as well as support many societal needs.  Our rocks provide raw materials for construction and energy production; our rocks also provide the basis for our soils and agriculture and habitat for our animals.

Alabama's sandstone rock formations in the northwestern part of the state contain bitumen, a form of hydrocarbon, trapped in the sand and clay. This bitumen, sand, and clay form a tar-like substance that has historically been called tar sands. Today, the oil and gas industry, together with some political leaders of the state, wants to extract the bitumen from the Hartselle sandstone through mining and processing.

The Tennessee River, its tributaries, and all its dependent species will be threatened by the adverse impacts and contamination associated with mining and processing oil-bearing stones.   One company involved, MS Industries, is proposing to use an unidentified, proprietary process to recover the oil from the sandstone.  The County Commissions of Lawrence and Colbert counties have recently passed resolutions urging our Governor and state to conduct an extensive environmental impact study to be performed before any mining begins.

This mining could possibly begin as soon as our Oil and Gas Board finalizes regulations regarding the mining and drilling of tar sands.  They are currently in the process of developing such needed regulations and were given authority by the Alabama Legislature (HB 503 enacted in May 2013) to regulate and permit the development of oil sands in Alabama. Obviously, some of our state leaders have already welcomed the company and its investors and think this is a good idea for Alabama, its people, and the land which sustains us.

I disagree with the people who think tar sands mining will be good for the economy and people of Alabama.  The destructive nature of this process will lower property values, impact county roads, contaminate public water sources including streams and groundwater, produce dust and air pollution, disturb soil properties, and more. The list of potentially adverse effects is numerous.

Regarding pipelines and transport, we have seen too many spills, accidents, and mismanagement from the responsible parties.  In Mobile, we have already seen our state leaders fail to protect the drinking water of the entire community from a similar pipeline.  

Let us keep Alabama beautiful through our continued work in protecting and preserving places like the southern Tennessee River valley.  Our families and communities will not benefit from the destructive and exploitative practices related to the mining and processing of tar sands.  I encourage you to please lend any support to the dedicated citizens and groups opposing this development.  Please visit saveourshoals.com and on Facebook at Stop Alabama Tar Sands Mining.

Alabama Rivers Alliance welcomes any questions, comments, or suggestions.  Please feel free to contact me at any time: Adam Johnston, Alliance Coordinator, Alabama Rivers Alliance.


Reserve the Dates!

Oct 31-Nov 2, 2014
Sierra Club Annual Retreat

Lakepoint State Park
near Eufaula

Environmental Speakers, Hikes, Boating, Fishing
Birding and Wildlife Viewing at
Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge

For more information, contact
David Norwood – 334-315-6081 or dn355@bellsouth.net

Bob Hastings – 334-324-1071 or bhastings@knology.net


COOSA VALLEY SIERRA CLUB Presents
LOCAL WATER ISSUES SERIES

The Coosa River’s Dilemma: Sharing Public Water with Industrial Use
Adam Johnston, Alabama Rivers Alliance
6:30 pm,   Thursday, May 8, 2012
Most of Alabama’s Rivers, including the Coosa River, support a multitude of benefits.  Our Coosa River provides drinking water, fishing and recreational activities, transportation and commercial use, and water for industrial activities.  The Coosa River faces some very important questions:  How do you balance the protection of drinking water with the need for industrial services?  Join this presentation to learn more about protecting your Coosa River and its drinking water.

Fishing for Answers:  Are Alabama’s Fish Safe to Eat? Frank Chitwood, Coosa Riverkeeper
6:30 pm, Thursday, June 12, 2012
What are fish consumption advisories?  Where are they found?  What’s making our fish uinsafe to eat?  What can we do about it?  This presentation will address the past, present, and future of fish consumption advisories.

Location of Meetings:  Room 210, Joe Ford Center, 205 East Cardinal Drive, Gadsden.  Directions:  From I-59, take the exit for I-759.  Follow I-759 until it ends at George Wallace Dr.  Turn right, then take the first left onto East Cardinal Drive.  The Joe Ford Center is the first building on the right.


Governor Bentley Finally Releases Alabama Water Management Plan Report

By Glynn Wilson

Gov. Robert Bentley announces release of water management plan report.
Photo courtesy Glynn Wilson

Now that the Alabama Legislative Session of 2014 is safely over and Governor Robert Bentley is virtually assured of winning the Republican Party’s primary in June without any tea party opposition from the far right, Bentley’s office finally released the water management plan report being sought by environmental groups for the past two years.

At the behest of environmental groups like the Alabama Rivers Alliance and the Alabama Sierra Club two years ago, Bentley formed the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group in 2012 to recommend a statewide water management action plan to protect the state legally in water wars disputes with Georgia and Florida.

“Water is one of Alabama’s vital natural resources, and it must be managed and protected,” Governor Robert Bentley said in a press release announcing the release of the policy report. “A statewide water management plan is important because water is needed for economic development, public health, drought mitigation, recreation, and environmental uses. I appreciate the members of the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group working together to study the water resources in our state.”

The group was comprised of experts from five state agencies, including the Alabama Office of Water Resources (a division of the Department of Economic and Community Affairs), the Department of Environmental Management, the Geological Survey of Alabama, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources and the Department of Agriculture and Industries.

In response to the Governor’s 2012 directive to develop a plan, the working group took the following actions. It analyzed the state’s current water management strategies and issues, compiled available water resources data and identified additional data necessary to provide a more complete understanding of the state’s water resources.

It reviewed past studies, such as the 1990 report on Water for a Quality of Life, and evaluated the implementation status of the report’s recommendations. It solicited and evaluated stakeholder comments on a range of water issues that could be included in a water management plan.

It recommended a process and action plan for moving toward an enhanced statewide water management plan. Part I of the report presents the working group’s response to the governor’s directive and proposes the Alabama Water MAP Process as the state’s mechanism for developing and implementing an initial comprehensive statewide water management plan.

“Assessments are underway and will continue in order to base future water policies on thorough scientific data,” the governor’s announcement said.

Part II of the report presents discussion and policy options for 12 water issue areas identified by the working group.

The Southern Environmental Law Center and Alabama Rivers Alliance released a joint statement last week in response to the announcement.

“After years of advocating for a comprehensive water plan to strengthen Alabama’s position for negotiating the water needs of local communities, businesses, and ecosystems, we support the Governor’s decision to move ahead with the report,” said Mitch Reid of Alabama Rivers Alliance. “This is a crucial step toward protecting the streams, rivers and lakes that provide for this great state.”

Throughout decades of a tri-state water conflict and ongoing litigation with Georgia and Florida, Alabama has remained the only state of the three without a comprehensive water plan. The environmental groups, along with the Sierra Club, have continued to work alongside elected officials and state agencies to provide stakeholder input on the plan.

The groups’ recommendations include implementing a robust stakeholder process that brings all water users to the table, decreasing reliance on expensive, large-scale projects like reservoirs and dams that severely disrupt the ecological balance of rivers and streams in favor of improved conservation and efficiency efforts, and implementing flow standards to better protect the rivers and streams as well as all water users throughout the watersheds.

“Access to clean water is a luxury often taken for granted, and it is essential that the state take an active role in safeguarding the water sources its citizens use to drink, recreate, and farm with,” said Gil Rogers of the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We look forward to reviewing the Governor’s report.”

interested parties can check out a copy of the water resources report here: http://governor.alabama.gov/assets/2014/04/AWAWG-Report-FINAL-2-Side-Print.pdf.


Northern Beltline Groundbreaking: Press Statement from Black Warrior Riverkeeper

The Southern Environmental Law Center and Black Warrior Riverkeeper released the following statement regarding last month's groundbreaking event for construction of the first phase of the Northern Beltline.

“To continue investing in an unnecessary road that will cross and permanently alter streams and wetlands in 125 places, impacting two major sources of local drinking water, is nothing to celebrate,” said Nelson Brooke, the Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “Today’s event is merely a distraction from the fact that the Northern Beltline remains a wasteful and destructive diversion from the Birmingham area’s pressing transportation needs, such as the I-59/20 upgrade and major traffic issues on I-65 and Highway 280.”

ALDOT has only obtained dedicated funding for the first 1.86 mile segment of the road and has not indicated how they will pay for the rest of the project. This is particularly problematic in the wake of an announcement this week that the Federal Highway Trust Fund, which Alabama relies on to fund transportation projects all over the state, is projected to run out of money in four months.

“The lack of funding to get this project from start to finish – much less fund Birmingham’s other transportation needs – further illustrates that the Beltline is a bad idea for the region and a poor investment for the taxpayers,” said Gil Rogers, senior attorney at the Southern Environmental Law Center. “Not only is this project needlessly damaging the Black Warrior and Cahaba River watersheds, but its $5.4-billion price tag would use all of Alabama’s federal funding for much needed road improvements and maintenance projects around the state. Other states are sensibly shelving large projects that are far less costly than the Beltline in the face of economic realities.”

Background: The proposed Northern Beltline has raised serious environmental, economic, and transportation concerns from local communities, taxpayers, and conservation groups, questioning whether this 35-year project is a good investment for the greater Birmingham region. The 52-mile, 6-lane highway will cost taxpayers $5.445 billion, or $104.7 million per mile, while it is only expected to relieve 1-3% of traffic. It will be the most expensive road project in the history of Alabama, and one of the most expensive (per mile) ever built in the nation.

SELC has filed two federal lawsuits on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper in 2011 and 2013. The 2011 suit charged that the responsible agencies failed to provide a necessary analysis of alternative transportation investments as required by law, and to justify the environmental impacts and tremendous economic cost of the Beltline. SELC filed suit in 2013 challenging a permit issued by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Northern Beltline’s first phase of construction, charging improper segmentation of the project and failure to follow the Clean Water Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. Both of these cases remain active and have not yet been decided.

For further questions and more information about why the Northern Beltline would take Alabama in the wrong direction, please visit http://blackwarriorriver.org/northern-beltline.html or http://www.southernenvironment.org/cases/northern_beltline.


What We Know: The Reality, Risk and Repsonse to Climate Change

download the full report here

by the AAAS (Advancing Science, Serving Society)

The overwhelming evidence of human-caused climate change documents both current
impacts with significant costs and extraordinary future risks to society and natural systems. The
scientific community has convened conferences, published reports, spoken out at forums and
proclaimed, through statements by virtually every national scientific academy and relevant major
scientific organization — including the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS)
— that climate change puts the well-being of people of all nations at risk.

Surveys show that many Americans think climate change is still a topic of significant scientific
disagreement.i Thus, it is important and increasingly urgent for the public to know there is now a
high degree of agreement among climate scientists that human-caused climate change is real.
Moreover, while the public is becoming aware that climate change is increasing the likelihood of
certain local disasters, many people do not yet understand that there is a small, but real chance of
abrupt, unpredictable and potentially irreversible changes with highly damaging impacts on people in
the United States and around the world. Read the full report here.


Sierra Club Outings

Spring has sprung and Summer is just around the corner! 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 in the city! Great outings and meetings from North Alabama all the way to the Gulf! more>>>