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A Letter to Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, Alabama Public Service Commissioner

Reference the article by Charles Dean in The Birmingham News of September 23 in which you were quoted as doubting that human activity contributes to global warming and you also lamented the decline in the use of coal in the generation of electricity due to regulatory action.

I have attached a one page summary concerning global warming (climate change). This summary will be useful in answering questions about this extraordinarily important issue. You will notice that some of the resources are from the U.S. National Academies of Science, which relies heavily on volunteer scientists from industry, academia, and government who are experts in their fields, in the preparation of reports. It is also important to note that globally no national academy of science of any other nation has denied the existence of human influence on climate change.

As you know, a major reason for the decline in the use of coal is due to the remarkable reduction in the price of natural gas, which a number of utilities now use to generate electricity. Also, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit has ruled that the EPA acted within the law in limiting greenhouse gas pollution from the largest sources, e.g., coal fired power plants.

If you have questions, please feel free to contact me.

Thank you.

David Newton, Chair
State Government/Legislative Committee

Submitted by David Newton

Like Birds? Visit the Alabama Birding Trails website!

Alabama Birding Trails logoWorking with several conservation groups, including the Birmingham Audubon Society, a system of sites throughout Alabama has been developed to encourage people to get outside and enjoy watching birds. Learn more about this project and these sites by visiting and by "liking" the trails on facebook! You can count on the facebook page to keep you updated on many of the interesting birding activities happening around Alabama!

A Book of Interest

The Inquisition of Climate Science
by James Lawrence Powell
Columbia University Press, New York, 232 pages (2011)

Those interested in climate science will find much useful information in this small book by a geologist, geochemist, and author (six books) who taught geology, served as a college president, museum director, and member of the National Science Board.  He is currently Executive Director of the National Physical Science Consortium.

Prior to discussing global warming, the author reminds the reader of the denial of many scientific issues, e.g., the dangers of asbestos, lead, and tobacco, the depletion of high altitude ozone.  He declares that "science denial is so widespread reason itself is threatened."  His concerns about the assaults on science, especially the science of global warming, can be seen in the fact that he dedicated the book to four climate scientists, James Hansen, Michael Mann, Benjamin Santer, and Stephen Schneider, who have been the targets of attacks by deniers.

Powell points to the lack of credentials by most deniers and their lack of creditable alternatives to the theories advanced by those scientists who actually work in the field and publish in peer reviewed journals.  He also describes misinformation campaigns fostered and funded by members of the fossil fuels industry and the politicians who are recipients of campaign funds from these same sources.

The author observes:  "[Science] is the best system we have for getting beyond human frailty and folly to the truth.  Those who trample science are always in time the ones to suffer.  Who stands guilty in the courtroom of history:  Galileo, or his inquisitors?"

This is a well researched and documented book that explores the denial of global warming in detail.

Submitted by David Newton


With over 90 reports of oil spills and chemical releases after Hurricane Isaac, our Resilient Habitats team jumped into action along the Gulf Coast.

Working with coalition partners, they called the industry to task over its lack of preparedness and demonstrated the need to strengthen laws and ramp up enforcement. That work landed them some awesome mediacoverage. (from Hitched, the Inside Dirt at the Club)

Alabama Power Gets Wind

According to Alabama Power officials, the 20-year contract for wind locks in a price for power that's lower than it could cost the company to generate it. "The purchase was made because it is expected to displace more expensive energy for other sources that we have," said John Kelley, director of forecasting and resource planning at Alabama Power Company. (read the full article at

Forever Wild Campaign Comes to Huntsville October 18

Kathy Stiles Freeland, one of the parents of Forever Wild, is spearheading the grassroots outreach campaign to educate citizens about renewing the Forever Wild Land Trust for another 20 years. With state tax collections down, other groups are interested in the oil tax revenues that support the preservation of wild areas in Alabama. There are more than 75 speaking engagements either scheduled or already complete. Come hear about the threat to funding for Forever Wild on Thursday, October 18 from 5 - 7 p.m. at the Monte Sano State Park Lodge. Speakers will include board members of Forever Wild and from Conservation Alabama.
Forever Wild has preserved some great hiking areas in North Alabama – let’s help it continue that mission.


October 2012

Sierra 2012 Retreat

Hosted by: Mobile Bay Group Sierra Club

If you haven't come to an annual Alabama Sierra Club Chapter retreat before, then you've missed out on a weekend of fun outdoor activities, meeting great people, learning from inspiring presentations, and having a memorable time.

Open to the public and Sierra Club members alike, the 2012 annual retreat will take place at beautiful Camp Beckwith on Weeks Bay in South Baldwin County, near Fairhope, Alabama. Nature trails wind through 82 acres of tall pine forests and landscaped open spaces along the estuary waters of Weeks Bay. The bay is teeming with wildlife and over 100 different species of birds.

This annual Chapter retreat is whatever you want it to be. While there is a structured schedule of presentations, discussions, outdoor activities, and more, we encourage you to enjoy the weekend in your own way. This is a great opportunity to get outdoors and join interesting people and fellow Sierrans for a celebration of fall and the return of cool weather on the coast.

Some of the areas of focus will be:

  • Alabama Water Policy / 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act / Sierra Club Water Sentinels
  • Beyond Coal / Beyond Oil / Beyond Natural Gas / Clean Energy campaign
  • Environmental Documentary Filmmaking in Alabama
  • Environmental Justice
  • Alabama Sierra Club Statewide Activities
  • Importance of Estuaries / Weeks Bay Reserve / National Estuarine Research Reserve Boat Tour
  • Boardwalks and Nature Trails including Weeks Bay Pitcher Plant Bog Boardwalk Trail to Fish River
  • Awards Banquet and Celebration of Fall with live music and a visit from the “Reverend Dave”
  • Sierra Club Power Fall Lottery Prizes throughout with Finale at Lu Lu’s Luncheon
  • Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network
  • Post BP Oil Crisis, Natural Resource Damage Assessment, Restore Act, Coastal and Marine Restoration Projects
  • Tar Ball Scavenger Hunt and a visit to the Gulf of Mexico beaches

Starting with a Bar-B-Que at the Bayfront Pavilion on Friday at 5:30 p.m. and closing with Sunday Lunch at Lu Lu’s Homeport at 12:00 noon, the retreat will feature great sessions and presentations on state and national environmental issues, as well as lots of waterfront outdoor fun. Individuals can pick and choose among a variety of activities. Learn more and download the registration packet here.

Council of Club Leaders Report-2011

Council Delegate Robert W. Hastings

The Council of Club Leaders (CCL) met in San Francisco August 1-4 in conjunction with the Sierra Club Board of Directors. The Council is made up of delegates from each of the Chapters nationwide and meets once per year to discuss issues relating to Chapters and to present recommendations to the Board regarding grassroots concerns. I attended as the Alabama Chapter Delegate.

A new feature this year was a poster session for which each delegate was asked to prepare a poster illustrating “What My Chapter Does Best”. My poster focused on our Forever Wild Campaign and the Earth Day celebrations of the Mobile Bay and Coosa Valley Groups.

The meeting began with a welcome and annual report on the State of the Club by President Allison Chin, who focused on three primary goals of the Club: 1) The problem of reduced unrestricted funding (we need new and increased sources and increased concern as to how those funds are used); 2) The report of the Chapter-National Relations Task Force (Need to build better relationships and ways of working together); and 3) Becoming a more “Welcoming Organization” (especially to youth and people of color).

Then Executive Director Michael Brune emphasized the Club’s concerns for the upcoming elections in view of the “Citizens United” decision (The Club has committed $5 million to the political campaign but several energy corporations have committed over $840 million.) However, progress has been made in the clean energy campaign in that 114 coal-fired power plants have been retired (or converted to natural gas), more areas are converting to wind and solar power, fuel economy standards for cars have been increased, and greenhouse gas emissions have been reduced by 7% (from a peak in 1976). Michael also emphasized the importance of improved National-Chapter interdependence.
Donna Buell, Board of Directors Treasurer, reported the creation of a new position of Chapter Fund-Raising Director, for which the Club is now recruiting, and also a new Membership Director. Her bad news was that C4 (non-restricted) funding has continued to decline and that Chapter funding for the remainder of the year will be decreased by 40%. There may also be a decrease in C3 (restricted) funding but not as extreme. She emphasized that we all need to be working to increase membership in the Club, the major source of C4 funding.

Tom Libby, the Club’s Volunteer Coordinator, led a session on Mission Outdoors which hearkened back to the early years of the Club when Outings were the mainstay of the Club and the primary means of attracting dedicated members. This was followed by Sophie Matson’s description of the “Million Names” campaign and the new “new members” Welcome Center Website (from the Digital Strategies Department). The Welcome Center can be found at Another important site is Online Activities and Registration (OARS) We can post our chapter and Group outings at both sites and there is also a link to our newsletter website. We need to refer any new members to the Welcome Center. The Digital Strategies office is also working to improve HELEN and make it easier to use, and to replace Clubhouse with a more user-friendly system by the end of the year.

We were reminded that the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act will occur in 2014, and the Club has formed an Activist Network Team and a coordinator in each state to plan events to celebrate this event.
Scott Elkins of the Conservation Department reviewed the five major campaigns that are currently underway, including Beyond Coal, Beyond Oil, Beyond Natural Gas, Protecting America’s Waters, and Resilient Habitats. He then described three strategies that are being used in these campaigns: 1) Confronting the dominance of coal and oil; 2) Cultivating our activist base; and 3) Cultivating alliances with other communities devoted to clean energy.

Ken Brame, volunteer co-lead of the Political Program Team, discussed concerns for the upcoming national elections. Three main goals are to re-elect President Obama, maintain the firewall of protection against Republican extremism in Congress, and fight voter suppression. Sierra Club members are encouraged to get involved with the election to support environmental heroes, as in 2008 when 23% of Obama campaign field volunteers were Sierra Club members. It was also announced that former Sierra Club president Robin Mann had been selected to serve on President Obama’s environmental team.
Almost all speakers emphasized that we all need to improve National-Chapter relationships and become a more “welcoming” organization.

State of the Chapters reports for this year were reviewed and importance of the Victory Tracker was emphasized. These can be viewed on Clubhouse at
We were also given a report (Leading the Way) of how 5 chapters and groups have built key capacities through innovative methods. This report should be read by all volunteers in the Club so that such methods can stimulate similar efforts to enhance the effectiveness of our Chapter and Groups. It is available at:

The Council of Club Leaders adopted the following resolutions which were then submitted to the Board of Directors for their consideration:
1. Support enactment of a Carbon Fee and Dividend
The Council of Club Leaders requests the Board of Directors to support enactment by Congress of Carbon Fee and Dividend (CFD) legislation, which would place a fee on carbon emissions and return the proceeds to the American people as a dividend.
2. Establish another Task Force to increase Chapter Funding
The Council of Club Leaders requests the Board of Directors establish another Chapter funding task force to review Chapter funding needs, recommend increased funding levels, and consider other specific recommendations to maintain the viability and stability of Chapter funding levels over time, including but not limited to the following:

  • Consider revising upward the relative share going to Chapters out of unrestricted funds (to at least 25-30% of unrestricted revenues),
  • Evaluate the fundraising efforts made within a state for unrestricted and restricted funding on behalf of the National Office and campaigns and ensure that fundraising contains a Chapter support element of a modest amount that donors agree to provide directly to Chapters (5-10% of the amount requested)
  • Consider a base funding level that is not based upon membership but provides enough for an office, one staff person salary and 20% above that for administrative needs.

3. Create an Advertising Program to Counter Fossil Fuel Industry
The Council of Club Leaders requests the Board of Directors to explore the feasibility of funding through creative special fundraising--a traditional and social media conservation communication program to counter the advertising propaganda of the oil, natural gas, and coal industry.
The meeting closed with the annual Awards Ceremony at which one of the awardees was Robert Wiygul, who received the William O. Douglas Award, which “recognizes those who have made outstanding use of the legal process to achieve environmental goals with national significance”.  Robert is a resident of Ocean Springs, Mississippi, and has been involved with numerous environmental lawsuits along the Gulf coast, including the BP Oil Spill disaster and habitat protection for the Alabama beach mouse. Congratulations, Robert!

Forever Wild Vote This November 6.

Dear Alabama Sierra Club Member:

On November 6, the voters of Alabama will decide if the purchase of lands for the Forever Wild Land Trust will be continued for another 20 years. Your help is needed to encourage voters to vote YES.

As a member of the Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition ( your Chapter needs and wants your participation in this campaign.

Your help is urgently needed in encouraging Alabama voters to approve the Constitutional Amendment 1 to continue this very successful program that purchases lands from willing sellers. From the Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition, here’s a summary of major points about the Forever Wild Land Trust program.

The Forever Wild Land Trust:

    • Provides access to land for public recreation like hiking, biking, fishing, hunting, horseback riding, & canoeing.
    • Helps protect Alabama’s water and air quality to benefit all citizens.
    • Draws visitors to Alabama by preserving the beauty of pristine natural areas.
    • Contributes directly to the annual $2.2 billion dollar outdoor recreation and tourism industry in Alabama.
    • Is funded by earnings on fees paid to the state by natural gas companies who drill off Alabama’s coast. NO funding comes from taxes.

The proposed constitutional amendment will be number one on the backside of the November 6 ballot. It reads: “Proposing an amendment to the Constitution of Alabama of 1901, relating to the Forever Wild Land Trust, to reauthorize the trust for a 20-year period.” Beginning NOW and continuing until November 6, please encourage voters to vote “Yes” on this amendment.

Watch for several mailings coming to all Sierra Club members. In these mailings are materials that will help you in this important work. 1) Fact Sheet on the Forever Wild Land Trust, 2) Participants in the Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition; 3) Post cards for you to mail to voters (family, friends). More information is at

Please mail the post cards to your friends and family without delay and continue to urge voters to vote YES on Constitutional Amendment 1 on November 6.

Thank you for your help.

Want to learn more about Forever Wild? Check out these links:

Forever Wild Facts
Forever Wild FAQs
Forever Wild Interactive Map with Recreational Opportunities
Forever Wild Land Purchases List
Alabamians for Forever Wild Coalition List - updated 5.12.12
Forever Wild Powerpoint
The Forever Wild Land Trust Report
Forever Wild Land Trust Homepage


download a series of 3 postcards you can print yourself to mail to friends.

Proposed Shepard Bend Mine

Does the plan in this picture seem dumb? Then tell The University of Alabama to stop the Shepherd Bend Mine! http:// help-protect-birmingham-s-d rinking-water.html

We encourage citizens to relay their concerns about the Shepherd Bend Mine, a threat to the Black Warrior River and Birmingham's water that The University of Alabama can prevent, to the UA System's Chancellor, Dr. Robert E. Witt:, (205) 348-5861 and to UA's President, Dr. Guy Bailey:, (205) 348-5100. Concerned citizens should also email other UA System leaders:;;;;;;;;;;

Sierra Club Outings

Summer is Here!! 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>>>