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, 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, no later than the 25th of each month.

Guidelines for Material: The newsletter committee is seeking articles about Alabama environmental issues, articles highlighting Alabama’s special beautiful places, and engaging write-ups about group and chapter activities. Articles should be originally written for the Alabama Sierran, factual, and timely. A link to another publication should only be used rarely, but if a link is to be used, a full summary of the information (at least a paragraph long) should be written, with the link provided for more detailed information. The newsletter committee has the right to make any changes, so that material will meet these guidelines.

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Will 2013 be the last sighting of ICO in Alabama?

The Birmingham Inner City Outings program is endangered.  This Sierra Club sponsored program has been taking youth from the YWCA-Interfaith Hospitality House and other Birmingham neighborhoods into the outdoors on hikes and visits to natural areas since 1997.  However, the current leadership is in dire straits as several of its most active members will move out of the state in 2014.  We need volunteers who can devote a Saturday a month (or every other month) to introducing our inner city youth to the great outdoors.  Without new leaders, the program will go extinct within the year.  Are you willing and able to help?  Contact Margo Rebar at or (205) 970-6500.

These kids need you!  They love to go outdoors to explore and have few opportunities to do so.  You can make a difference. 

A Book of Interest

On a Farther Shore: The Life and Legacy of Rachel Carson
by William Souder
Crown Publishers, New York
475 pages (2012)

Author Souder’s third book was published on the fiftieth anniversary of Rachel Carson’s influential and widely read Silent Spring, which was extremely important in increasing awareness of environmental issues, e.g., pesticides and aerial detonation of atomic devices.

For many years, Rachel Carson worked for the U.S. Bureau of Fisheries (later renamed the Fish and Wildlife Service), initially as an aquatic biologist, but she made her mark as a science writer.  “Carson’s particular genius was in making science come so alive that the reader did not think of it as science.”  For example, in her award winning The Sea Around Us, published in 1951 and on the NY Times Best Seller List for 86 weeks, “Carson distilled ocean sciences as if it were the most fascinating and comprehensible thing in the world, making a challenging subject plain to everyone.”  (Miss Carson’s The Edge of the Sea and the reissued Under the Sea Wind were also best sellers.)

“Carson was not shy about asking eminent scientists to read and correct her work, or to give up their own hard-earned findings. . . . It helped that as she built out he network [of sources] many of the people with whom she corresponded liked her writing and understood that she was someone who could translate hard science into digestible prose.”

As one would expect, there was much criticism of Carson’s Silent Spring, especially by those who manufactured DDT.  However, with this book and her other writings she gave voice to a movement that is still present.

Carson wrote four books, many government reports and pamphlets, numerous articles for newspapers and magazines, and probably thousands of letter – most of which survive.  She was 57 when she died in 1964.

Reported by David Newton

We Need You to Volunteer

Have you been on many Sierra Club hikes this year, attended some Thursday night meetings or come to one of the picnics, the Sierra Club booth at Green U or Earth Day? If so, have you stopped to think about who makes all of this happen?

The local Sierra Club is an all-volunteer group and it takes a lot of people to keep all of these activities going for you. And we need your help. Every year Excom members roll off and new members take their place. There is probably something you could do. If you would like to give back, take a look at the list of officers and consider running for a position on the committee. It does not require a lot of time and the work is not difficult.

Please think about it, and if you would like to volunteer your time and run for an Excom position (we don’t get a lot of volunteers so you are virtually guaranteed to win), please contact Sandy Kiplinger at (from the North Alabama Sierra Club)


October 2013

Alabama Sierra Club Chapter Retreat

Climate Change and Energy Efficiency:
The Butterfly Effect

Lake Guntersville State Park
October 4–6, 2013

It’s time again for the annual retreat for the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club, Friday-Sunday, October 4, 5 and 6. This year the retreat is being hosted by the North Alabama Group and will be held at Lake Guntersville State Park. On-site registration will begin at 1:00pm Friday afternoon and the retreat will run through noon on Sunday. Cost for the retreat will be $70 (for early registration) in addition to your lodging cost at the park.

Climate change is fast becoming a hot topic in Alabama. According to the National Climate Assessment draft released earlier this year, the U.S. average temperature has increased by about 1.5*F since record keeping began in 1895; more than 80% of this increase has occurred since 1980. The most recent decade was the nation’s warmest on record. U.S. temperatures are expected to continue to rise. Because human-induced warming is superimposed on a naturally varying climate, the temperature rise has not been, and will not be, smooth across the country or over time.”

(download the brochure here) | Download Registration Form here

It’s projected in Alabama that by 2040, the number of hot days (95* F) will increase from 30 to as high as 70 days, with fewer colder nights. From a White House fact sheet (2013) titled ‘The Threat of Carbon Pollution: Alabama,’ “…Carbon pollution is contributing to a higher risk of asthma attacks and more frequent and severe storms, floods, heat waves, and wildfires, driving up food prices and threatening our communities.”

How do carbon emissions impact our weather, which in turn, threatens our food supply, cost of living and general well-being? What choices can we make today that will secure our grandchildren’s tomorrow? And what can we do to off-set our increasing utility costs? Let’s start a discussion at scenic Lake Guntersville State Park, where severe weather left its footprint on April 27, 2011.

Lake Guntersville State Park offers a challenging, 18-hole champion golf course; a beach area by the lake for relaxing or swimming; miles of hiking trails for the beginner or seasoned hiker that pass former whiskey stills, wildlife, rock formations and other natural beauty; a fishing pier; and boat rentals nearby where the serious fisherman can pursue a catfish the size of a car (according to local legend).

The exquisitely decorated lodge, nestled on top of a mountain, offers several sitting areas by burning fireplaces. Large balconies offer a spectacular 5-star view of the lake with photo worthy sunsets. The lodge rooms have a private balcony/patio and by request, a view of the lake. The rustic chalets, within a short walking distance of the lodge, offer sleeping for 6 to 8 in clean, cozy rooms. The campground offers both tent and RV camping, a bathhouse with hot showers, a playground and a Country Store.
The Goldenrod conference room is spacious with a large window and balcony that offer picturesque views of the lake. The buffets and lunch will offer cuisine that will satisfy a variety of tastes.


Climate Change

  • David Rickless – Jacksonville State University - Climate Change: Science and Solutions
  • Dr. Dawn Lemke – Alabama A&M University – Invasive Plants of the Southeastern Forests: Implications of Climate Change
  • Daniel Tait – Nexus Energy Center - The President’s Climate Plan

What We Can Do to Offset Our Increasing Energy Cost:

  • Gary Pace – Synergy Home Performance – Home assessment for energy efficiency
  • Daniel Tait – Nexus Energy Center - Consumer Beware
  • Michelle Sneed - Living Green in Alabama

Also speaking will be Adam Johnson of the Alabama Rivers Alliance, on a comprehensive water management plan for Alabama.

Lake Guntersville State Park offers a challenging, 18-hole championship golf course; a beach area by the lake for relaxing or swimming; miles of hiking trails passing former whiskey stills, rock formations, wildlife and other natural beauty for the beginner or seasoned hiker; a fishing pier; and near-by boat rentals where the serious fisherman can pursue a catfish the size of a car (according to local legend).

Cost for the retreat will be $75. Because of food costs, $40 of the fee is non-refundable. The registration fee for the retreat does not cover your lodging cost at the park.

Registration information:

$75 between September 20 and October 1. ($40 is non-refundable). Payment cannot be accepted after October 1.
The fee includes: Friday night spirits/refreshment, two buffet breakfasts, one sandwich plate lunch and one dinner; presentations; Sierra Club leader led hikes Friday and Saturday afternoon (weather permitting); and Saturday evening entertainment.

The checks should be made out to
“Sierra Club Alabama Chapter”, and mailed to

Sierra Club Alabama Chapter,
c/o Charles Cohen,
6405 Old Madison Pike, Apt. 24,
Huntsville, AL 35806.

Not included in the price is lodging, (the State Park offers lodge rooms and chalets (reserve by calling 800-548-4553) or camping (800-760-4108). The City of Guntersville also offers lodging. Registration begins Friday in the lodge lobby at 1:00 p.m.

The Retreat will end at 12:00 p.m. on Sunday.

(download the brochure here) | Download Registration Form here

For additional information, visit our Facebook Page, or


Fracktivists and Fracking

By Margo Rebar
Who are "fracktivists"?  If you are opposed to the use of hydraulic fracturing being used in the extraction of natural gas and have taken any action – signed a petition, carried a sign of protest to fracking, requested information about a proposed lease-sale for drilling, or written a letter to your elected officials – then you are a fractivist!

 During the weekend of September 13, nearly eighty Sierrans, college students, and other concerned citizens gathered for the 2013 Fracktivist Conference in Knoxville which was organized by the Tennessee Chapter of the Sierra Club.   The Alabama Chapter was a sponsor of the event. 

Participants learned about hazards associated with fracking, actions to take when wells using fracking are proposed in your area, how shale oil fracking has impacted families and communities, loopholes and exemptions for the oil and gas industry, local and state attempts to regulate the industry, and the real economic impact on a region where there is extensive hydraulic fracturing.

A brief description and diagram at the end of this article explains hydraulic fracturing – fracking*.

The Alabama Chapter has taken a stand against the leasing of lands in our National Forests for oil and gas exploration and extraction, that is, using hydraulic fracturing in our forest preserves.  Why should all of us be concerned about fracking? 

Here is a partial list:

  1.  The oil and gas industries were exempted or excluded from seven major Federal environmental laws protecting our water, air, and land from pollution when the so-called "Halliburton Loophole" legislation was passed in 2005.  Wells using fracking do not need to abide by regulations in the Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, Safe Drinking Water Act, National Environmental Policy Act, Emergency Planning and Community Right-to-Know Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, and Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (Superfund).
  2. The process requires anywhere from 200,000 to 8 million gallons of water per drill site.  These demands on the local water resources have depleted wells and streams.  Most of the water used in fracking remains deep in the earth and is not returned to the surface.
  3. The fracturing fluid that is returned to the surface is highly contaminated with the chemicals added by the industry (list includes over 700 different additives including benzene and many other carcinogenic compounds).  In addition, the recovered fluid is high in radioactivity.
  4. Disposal of the recovered fracturing fluid is not regulated (see exemptions listed above). 
  5. If the wastewater is dumped in the local sewers, the sewage treatment systems are unable to remove radioactivity and do not know what additives may be in the fluid (the industry claims proprietary secret formulas). 
  6.  If the wastewater is retained on site in open ponds, the lighter components evaporate (benzene, for example), the pond liners are very thin and subject to leakage, and the ponds overflow into nearby streams during heavy rainfall.  In addition, these retention ponds kill wildlife, especially birds, that swim in or drink the fluid.
  7. If the wastewater is moved to deep injection disposal wells, there are other potential damages to the environment.  For one, spills occur during the process of moving the wastewater.  Remember, regulations don't apply!  Furthermore, these wastewater wells have been associated with increased numbers and intensity of earthquakes in the vicinity of the disposal site.
  8. Some sites are spraying the recovered, contaminated hydraulic fluid on fields and roads.
  9. Fracked wells leak more methane into the atmosphere and ground water than conventional wells.  Most well sites have towers with open flames to burn off excess or uncaptured methane.
  10. There are risks to the public health.  The full list of chemicals added to the water used in fracking is not available to public; the partial list includes hundreds of carcinogenic and nerve damaging chemicals.  The wastewater is radioactive.  The drilled wells leak methane and other toxic fumes.  The process is contaminating local water sources – wells, aquifers, streams.  The long term impact on the health of workers, residents, livestock, and wildlife is not yet known. 

Alabama has large swaths of land that are potential sites for oil and gas drilling operations that use hydraulic fracturing.  We need to be knowledgeable about fracking, alert to industries acquiring land for oil/gas exploration, proponents of regulations to curb environmental damage and health risks from gas/oil drilling, advocates for full disclosure of chemicals used and their disposal, and proactive.  In other words, we all need to be FRACKTIVISTS!

* Not sure what fracking is?  You are not alone.  Although the first use of hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as "fracking," in oil or gas wells was in the 1940s, it is the type of fracking introduced in the late 1990s that is the concern of environmentalists and health officials.  Hydraulic fracturing is a technique in which water mixed with silica sand and numerous chemicals under high pressure is injected into a drilled well.  These wellbores are typically drilled 5000 to 15,000 feet vertically into the layers of rock beneath the earth's surface with additional horizontal drilling extending outward for distances of 1500 to 10,000 feet.  The hydraulic fluid mixture is pumped into the wells causing multiple small cracks (fractures) in the rock layer providing pathways for the oil and/or gas within the rocks to move into the well and migrate to the surface where they are recovered along with a portion of the hydraulic fluid mixture.  A single well may use millions of gallons of water. 

Wastewater treatment plants with permits

A Sewage Treatment Plant is Where?

In order to protect your health and safety before taking part in water related activities, such as fishing, swimming, or boating, you should be aware of the level of water quality.   

An important source of information is now being provided by the Black Warrior Riverkeeper.  In honor of the Clean Water Act's 40th Anniversary, their organization has created an interactive map showing the location of many wastewater treatment plants with permits to discharge treated sewage into the river and its tributaries. It can be difficult for citizens to find out where such facilities are and where they send polluted water. Now, with this map citizens can make better decisions about where to swim, fish, and recreate.

In addition to reacting to permit violations and bypass/overflow events, the Riverkeeper also take a proactive approach to the permitting process by reviewing every application for new or reissued permits for treatment facilities and advocating for stronger permits to be more protective of water quality when necessary. 

Once you also are aware of the locations of discharge, you can better plan where you engage in water contact activities.  You can also help by noting and reporting any potentially harmful overflows or spillages.  We all need to be diligent and protective of the health of our environment and ourselves.

The Alabama Sierra Club is also helping to protect citizens through its support of a research and education project on the level of mercury in fish in the Coosa River.

Enjoy the water, but be sure to look before you leap!

UAH SGA Resolution Urges UA System to Stop the
Shepherd Bend Mine

September 23, 2013

Huntsville – The Student Government Association (SGA) at the University of Alabama in Huntsville (UAH) has passed a Resolution urging the University of Alabama System (UA) Trustees to stop the proposed Shepherd Bend Mine from polluting a major drinking water supply for the greater Birmingham area.  SGA Senators expressed concern that heavy metals and sediment from the mine would lead to decreased water quality and increased filtration fees for consumers. 

The University of Alabama is the major owner of land and mineral rights needed for the proposed coal mine on the Black Warrior River’s Mulberry Fork in Walker County.  The 1,773-acre strip mine would discharge wastewater at several points across the river from a Birmingham Water Works Board intake facility providing drinking water to 200,000 residents daily. 

Scientists, engineers, businesses, governments, civil rights groups, religious organizations, environmental advocates, and UA System alumni, faculty and students, have all implored UA not to lease or sell their land and minerals to Shepherd Bend, LLC.  That company is owned by Garry Neil Drummond, a Trustee Emeritus of the UA System. 

“This issue is of concern to us since we have many students that are from the Birmingham area, said Nandish Dayal, UAH SGA President.  “The establishment of this mine will directly and indirectly affect them and their families.  By standing against this mine the UAH SGA says that we place the health and safety of our students and their loved ones over any economic benefit. We are proud to stand in solidarity with the Student Government associations of UAB and UA to oppose this detriment to the environment and the health of 200,000 plus Birmingham residents. " To view the UAH SGA Resolution, click here.

“Opposition to the Shepherd Bend Mine stretches to all corners of this great state,” said Charles Scribner, Executive Director of Black Warrior Riverkeeper. “Now, all three UA System Universities’ Student Government Associations have urged their trustees to protect one of America's most endangered rivers and the UA System’s good reputation.”

Note:  The Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club has previously joined other environmental groups in expressing their opposition to the proposed Shepherd Bend Mine.

The Big Picture: Ban Fracking On National Forests Now

The Big Picture, by Glynn Wilson, Alabama Sierra Club Political Chair
A proposal within the U.S. Forest Service to ban fracking in all national forests should be adopted by the Obama administration and codified into American law by Congress to make it permanent.
After a plan to open up the Talladega National Forest to gas drilling with the potential for hydraulic fracturing was withdrawn, the new front line in the national fracking fight has moved to the George Washington National Forest  in west central Virginia, where a story in early September in the Washington Post reports that by the end of September, a decision is expected by the Forest Service on whether to allow or ban the controversial method of drilling under the new 15-year Forest Management Plan. However, that revised plan has now been delayed and will not be available until later this fall.
It is clear that an internal battle is being waged in the federal government over this economic and environmental issue and the use of a relatively new technology for energy production on federal land. read more here>>>

You are invited to the Wild & Scenic Film Festival: where activism gets inspired

In addition to environmentally hard-hitting films from the national festival, a selection of locally-produced films about Alabama's environment will be shown.  Topics include bioengineering, water issues, wilderness preservation, citizen activism, and adrenaline highs.

A sampling of the films: 

The festival is sponsored by Alabama Rivers Alliance and Alabama Environmental Council.  There will be two showings: 

 Details and registration at

Sierra Club Outings

Fall is here. 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>>>