PLEASE NOTE!

NEW 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: 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.

News from Conservation Alabama's Twitter:

Join the Alabama Chapter on facebook! (just click the logo below)

Join us on facebook

A Book of Interest

The Future: Six Drivers of Global Change
by Al Gore
Random House, New York

After almost 40 years in the public eye and 12 books (as author or co-author) Al Gore does not require an introduction.  In this latest book, Gore offers his thoughts on a question posed to him eight years ago:  “What are the drivers of global change?”

As seen by Gore, these drivers are:

Gore discusses and raises several questions about each of these drivers.  He also provides answers, and he urges all to become involved in promoting necessary changes.

He closes with this sobering observation:  “Human civilization has reached a fork in the road we have long traveled.  One of two paths must be chosen.  Both lead us into the unknown.  But one leads toward the destruction of the climate balance on which we depend, the depletion of irreplaceable resources that sustain us, the degradation of uniquely human values, and the possibility that civilization as we know it would come to an end.  The other leads to the future.”

Reported by David Newton

Why Keystone Flunks the Climate Test

In June President Obama set a climate test for his decision on the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. He said he will not approve the pipeline if it would significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution. Today the Sierra Club, Oil Change International, and 13 partner groups have released a report that settles the issue unequivocally: Keystone XL would be a climate disaster.

Our report, "FAIL: How the Keystone XL Tar Sands Pipeline Flunks the Climate Test," spells out the full consequences of building the pipeline.
Start with the one fact that the State Department, the U.S. EPA, climate scientists, and even Wall Street and industry analysts all agree on: The Keystone XL tar sands pipeline will create massive amounts of carbon pollution. Tar sands, after all, are the world's dirtiest and most carbon-intensive source of oil. Oil Change International estimates that the pipeline would carry and emit more than 181-million metric tons of carbon pollution each year. That's the pollution equivalent of adding 37.7 million cars to U.S. roads, or 51 new coal-fired power plants.

Read Michael Brune's full post here.

Secret Vistas

AUTAUGA CREEK, Ala. – There’s no major white water to contend with on this amazingly accessible urban stream on the coastal plain that runs through Prattville. But for the casual water and nature enthusiast, there may be no cleaner or more enjoyed stretch of water near a city in Alabama.
Most of the waterway access points in the state are far off the beaten path in rural areas. But here, somewhat like the Chattahoochee River near Atlanta, which is used and enjoyed by hordes of urbanites in and around that city of 5 million, more people starved for outdoor entertainment are finding Autauga Creek a secret vista worth finding out about and sharing with good friends.

They say the creek is floatable from Prattville to the Alabama River. But on an excursion Friday with the Alabama Sierra Club’s Bob Hastings, we took in the four mile canoe trail established and maintained with regular creek cleanups by the Autauga Creek Improvement Committee, working with the city.

You can launch your kayak, canoe or raft right behind the police station at Prattville City Hall, and the current will take you down to Canoe Trail Park behind the animal shelter. But watch out for the rocks and trees. There may not be white water, but the trip is not without its challenges and heart thumping treachery, especially when you are sporting a $1500 Nikon.
We made the entire trip high and dry, however, thanks to Hastings’ expert maneuverings.
I was amazed at how clean the creek appeared in such an urban setting.

Dr. Bob Hastings said testing shows that the water quality is good too.
“The whole watershed is pretty well undeveloped,” he said.
Autauga County only claims a population of 54,571, according to the Census of 2010, although it is part of the Montgomery Metropolitan Statistical Area.
But apparently people come from miles around the state’s capital city to enjoy this lovely stretch of water.

Reported by Glynn Wilson

Speak Up! Tell the PSC What You Think

(from GASP) On August 13, the PSC abruptly voted (with no public notice) to change the way it regulates Alabama Power Company’s rates. However, the  decision came without providing the public data to support the decision and leaves us to simply trust the PSC. Columnist John Archibald called the decision “the old switcheroo.” Commissioner Terry Dunn, the only one to vote no on the change, believes the change was simply a diversionary tactic that may actually end up allowing Alabama Power to make higher profits. read more and take action here.

September Speaker on Leave No Trace

We’ve all heard the phrase Leave No Trace, but when you are out hiking or camping, do you wonder if you are doing everything you can to minimize your impact on the wilderness? Come to the September meeting of the North Alabama Sierra Club and find out. The meeting will be Thursday, September 12 at 6:30pm in the auditorium of the downtown Huntsville library. Note this is the second Thursday of the month.
Leave No Trace is a concept and an organization that teaches people of all ages how to enjoy the outdoors responsibly. It is the most widely accepted outdoor ethics program used on public lands. Through relevant and targeted education, research and outreach, the Leave No Trace Center for Outdoor Ethics ensures the long-term health of our natural world. In its simplest form, Leave No Trace is about making good decisions to protect the world around you - the world we all enjoy. To find out more about the Center come to the meeting September 12. You can also visit their web site.

The North Alabama Sierra Club meetings are at 6:30pm in the Huntsville Madison County Public Library. The library is in downtown Huntsville on Monroe St. just off Governor’s Drive. Everyone is invited to attend.

 

September 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.

Speakers:

  • David Rickless (Jacksonville State University on-line editor for Energy Action Coalition and organizer for Coalition of AL Students for the Environment)
    Climate Change: Science and Solutions
  • Michael Mullen (Choctawhatchee Riverkeeper; Environmental Educator; MS in Biology and Chemistry): Climate Change: It’s Real, It’s Us, It’s Bad, Science Agrees, We Can Fix It
  • Dr. Dawn Lemke (Alabama A & M University): Invasive Plants of the Southeastern Forests: Implications of Climate Change
  • Daniel Tait (Program Manager Nexus Energy Center): AL/Federal legislation; TVA Energy Efficiency and Renewables; President’s Climate Plan;
  • Adam Johnston (AL River Alliance Advocate): A comprehensive water management plan
    for AL
  • Michael Mullen (Dinner Keynote Speaker) Fighting and Winning the Battle Our Grandchildren Can’t Afford for us to Lose
  • Gary Pace (Synergy Home Performance LLC): Home assessment for energy efficiency: What we can do to offset our Increasing Energy Cost
  • Daniel Tait
    Consumer Beware
  • Michelle Sneed (Educator, Permaculturist):
    ‘Living Green in Alabama’

Registration information:

$70/person, before September 20 and $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, https://www.facebook.com/groups/108650485837116/ or
alabama.sierraclub.org/na.html.


More Than 200 Pack Mobile Bay Conference Center to Fight Canadian Tar Sands Crude Pipeline

Citizens Alarmed at Tax Subsidized Expansion of International Petrochemical Storage and Transportation Hubs


By Glynn Wilson –

MOBILE BAY, Ala. – More than 200 concerned citizens, public officials and environmental activists showed up at a citizens-called town hall public hearing Tuesday night to learn more about a plan to pump thick, hot Canadian tar sands crude oil making its way to the Gulf Coast in rail cars through a new pipeline under the Mobile area’s fresh drinking water reservoir.

Tom Hutchings of EcoSolutions and founder of the Alabama Coastal Foundation moderated the meeting and said when he found out about the pipeline plan, “I was absolutely dumbfounded and mad.”
He showed aerial photographs of the area where the pipeline is in the works, as well as the rail terminal where the Canadian tar sands oil is already making it’s way to the Gulf Coast by train to be exported overseas through the Port of Mobile. more>>>


Tar Sands Updates

(submitted from al.com by Mobile Bay Chair Carol Adams-Davis)

Opponents plan to meet ahead of Mobile Planning Commission hearing on controversial oil project

MOBILE, Alabama – People opposed to a proposed distribution and storage plan for petroleum to the north of downtown Mobile want citizen involvement. The Mobile Bay Sierra Club is hosting a program and discussion on the hazardous petrochemical/tar sand storage tank farm at the former International Paper Co. site near Hog Bayou. (full article on al.com here)

Mobile city officials to joined Sierra Club for meeting on oil pipeline

MOBILE, Alabama Mayor Sam Jones said during the recent Mobile City Council meeting that the city "has some real concerns" about the pipeline's plan to go from downtown Mobile toward the Chevron refinery. (full article on al.com here)


Alabama needs a comprehensive water management plan now, not later

The Roman orator Quintilian once said, “Whilst we deliberate how to begin a thing, it grows too late to begin it.”

The recent decision by the State of Florida to escalate the water war over Georgia’s use of water for Atlanta should ring as an alarm to the people of Alabama that time is running out for us to protect our water resources. While Florida moves ahead with action to enforce its water plan and protect its natural resources, Alabama is scrambling to put such a plan together.

Alabama is the only state in the tri-state water conflict that does not have a comprehensive water management plan, leaving us in the weakest position for negotiating the water needs of people, businesses, communities, and ecosystems. A look at the history of Supreme Court decisions dealing with interstate water conflicts shows that, when the court decides who gets the water, they tip the scales in favor of the states with the best plan for protecting and using the limited resource. If we delay much longer we will surely be left with whatever our neighbors can’t use.

A comprehensive water plan is crucial for the protection of Alabama’s water resources. Alabama shares most of our water with our neighboring states, so the future of Alabama’s water resources depends not only on making sure that water uses within our borders are fair and balanced against protecting the system for future generations but also on balancing our water needs with our neighboring states’ needs as well. To do this, Alabama must implement a meaningful management plan geared to the long-term sustainability of our water resources. To safeguard our fair share of the water, our plan must ensure that we are as efficient as possible in our water use, that we account for and balance the competing needs of water users across the state, and that we have protections in place to ensure that our rivers and bay ecosystems have the water they need to sustain the system. Only then can we demonstrate that our neighbors are taking more than they deserve.

Alabama has had fair warning that this crisis was headed our way. In 1990, Governor Guy Hunt created the Alabama Water Resources Study Commission to study water shortages in the ‘80s. The Commission found that every day that the State delayed in developing a plan brought us one day closer to the worst case scenarios. In 2008, the State Legislature created the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee for Water Policy and Management to study the issue and to develop policy. Finally, in April of 2012, Governor Bentley created the Alabama Water Agencies Working Group and directed them to study the issue and provide him with a recommendation for a Comprehensive Statewide Water Management Plan by December 1st of this year. While some have suggested that the AWAWG hold off on providing recommendations for a plan and are suggesting, instead, that the AWAWG develop issue papers and study groups, Florida’s action in the Supreme Court suggests that the time for study groups has passed. The AWAWG must meet this challenge of our time and provide the Governor with a recommendation for a solid, implementable water management plan this year and our elected officials should be standing by to take up these recommendations as soon as they are presented to the Legislature.

While recent water headlines focus on the water war with Georgia, last year our farmers were reeling from the second year of devastating drought. These situations are occurring more frequently and their effects on our water resources, environment, and economy are becoming more severe. Everyone in the State has an interest in protecting our water resources and making sure that there is a system to ensure that everyone gets the water they need. Our current system does not do this. Alabama currently only protects those who happen to live higher up on the river or with the biggest pump in the ground. Whether you are looking to invest in irrigation for your farm or want to bring a business to your town, you must have a predictable and secure source of water. That is not possible under Alabama’s current system.

Thankfully Governor Bentley has taken action through his directive to the AWAWG and the Legislature stepped up with one million dollars in funding for an assessment of our State’s water resources. This commitment, along with leveraging funds available for studying and protecting the fresh water needs for Mobile Bay and our Gulf Coast, will establish the scientific groundwork for a water plan. Now we must finish the job. Alabama must put the necessary laws and policies in place so that we can use this science to defend against Georgia’s water grab and protect our water resources here at home.

The stakes cannot be higher: water, our most precious natural resource, upon which our economy, our environment, even our very existence depends, hangs in the balance. We manage our budgets, our offices, and our households; it’s passed time we managed our water. from the Alabama Rivers Alliance


From the Political Chair: The Big Picture

by Glynn Wilson
It's been one of the most interesting years in a long time for environmental activism, environmental journalism and the Sierra Club.

Since I joined the club and became Political Chair in January, I've made the trip to Washington, D.C. twice.

In February, I drove my camper van to D.C. and braved the bone-chilling cold to cover the climate change march on the White House led by the Sierra Club and the grassroots organization 350.

During President’s Day weekend and in freezing temperatures and against a brutal wind, more than 35,000 activists marched from the Washington Monument around the White House to support immediate action to contain climate change due to global warming from the burning of fossil fuels. (http://blog.locustfork.net/2013/02/about-35000-marched-on-washington-for-action-on-climate-change/)

Then in April, I flew to Washington and covered the Good Jobs, Green Jobs conference where I witnessed the BlueGreen Coalition of union leaders and environmental group leaders come together to build a political coalition to create the green jobs of the future and talk about saving Democracy itself.

Some of the most powerful union leaders and environmentalists in the country came together in the nation’s capital to find common ground on the critical question of how to create jobs and improve the economy while at the same time protecting the environment of the U.S. for the future. And everybody there also talked about reclaiming democracy, a subject I've been writing about for years. more>>>


2013 FRACKTIVIST CONFERENCE

SAVE THE DATE: September 13-15, 2013 in Knoxville, TN
http://earthroot.net/frackconference/

The movement to end all forms of extreme energy extraction on this planet, wrest control from multinational corporations, and give the power back to the people is becoming something truly beautiful! It is an honor to be a part of it, as so MANY of us are. We are rising! Please join us for another opportunity to combine struggles and strengthen our efforts.

We would like to formally invite you to attend the 2013 FRACKTIVIST CONFERENCE, a collaborative regional effort. It is being organized by the TN Chapter of the Sierra Club along with a plethora of other awesome organizations (see here). The conference will be taking place at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville from September 13-15. We will also be graciously hosted for most meals and sleeping arrangements by the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church.

From the frac sand mining impacted communities in WI and MN to the newly affected folks in AL, GA and FL, the many issues related to hydraulic fracturing are affecting people all across this splendid country! We are all connected in this struggle.

Registration

The costs for this conference will be on a sliding scale from $20-$60. Give as you are able!
Registration is live: http://frackconference2013.eventbrite.com/

Please follow these links to download flyers to use for promoting this conference:

Full Page Flyer: http://db.tt/vxGkI7lu Quarter Sheet Flyer: http://db.tt/CxowFAo3

-The 2013 Fracktivist Conference Planning Collective
http://earthroot.net/frackconference/


Tar Sands Video

Be sure to attend the September Mobile Bay Monthly Meeting to learn more!!! (learn more here)

Download the Talking Points PDF to learn more.


Citizens Denied Audience Before State Environmental Commission

From the ADEM Reform Coalition | Montgomery, Ala. August 16, 2013. Citizens from Uniontown Alabama were denied permission by the Alabama Environmental Management Commission (EMC) to address environmental injustice and threats to their health and welfare resulting from operations of the Arrowhead Landfill located just outside of Uniontown. The EMC oversees the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), the state agency responsible for enforcing the permit for the landfill. The EMC also refused to hear from an environmental attorney regarding ADEM’s failure to properly consider civil rights issues in its permitting process that could put all federal funds it receives in jeopardy.

The Black Belt Citizens Fighting for Health and Justice, a nonprofit organization from Uniontown, was to present on August 16 the results from testing water samples taken by Samford University faculty from Arrowhead Landfill run-off and from a private well located on property adjacent to the landfill. The tests revealed elevated levels of arsenic and conductivity. Arsenic leaching from coal ash and coal ash dust is a known risk agent for cancer. The landfill has been a site of controversy since toxic coal ash residue from the holding pond failure at TVA’s power plant in Kingston Tennessee was transported to Uniontown in 2009 and 2010 for disposal.

A dozen citizens made the trip to support the planned request that the EMC instruct ADEM to take enforcement action against the Arrowhead Landfill to prevent more toxic contaminants from migrating from the residue. They want ADEM to exercise supervision and oversight of the landfill’s plan for remediation of the toxic discharge. (read more)


Sierra Club Outings

Summer is winding down and it just might feel like Fall's here! 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>>>