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National Weather Service radar image showing a tornado on the ground in Lee County, AL Sunday. NWS Birmingham

At least 23 people have died after a tornado barreled through Lee County, Alabama on Sunday, leaving behind damage that Sheriff Jay Jones described as "catastrophic," CBS reported.

"I cannot recall, at least in the last 50 years, and longer than that, a situation where we have had this type, this loss of life that we experienced today," Jones told CBS affiliate WRBL-TV.

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A trispot darter fish. USFWS

A small, bright fish found in Tennessee, Georgia and Alabama will start the new year on the Endangered Species list, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) reported Thursday.

The trispot darter fish was thought to be entirely extinct in Alabama for more than 50 years until it was discovered in 2008 in Little Canoe Creek. Now, 10 years later, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has finalized protections for the 1.5 inch fish, earmarking more than 180 miles of river as "critical habitat."

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

The extent of the 35th Avenue Superfund Site in Birmingham, Alabama; current EPA Southeastern Regional Administrator. Trey Glenn was indicted for ethics violations related to his attempt to impede cleanup efforts at the site.

When it comes to the people he chooses to protect the nation's environment, President Donald Trump sure knows how to pick'em. In his brief stint at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Scott Pruitt wracked up an impressive amount of truly bizarre scandals, including blowing thousands of taxpayer dollars on "tactical pants." Ryan Zinke, the man he put in charge of public lands,, might also be on his way out over shady dealings. Now, it emerges that the man he put in charge of the EPA's Southeastern regional office has been indicted on ethics charges in Alabama.

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Gulf Coast oysters on the half shell at Wintzell's in Mobile, AL. donireewalker / CC BY 2.0

By Daniel R. Petrolia and William C. Walton

For Cainnon Gregg, 2018 started out as a great year. After leaving his job as an installation artist to become a full-time oyster farmer in Wakulla County, Florida in 2017, Gregg began raising small oysters in baskets or bags suspended in the shallow, productive coastal waters of Apalachicola Bay.

Raising oysters "off-bottom" this way takes a lot of time and money, but has a big potential payoff. They are destined for the high-end raw bar market, where offerings are denoted by specific appellations, like "Salty Birds" (Cainnon's oysters), "Navy Coves" (from Alabama) and "Murder Points" (also from Alabama), and can retail for twice the price of oysters harvested from traditional on-bottom reefs.

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Coastal watches/warnings and forecast cone for Tropical Storm Gordon. The hurricane warning is in red. National Hurricane Center

Tropical Storm Gordon is expected to make landfall as a Category 1 hurricane along the north-central Gulf Coast this Tuesday evening, forecasts say.

The storm will bring heavy rainfall across a broad swath of the southern U.S. over the next few days, which could trigger "life-threatening" flash flooding, the National Weather Service said.

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Rob Hainer / IStock

By Matt Smith

Lot by lot, backhoes and dump trucks are scraping and hauling away yards on the north side of Birmingham to remove soil laced with heavy metals and other industrial wastes—the legacy of this city's years as a steelmaking power.

Federal prosecutors say that effort also uncovered something else: a scheme to save polluters millions by putting the neighborhood's representative in Montgomery on their payroll.

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By Brett Walton

State of the State speeches are where governors sketch their legislative priorities and report on the overall health of their dominions. The state of the state is almost always "strong" and water issues are occasionally mentioned.

Below are summaries of the governors' references to water, climate and the environment.

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Sarah Wasko / Media Matters

By Evlondo Cooper

Roy Moore, Republican Senate candidate in Alabama, has drawn media attention for his extreme and dangerous views on homosexuality, birtherism, and the role of Christianity in government (even though much of the coverage has been inadequate and misleadingly framed). But one of his extreme positions has received almost no major media attention at all: his absolute denial of climate science.

Media Matters has found that, from the time Moore announced his candidacy on April 26 to Oct. 31, the major broadcast evening news shows, prime-time cable news programs and national newspapers have all neglected to report on Moore's views on climate change, one of the most significant issues he would face if elected to the U.S. Senate. Over the same period, four of the top five largest-circulation newspapers in Alabama also failed to report on Moore and climate change.

The Montgomery Advertiser is the outlier: The Alabama newspaper asked Moore's campaign about climate change but didn't receive an answer. In July, the paper ran an article about climate change and the Senate race, reporting that "Moore's campaign declined to answer questions on the subject." In August, the Advertiser again reported that Moore "declined to answer questions on the issue."

Both Advertiser articles refer to Moore's campaign website, which lists a brief position on energy but makes no mention of the climate: "To gain independence from foreign oil, we need to foster development of our own natural resources involving nuclear, solar, wind, and fossil fuels. Coal mining and oil drilling should be encouraged, subject only to reasonable regulations."

However, despite his recent reticence on the subject, Moore has made his climate denial clear in the past. In 2009, he published an op-ed about climate change on fringe website WorldNetDaily, as HuffPost's Alexander C. Kaufman recently pointed out. From the WND op-ed:

"Not only is there no constitutional authority for Congress to regulate carbon emissions, but the premise of 'global warming' and 'climate change' upon which such environmental theories are based does not have the support of a scientific consensus.

[...]

Not only do scientists disagree on 'global warming,' but there is little hard evidence that carbon emissions cause changes to the global climate."

This is an extreme manifestation of climate science denial, and it's outright false.

Moore—who identifies as a Southern Baptist and addressed the Southern Baptist Convention's Pastors' Conference in 2005—has a denialist position on climate change science that aligns with the convention's stance, as do his positions on same-sex marriage and displaying the Ten Commandments in government buildings. In 2007, the Southern Baptist Convention issued a resolution on global warming that cast doubt on climate science and opposed climate action:

"WHEREAS, Many scientists reject the idea of catastrophic human-induced global warming;

[...]

RESOLVED, That we consider proposals to regulate CO2 and other greenhouse gas emissions based on a maximum acceptable global temperature goal to be very dangerous, since attempts to meet the goal could lead to a succession of mandates of deeper cuts in emissions, which may have no appreciable effect if humans are not the principal cause of global warming, and could lead to major economic hardships on a worldwide scale;"

And in December 2016, as Kaufman reported, 12 former Southern Baptist Convention presidents joined other evangelical leaders in signing a letter in support of Scott Pruitt's nomination to head the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, defending Pruitt's call for "a continuing debate" on climate science.

Mainstream media have a history of inadequate reporting on climate change, especially during political campaigns. But global warming is expected to have serious negative effects on Alabama, including more severe drought, sea-level rise, and increased dangerous heat days, and many national and international leaders have called climate change one of the greatest challenges of our time.

In order to provide a full, fair picture of the Alabama Senate race and Moore's fitness to be a senator, media should report on his climate denial in addition to his other extreme and disturbing beliefs. And there's a clear contrast to draw, as Moore's Democratic challenger, Doug Jones, has made addressing climate change a key part of his platform.

Methodology: Media Matters conducted a Nexis search of print and television outlets using the search terms "Roy Moore" and "climate change" or "global warming." Our search covered the time period between April 26, 2017, the date Roy Moore announced his candidacy, and Oct. 31, 2017. For television, we searched transcripts of the broadcast evening news shows on ABC, CBS and NBC and transcripts of prime-time, weekday programs on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. For print coverage, we searched pieces published in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, The Birmingham News, Press-Register (Mobile), The Huntsville Times, The Tuscaloosa News and Montgomery Advertiser. We also searched Factiva for pieces published in The Wall Street Journal.

Reposted with permission from our media associate Media Matters for America.

Alabama Power's James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant. Eric Chaney / weather.com

By Elizabeth Hernandez and Eric Chaney

Up close, the biggest emitter of greenhouse gases in the U.S. isn't as big as you'd expect it to be. From most angles, you can't even see it until you're right on top of it.

But hit the right gap in the rolling hills of north-central Alabama, and the James H. Miller Jr. Electric Generating Plant looms large even from miles away. Nestled on about 800 acres on the Locust Fork of the Black Warrior River, the plant is one of Alabama Power's coal-burning workhorses, putting out enough electricity to power about a million homes. It virtually never stops running—and never stops producing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases.

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Last week's Colonial Pipeline spill has prompted Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley and Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal to both declare states of emergency over gasoline shortages on Thursday.

Aerial photo of two of the three mine water retention ponds at the site of a pipeline leak that spilled an estimated 250,000 gallons of gasoline in Shelby County, Ala. The retention pond on the right is where the gasoline has been contained.Colonial Pipeline

The Sept. 9 break has leaked 6,000 barrels (approximately 250,000 gallons) of fuel into Shelby County, Alabama, the operator estimated, up from its original estimation of 1,000 barrels. The cause of the leak is currently unclear.

Colonial Pipeline, the largest refined products system in the nation, operates 5,500 miles of underground pipe and above ground storage tanks and pump stations, delivering more than 100 million gallons of refined petroleum products a day. Their customer base is an estimated 50 million Americans, between Houston and New York City.

CNN Money said that the disruption "threatens to drive up prices and leave service stations without fuel to sell."

In response to the spill, the Alpharetta, Georgia-based company closed its main gasoline line, Line 1, that runs from refineries in the Gulf Coast to the East Coast. About 500 employees and contractors are currently working to clean up the site and repair the impacted segment of pipe.

The Birmingham Business Journal reported that most of the spilled gasoline has been contained in a nearby mining retention pond as workers skim the pond to remove the gasoline. Underflow dams are also being constructed to prevent gasoline seepage into the nearby Cahaba River.

However, Billy McDanal, a landowner living near the river, spoke to AL.com over his concerns about the spill.

"That's our water," he said. "I guess in a way I am worried about the drinking water."

Colonial Pipeline initially said that the line would be running by this weekend but delays this week caused by gasoline vapors on site has slowed operations.

"Working in close consultation with local, state and federal officials, Colonial Pipeline continued around-the-clock response operations on location in Helena, Alabama, into the evening yesterday," the company announced on Sept. 15. "However, work activity was intermittent overnight due to unfavorable weather conditions that caused gasoline vapors to settle over the site. Operations are resuming as officials deem conditions safe. The top priority of the unified response effort remains the safety and protection of the public, responders, and the environment."

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency "is aware of the incident and has established a joint incident command with state and local authorities," the Business Journal noted.

AL.com reported that Colonial Pipeline is working with conservation groups Cahaba Riverkeeper and Tri-State Bird Rescue and Research to minimize the spill's environmental impact.

Cahaba Riverkeeper David Butler told AL.com that the company has been "aggressive" in its response and is "genuinely concerned about protecting the river."

"Every concern we've had, they've addressed with really no pushback," Butler said. "As bad as any situation like this is, all you can really ask is that they be responsible and accountable and I certainly haven't found any fault in their response so far."

The burst is expected to affect prices at the pump. Colonial Pipeline said that parts of Georgia, Alabama, Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina "will be the first markets to be impacted by any potential disruption in supply."

Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst at GasBuddy, told the Wall Street Journal that with supplies tightening, retail gasoline prices could spike by 5 to 20 cents a gallon.

The company has restarted Line 2, its distillate line, due to the shutdown of Line 1.

"To minimize potential supply disruptions caused by the interruption to Line 1, Colonial Pipeline has executed a contingency plan to move gasoline on Line 2, which normally carries distillate such as diesel, jet fuel and home heating oil to points north," Colonial said.

Reuters reported that Friday's spill was the largest on the Colonial line in 20 years. In 1996, 22,800 barrels of fuel oil leaked in South Carolina.

Center for Health, Environment & Justice

In a region still scarred by the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Plains Southcap, LLC, is building a pipeline meant to carry conventional crude oil from Alabama to Mississippi, threatening waterways in both states.

Set to finish construction this year, Southcap’s underground pipeline would carry crude from the Ten Mile Terminal in Mobile, AL, to the Chevron refinery in Pascagoula, MS, tearing a path through Hamilton Creek, which feeds into Big Creek Lake, as well as Bangs Lake, only two miles from the refinery.

Pascagoula is among the many towns still in economic and ecological recovery since the BP spill. The Plains pipeline took many residents and activists by surprise. The “nationwide permit” issued by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) under the Clean Water Act of 1977, allows for the “expedited permitting and bypass[ing] of public notifications about wetlands,” according to the Associated Press.

In Mobile, county officials anxiously await a study by the Mobile Area Water and Sewer Service (MAWSS) of the potential impact the pipeline would have on the city’s drinking water. In the meantime, the city of Semmes, AL, has issued a stop-work permit on the pipeline.

“Hopefully, they can make the alternative routes to keep it away from key points in the watershed,” Mobile County Attorney Jay Ross told Alabama Media Group reporter John Sharp.

Despite concerns raised in Mississippi and Alabama, Plains Southcap vehemently defends the pipeline’s safety. The pipeline is slated to have round-the-clock monitoring as well as additional security features and failsafes. Sharp reported that the pipeline will be buried deeper than what is regulated, “which makes it less susceptible to third-party damage.”

Still, many conservationists and activists remain outraged over the potential damage a pipeline could create for the states’ wetlands. According to the Sun Herald in Mississippi, the USACE—which approved the pipeline's construction–said the project would require the pipeline to pass through 145 acres of wetlands and cross 33 streams.

While the pipeline is set to carry only medium-grade crude, Plains Southcap remained quiet as to whether the pipeline may switch to the more lucrative but hazardous tar sands in the future.

David Underwood, the Sierra Club’s delegate for the Mobile Bay chapter, said if there were a repeat of the 2010 tar sands spill in Kalamazoo, MI, “it would cause irreparable damage.”

Visit EcoWatch’s PIPELINES page for more related news on this topic.

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