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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.


Alabama Chapter ExCom Elections in the Mail

At the end of each year, we call on all members of the Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club to vote in electing members to the State Board of Directors (commonly called the ExCom). Our ExCom consists of fourteen voting members. Eight members are elected-at-large and serve a two-year term. That means that each year there are four positions up for election. In addition, each of the six groups within the state selects a person to represent their group on the ExCom.

You will soon receive a ballot via mail. Please review and return the ballot as soon as possible! You can review the current slate of candidates here.


photo from Alabama Department of Conservation, Billy Pope

Oak Mountain Master Plan, is it good or bad for the users?

(submitted by Ken Hyche) Oak Mountain State park has some big plans for the park. There is a study going on now about building a hotel and Conference center inside Oak Mountain State Park. There are several articles in AL.com that you can read for more info on the plans. Please make your opinion known.

You can attend a meeting, "The government partners are hosting an open house from 5 to 9 p.m. on Dec. 8 in the Community Room of the Shelby County Services Building in Pelham, located at 1123 County Services Drive. A short presentation will start the meeting and another will happen at about 7 p.m." or there is a web site to make comments about the plans until Jan 17; Shelby County Tourism, AL - Official Website is PlanOMSP.DiscoverShelby.com.

The survey will be available until Jan. 17. A direct link to the survey is here. 


National Club Elections Coming Soon

The annual election for the Club's Board of Directors is coming soon. Those eligible to vote in the national Sierra Club election will receive in the mail (or by Internet if you chose the electronic delivery option) your national
Sierra Club ballot. This will include information on the candidates and where you can find additional information on the Club's web site.

The Sierra Club is a democratically structured organization at all levels. The Club requires the regular flow of views on policy and priorities from its grassroots membership in order to function well. Yearly participation in
elections at all Club levels is a major membership obligation.

If you want to request an electronic ballot, which will save the Club money and paper, please sign up here.

Members frequently state that they don't know the candidates and find it difficult to vote without learning more. You can learn more by asking questions of your group and chapter leadership and other experienced members you know.
Visit the Club's election web site.

This site provides links to additional information about candidates and their views on a variety of issues facing the Club and the environment.

You should use your own judgment by taking several minutes to read the ballot statement of each candidate. Then make your choice and cast your vote. Even if you receive your election materials in the mail, please go to the user-
friendly Internet voting site to save time and postage. If necessary, you will find the ballot is quite straightforward and easy to mark and mail.


Message from Michael Brune, National Sierra Club's Executive Director

Looking back on the past 12 months has been inspiring. All of the calls, petitions, rallies — not to mention generous contributions — each and every one of you has done something to advance this movement in a way that makes me proud to come to work each day.

In 2014 alone, we:

I could go on, but I promised I’d keep it short! Check out this video to see more of the great work we’ve done together.

You should be so proud of what we’ve achieved, Joe — I know I am. The New Year is sure to bring more new challenges to our environment, challenges that the Sierra Club intends to take on. It won’t always be easy, but knowing we can count on you makes facing those challenges a lot less daunting. Thank you.


PLEASE NOTE!

PROCEDURE FOR SENDING MATERIAL TO THE ALABAMA SIERRAN

Many thanks to Roe Hyche, Bob Hastings, Lucina Horner, 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:

 

 

January 2015

Comments from the Chair, Robert W. Hastings

As we approach the end of another year, we might briefly consider the events of the past year, and possibilities for the new year. One of the most significant events during 2014 was our loss of Margo Rebar, longtime member and activist, and our Executive Committee Chair, who moved to Michigan. We have missed her (especially since I was elected in March to take her place). Another loss came with the death of Tom Hodges, another longtime Sierra Club activist and leader.

On a brighter note, the Chapter has continued to be active in addressing Environmental issues in the state. Of special importance has been the reactivation of the Cahaba Group that represents members in the Birmingham area. As the most populous region of the state, there are significant environmental issues that need to be addressed so an active, effective Group in the Birmingham area is critically important. I strongly encourage members in the Birmingham area to become active in supporting the Cahaba Group. In fact, all of our Groups could use additional members active in supporting their meetings, outings, and campaigns. A very important campaign of the Chapter during 2014 has been our sponsorship of several symposia, in cooperation with the Alabama Rivers Alliance (ARA), to draw attention to the development of a state water management plan. To help support this campaign, we received a National Sierra Club lobbying grant of $13,637, which provided funding to ARA, as well as our environmental lobbying organization, Conservation Alabama.

The year 2014 was also significant as the 50th anniversary of the Wilderness Act, which resulted in the establishment of three designated Wilderness Areas in Alabama: Cheaha, Dugger Mountain, and Sipsey. We had a very successful annual Retreat at Lakepoint State Park near Eufaula with approximately 60 members in attendance. In addition to an update on the status of the state water management plan by Mitch Reid of ARA, we were informed of two new environmental concerns in the state, the potential for tar sands strip mining in the northwest part of the state presented by Adam Johnston (ARA and Alabama Sierra Club) and the proposed Sabal Trail Pipeline from Alexander City to Orlando, Florida, by John Quarterman (Georgia Sierra Club).

In addition, I made a presentation on the successful recovery of the endangered American alligator in Alabama and other southeastern states. Scot Duncan of Birmingham Southern College gave an outstanding keynote address at our Saturday evening banquet on the biodiversity of Alabama. The musical duo of Sassafrass (Jo Billups and Karen Harvill) closed the program with their entertaining environmental protest songs. There were also excellent outings to the Eufaula National Wildlife Refuge and Providence Canyon. Everyone in attendance enjoyed the weekend. We hope you will join us next year at our Retreat in the Fall.

The year 2015 could be a significant challenge to environmentalists. The American people have given anti-environmental politicians majorities in both houses of Congress. Alabama politics continues to be overwhelmingly dominated by anti-environmentalists. We can expect more attempts to dismantle environmental protections, and foster increased production of dirty energy such as coal mining, fracking, and tar sands mining. And there will be increased opposition to programs to curb global warming. Alabama will need strong and effective environmental organizations to continue our fight for a clean and healthy environment. Make a New Year’s resolution to become more active in your Sierra Club Group. We need your participation and support. And I wish you all a Happy New Year!


Will Alabama's coal ash problems continue under new EPA rule?

(by Adam Johnston) We have had a devastating problem with coal ash production, storage, and disposal for a very long time in Alabama and the US.  Coal ash, a mixture of by-products from the burning of coal from electrical production, has been produced and dumped for decades with very little protection for any citizens' health or common resources like drinking water. Currently it is our nation's second largest industrial waste and is documented to contain several carcinogens like arsenic, chromium, lead, mercury, and cadmium. Unscrupulous relationships between coal industry lobbyists and state and national leaders have eventually created a situation where there are now over 200 contaminated sites and counting as investigations continue at the 1400+ coal ash sites across the country. On December 19th the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced the first-ever federal regulations for coal ash after many decades of pressure from people and groups like the Sierra Club. 

EPA's final rule classified the toxic substance as a non-hazardous waste and failed to address many other issues sought after by environmental and public health organizations. The final rule fails to protect all communities including our state.  Alabama The Beautiful has over 40 coal ash ponds. Most of them are unlined, located adjacent to our rivers, have no groundwater monitoring requirements, or dam safety rules which has resulted in multiple contamination cases including sites along the Tennessee River.  The scope of Alabama's coal ash problem has only just begun to receive attention; hopefully the new rule will help begin a conversation towards public protection and participation. The City of Gadsden needs help as their drinking water source is 1 mile downstream from a huge, old, unlined, discharging-waste-every-day coal ash pond; we need to work to gather more data on this site and others. The Arrowhead Landfill in Uniontown needs help as it holds over 4 million tons of coal ash from the 2008 Kingston TVA spill and has had severe limitations securing its arsenic and other heavy metals. People in Perry County are concerned as their officials continue to ask for more ash; we need to all work together to protect all communities from the real harms of coal ash.  

Will this new rule help Alabama's citizens and waterways from an already real and present threat?  What type of protections for public health and drinking water are in the rules?  Will the rule enforce proper clean-ups at current sites?  How will the rule address legacy or retired sites?  How can we, the people, be involved?

Specifically, the new rules call for:

  1. The (proper) closure of surface impoundments and landfills that fail to meet engineering and structural standards and will no longer receive coal ash;
  2. Regular inspections of the structural safety of surface impoundments that remain open;
  3. Restrictions on the location of new surface impoundments and landfills so that they cannot be built in sensitive areas such as wetlands and earthquake zones;
  4. Groundwater monitoring, immediate cleanup of contamination, and closure of unlined surface impoundments that are polluting groundwater.

To be perfectly honest with you, I am still trying to decipher the rule myself but I know one thing we can all do, keep supporting each other and keep up the good fight.  We as citizens and Sierra members must continue working to document and monitor coal ash contamination, we must utilize the Clean Water Act to hold the utilities responsible, and we must all work together for the betterment of our state.  Stay tuned and be ready to protect our rivers when the time comes.

In response to the rules, Barbara Boyle, Senior Campaign Representative of Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal Campaign, issued the following statement: "For decades, coal ash has been dumped in the backyards of power plants across the nation...and left nearby communities at risk from groundwater contamination and air pollution... While we commend the EPA’s introduction of this first ever rule to help protect communities from this toxic by-product, this rule is just the first step in the right direction...We will continue to work with the EPA to make sure coal ash is properly disposed of and monitored, now and in the future.”

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's "Disposal of Coal Combustion Residuals from Electric Utilities" Rule: http://www2.epa.gov/coalash/coal-ash-rule 

Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign Press Release: http://content.sierraclub.org/press-releases/2014/12/new-epa-coal-ash-rule-will-protect-nevada-communities 

Recent articles on EPA's plan:

  1. 12/19, Anniston Star by Daniel Gaddy, "EPA sets rules on coal ash for first time.", (http://www.annistonstar.com/news/article_78a3ff9c-87de-11e4-bba0-f313b8a749ff.html)
  2. 12/19, New York Times by Emmarie Huetteman, "E.P.A. Issues Rules on Disposal of Coal Ash to Protect Water Supply." (http://www.nytimes.com/2014/12/20/us/epa-issues-new-rules-on-disposal-of-coal-ash.html?_r=0)
  3. 12/19, Earthjustice by Chris Jordan-Bloch, " EPA's First-Ever Coal Ash Rule Leaves Communities To Protect Themselves." (http://earthjustice.org/news/press/2014/epa-s-first-ever-coal-ash-rule-leaves-communities-to-protect-themselves)  

Important links:
A high resolution copy of the map compiling coal ash sites in Alabama is available online at: http://www.alabamarivers.org/press-room/media-relations/alabama-drinking-water-supplies-downstream-from-coal-ash-impoundments

Alabama Coal Ash Fact Sheet: http://www.southeastcoalash.org/?page_id=2421


Sierra Club AL Chapter Declares Our Forests Aren’t Fuel

States

Pellet Plants

Operating

Proposed

Alabama

2

4

Florida

1

0

Georgia

6

6

Louisiana

0

5

Mississippi

2

5

North Carolina

4

4

South Carolina

2

4

Virginia

3

3

Biomass energy has emerged as a great threat to the natural wonders of Alabama. Throughout the Southeast, forests that comprise wildlife habitat, protect our watersheds, and provide countless recreational opportunities are being destroyed in order to keep the lights on in Europe. Our forests are clearcut, processed into wood pellets, and shipped across the Atlantic to be burned to generate electricity in England and other European countries.

In response to this growing threat, Dogwood Alliance launched the Our Forests Aren’t Fuel  campaign to educate and activate citizens, while putting pressure on the policymakers and corporate leaders who are driving this industry. The Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club is proud to join with Dogwood Alliance and more than 75 others (1) to save our Southern forests.

Despite the fact that deforestation is the third largest cause of carbon pollution just behind cars and power plants, European policymakers have passed misguided policies promoting the burning of Southern forests for electricity to meet their “clean energy” targets. However, mounting scientific evidence (2) shows that in many cases, burning wood pellets manufactured from trees and other large-diameter woody biomass actually increases carbon emissions compared to coal for anywhere from 35 to 100 years or more, accelerating climate change at a time when we need to be rapidly cutting emissions.

Aerial view of pellet mill and whole trees awaiting processing at Enviva's Northhampton, North Carolina facility.
Similar mills proposed for Jackson, Aliceville, and Selma, AL.

Power companies and pellet manufacturers, such as Drax and Enviva , continue expanding their destructive activities in the Southeast (3), targeting trees at a rate that the forests will not be able to sustain. Contrary to company statements claiming they use only limbs, tops and residuals, on-the-ground evidence from North Carolina and Virginia shows that whole trees, many from bottomland hardwoods, are being used in their operations. The threat is on its way to Alabama, with new pellet mills proposed near Aliceville, Selma, and Jackson, so now is the time to fight to make sure this industry operates sustainably.

Our forests are too valuable to be destroyed for fuel. Our standing forests gather and store carbon, which makes them a key solution for carbon pollution. Additionally, forests filter water, are a place to hunt, fish, and camp, and provide habitat for various wildlife. If big power plants turn increasingly to trees for their fuel, it will intensify pressure to overharvest our forests, threatening our climate, wildlife, and local communities.

Your Sierra Club Chapter is proud to join the Our Forests Aren’t Fuel campaign, and you can take action as an individual by visiting www.dogwoodalliance.org. If you’re interested in getting more involved to save Alabama’s forests, please contact Dan Favre at danfavre@gmail.com.

http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/campaigns/bioenergy/biomass-platform-and-endorsers/

http://www.dogwoodalliance.org/2014/07/new-uk-government-science-report-confirms-burning-forests-bad-for-climate/

https://www.southernenvironment.org/uploads/maps/
Woody_Biomass_Facilities_MAPTABLE_2014Sept16.pdf


Save the Date: 17th Annual Alabama Water Rally
February 27-March 1, 2015. Lake Guntersville State Park

The Alabama Rivers Alliance is pleased to announce that our next annual conference, Alabama Water Rally, will be February 27 - March 1, 2015 at Lake Guntersville State Park.

Please contact Alabama Rivers Alliance if you would like to contribute in any way to this year's conference. Below you will find all the needed information to begin your flow towards Lake Guntersville.

What is Alabama Water Rally?

Alabama Water Rally is the annual conference of the Alabama Rivers Alliance. For over seventeen years, this event has brought together over a hundred individual attendees from a variety of backgrounds to share, network, and learn. Participants include agency employees, teachers, elected officials, scientists, lawyers, engineers, concerned citizens, nature lovers, and other eco-minded folks.
What to expect at Alabama Water Rally?

Alabama Water Rally offers workshops from experts on the newest ideas and issues around water and the environment in Alabama. It offers opportunities for life-long-learning as well as a chance to get together to socialize, celebrate our victories, share our challenges, and have a good time. Days are packed with informative education sessions and each night features a different form of entertainment. Learn more>>>


Coosa Riverkeeper 2014 Accomplishments

(from Coosa Riverkeeper Justinn Overton) Alabama’s rivers are a vital part of our heritage and everyday life, from an ice cold glass of tap water in the summer to watching a beautiful sunset over the lake. In Alabama, The River State, our rivers don’t just take care of themselves. They depend on good Alabamians like you and me to protect them and pass them on to our children and grandchildren to use and enjoy.

Coosa Riverkeeper is the voice of the Coosa. We patrol the waters, educate the public and advocate on behalf of the river. 500,000 Alabamians live, work and play in the many lakes and creeks that we work to conserve. We’re ordinary citizens, just like you, driven by a passion for our shared waterways, grounded in science and policy with a mission to protect, restore and promote the Coosa River.

When we think of time spent on the Coosa we dream about fishing, canoeing, and spending summers at the lake. But the Coosa is not just for recreation, we also use our river to give us drinking water, to generate power, and to supply our industries. Some uses of our river lead to pollution, a detriment to our rivers that our organization works to prevent. We patrol the waters, educating the public, and advocate for the river, working to improve the ecological, public and economic health of the region. The generosity, compassion, and commitment of foundations like Alabama Chapter of the Sierra Club, business partners, and our members help ensure the defense of the Coosa River. Our staff, volunteers, Board of Directors, and 500+ members work tirelessly to improve the quality and quantity of water and life in the Coosa Valley, but there’s more work to be done!

Below you’ll find a list of 2014’s Accomplishments! Thank you for supporting our
work in 2014! Wishing you and yours a wonderful holiday season! See you on the river in 2015!

One of this year’s biggest successes has been the expansion of our patrol fleet by adding a truck and a large deck boat, the Laura Moore II. The Laura Moore II, named after the only steamboat to ever navigate the entire Coosa River, has increased our ability to patrol our lakes! We patrolled the river 29 times with 63 guests on patrol, covering 220 river miles in 2014! Plus, it will allow us to take important members like you with us on the river to see its beauty and the issues it faces!
In the past year, your membership dollars have helped us:


Sierra Club Outings

Winter is here! That means It's time to get out outside and enjoy this cold weather! 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 park! Great outings and meetings from North Alabama all the way to the Gulf! more>>>