Defense is the name of the game

With the first full week of the Alabama State Legislature in the books, the environment has been playing defense.

First, Senator Roger Bedford and Representative Richard Lindsey issued a letter to their colleagues proposing a “Conserve Alabama” constitutional amendment. The amendment is expected to be the direct manifestation of the Alabama Farmers Federation’s desire to take public funding from the publicly owned Forever Wild program and instead redirect those public dollars for privately owned “farmland preservation.”

Then, Senator Lowell Barron’s $1 billion for roads bill (SB161) hurriedly moved through a Senate committee and was expected to be voted on Tuesday. While Alabamians drive over more than 2,100 structurally deficient bridges each day, SB161 would allocate $100 million per year for 10 years mostly for new, sprawling road projects and only a fraction for repair and maintenance.

Thirdly, Senator Kim Benefield introduced a modified version of the “Family Farm Preservation Act” (SB61) this year. Rural citizens and environmental organizations have been fighting this bill for nearly a decade due to its goal of making farming practices all but immune to nuisance lawsuits. SB61 presumably would open the doors for new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), such as hogs and chickens, to come to the state. Despite some changes to the bill this year, citizen groups have had to plead with Senator Benefield to set a public hearing on SB61.

Finally, HB195 prohibits the director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management from regulating greenhouse gas emissions or from implementing a cap and trade program, without express legislative authorization. In 1998, the legislature passed similar legislation following the Kyoto, Japan climate change summit prohibiting the ADEM director from proposing new greenhouse gas emissions rules.

This session, it appears that defense is the name of the game for the environment.

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