Forever Wild renewal takes first step

While the Alabama State Legislature is on spring break this week, the first two weeks of the legislative session has seen quite a bit of activity on environmental bills.

The bill to reauthorize Forever Wild for 20 years received a favorable report from the House Economic Development and Tourism Committee on March 9. Nearly 100 individuals turned out for and against the bill. Despite some negative comments from the Alabama Farmers Federation, proponents spoke passionately in favor of the bill (HB126) and it will go to the full House soon for a vote.

In an attempt to delay reauthorization of Forever Wild, a resolution was introduced to study the “operation and effectiveness” of the state land protection program. In 19 years of existence, Forever Wild has held four public hearings a year and the state conservation department has issued reports and audits of the program, making the need for a study committee questionable.

Additionally, a bill that would give ADEM authority to regulate coal ash as solid waste passed the House Commerce and Small Business Committee and a public hearing was held on a companion bill in the Senate. Currently, coal ash is exempt from any ADEM regulatory control, making Alabama the only state that doesn’t have disposal rules on coal ash.

A bill that would make it so that an application for a new landfill would be denied if a local government doesn’t take action on it after 90 days was not acted upon in committee. Currently, the law states that the landfill would be approved without action. This legislation is getting greater attention since Governor Robert Bentley declared a moratorium on landfills late last month.

Finally, a bill that would rollback ADEM’s enforcement and penalty programs by eliminating its current $100 minimum fine per violation per day passed the House Commerce and Small Business Committee. Also, there has been no movement on a bill that would exempt Alabama-made and Alabama-distributed products from federal cap and trade standards.

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