One and done

With one more day left in the 2011 legislative session, the fate of most of the environmental bills is decided.

The biggest win of this session was last week’s passage of the Forever Wild constitutional amendment 80-4 by the House. This sets up a 17-month campaign to renew Forever Wild at the polls in November 2012. While Forever Wild passed nearly 20 years ago with a record-setting 84 percent of the vote, the fight to renew the program could prove difficult this time around if the small, vocal opposition continues.

There are several environmental bills on Governor Bentley’s desk awaiting his signature or veto. The first is the life cycle budgeting bill, pushed by Rep. Jack Williams. Last week, the bill received another amendment on the Senate floor, but passed the Senate resoundingly and the House concurred with the changes. If signed by the governor, the bill will allow local governments to consider the entire life cycle costs of public works projects and other purchases, making it easier for public bodies to choose the greener and cheaper options.

The Senate also passed a bill that would eliminate ADEM’s requirement to charge polluters a minimum of $100 per day per violation. The bill has been supported by ADEM but pushed by the League of Municipalities, where their members’ numerous wastewater treatment plants are regularly failing across the state. Local governments are concerned about the penalty liability. The bill awaits the governor’s signature or veto.

Finally, the House has adopted a resolution to support the Alabama Sun Shot Initiative, which would seek to obtain one percent of Alabamian’s energy consumption from solar canopies on parking lots. The Senate has the chance to support this resolution, which is being pushed by Mayor Tommy Battle of Huntsville as a clean energy jobs initiative.

Thursday will be a busy final day for the legislature. Except for action by the governor and Senate on the aforementioned bills, the environment won’t play a big role in the hustle and bustle of the final day. Next week, we’ll give a comprehensive recap of environmental bills this session.

You can follow legislation related to the environment each week on Conservation Alabama’s Hot List at conservationalabama.org.

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