Two weeks after former U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL) was confirmed as the U.S. Attorney General, Sessions’ score of 0% on the League of Conservation Voters’ (LCV) 2016 National Environmental Scorecard offers insight into what his priorities may be in his new role.
Sen. Richard Shelby and former Sen. Jeff Sessions each earned a score of 0% by voting against clean water, energy efficiency, and public lands. Both senators voted to void the Clean Water Rule that protects the drinking water consumed by one in three Americans. Sessions also voted for a bill that would have gutted the Antiquities Act, a key piece of legislation that is used to preserve public lands from the Statue of Liberty to the Grand Canyon.
“Time and again we’ve seen that conservation can and should be a bipartisan issue,” said Tammy Herrington, Executive Director of Conservation Alabama. “We hope that Attorney General Sessions is mindful of that, and that he remembers his former constituents in Alabama were protected by laws like the Clean Water Act in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster.”
LCV’s 2016 National Environmental Scorecard publishes the environmental voting record for each member during the second session of the 114th Congress. This year, a record-breaking 38 House votes are included in the scorecard. The Alabama congressional delegation’s scores are being released by Conservation Alabama in partnership with LCV. The full scorecard is available in English and Spanish here.
Once again, Rep. Terri Sewell (D-Birmingham) maintained her position as the highest scoring member of Alabama’s delegation by voting to protect the laws that safeguard our drinking water and public lands. The remainder of the state’s delegation in the U.S. House of Representatives scored no higher than 3%.
House District: Member – Score
AL-1: Byrne – 0
AL-2: Roby – 3
AL-3: Rogers – 3
AL-4: Aderholt – 3
AL-5: Brooks – 3
AL-6: Palmer – 0
AL-7: Sewell – 82
Senator – Score
Sessions – 0
Shelby – 0
We received some exciting news on the energy front on Tuesday when Alabama Power announced a plan to provide up to 500 megawatts of renewable energy, mostly from solar energy. 500 megawatts is enough to power 100,000 homes at peak sun intensity, and would increase the percentage of Alabama Power’s energy generated by renewable resources to between 10% and 15%. This proposal is now before the Public Service Commission, where there will be a hearing and a vote later this summer.
In a statement released on July 15, Alabama House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D-Gadsden) praised Alabama Power’s plan for being both environmentally friendly and economically fair. The proposal adheres to the Public Service Commission’s requirement that customers do not subsidize renewable energy unless they have actively opted in to renewable programs.
According to Alabama Power, this proposal is in response to requests for more green energy options from current and potential clients. More companies are making renewable energy a part of their business model, and the plan to increase solar power in Alabama could serve as an incentive for companies to locate here in our state. The proposal covers projects that generate up to 80 megawatts each, which would streamline the process of getting those projects up and running by eliminating the need to get each one approved individually by the Public Service Commission.
While the plan announced this week focuses on larger-scale solar options, there are several ways to support renewable energy through your local power company. If you are a property owner and an Alabama Power customer, you can install rooftop solar panels to generate your own power. You can also purchase Renewable Energy Certificates through Alabama Power or Green Power Switch blocks through TVA, which help alleviate the costs of renewable energy without passing that cost on to other customers.
This is the beginning of what we would like to see as a long-term change in how our state produces and uses energy. Renewable energy means cleaner air and water for all Alabamians. This is an exciting step forward for Alabama, and a win for our environment, our economy, and our communities.
Last week was quiet in Montgomery as legislators took their spring break, but this week we are back in full swing with a packed agenda. The current schedule is for legislators to meet Tuesday and Thursday of this week and wrap up next Monday. With only a few days left to pass legislation, we can expect a flurry of activity, including movement of many conservation related bills.
First up this week, Senate Bill 9 goes before the House Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security Tuesday at noon. As part of an effort to make our streets friendlier for bicycles, SB9 proposes a safe passing distance of at least three feet for vehicles overtaking bicycles. Conservation Alabama supports this bill as part of our “Complete Streets” policies, which maintains that transportation should accommodate the needs of all users. If the bill passes through committee, it could pass in one of the two final days of this legislative session. Before the break last week, Senator Ward of Birmingham also introduced statewide resolutions that would include Complete Streets planning policies for the state.
Another positive bill for conservation with the potential to pass is House Bill 292, dealing with solid waste landfills and how they are approved. HB292 would eliminate the automatic approval process that currently exists when municipalities do not respond to permits for landfills, and instead replaces it with an automatic denial after 120 days. This change in the permit approval process also requires applicants to provide fact-based information supporting their proposal.
SB355, a bill that restricts local governments’ ability to control pollution into nearby waterways is also moving quickly. As it stands right now, this bill that compromises our water quality could pass this week. Water protection groups throughout the state have sent action alerts this week asking members to contact their legislators. To contact your Representative and ask them to vote no on this bill, visit our action center.
Last up on our watch list is SB12, the wind bill, which may come up for vote on Tuesday. Two local bills regulating wind energy in Etowah and Cherokee counties have already passed, and several wind companies are now pushing for this statewide bill to supersede the local bills. Conservation Alabama has proposed an amendment that includes language for both land based and offshore protections in wildlife corridors in addition to the changes already made to the bill.