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Many see the war on coal as a war on jobs

Bill Britt

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By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—It is said that politics makes strange bedfellows, in this instance it might be better phrased, losing jobs makes for common alliance.
So, it is when President of the Alabama AFL-CIO Al Henley and staunch Republican Public Service Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh are seen on the same side of an argument. Both are willing to fight for coal mining jobs in Alabama.
Recent infighting at the Public Service Commission has driven many in the GOP to agree with Henley that a war on coal is a war on jobs and that war seems to be heating up in Alabama.
“We are not in it for the power company. We are not in it for the Public Service Commission. We are not in it for anybody but ourselves,” said Alabama AFL-CIO President Henley. “We are fighting for our lives because it’s my union members that maintain every coaled-fired plant in the state of Alabama and work there everyday.”
Henley, is not a man to be underestimated, neither should the around 5,000 coal miners who work in the state.
According to Henley, “Roughly 20 to 30 percent of the miners in Alabama are mining coal for the power companies.”
Cavanaugh said in a phone interview on Wednesday, “The coal industry directly employs five thousand people and indirectly effects hundreds of thousands of jobs in Alabama.”
Cavanaugh, who has been an advocate for coal’s future also said, “The thing about coal is that it keeps our utility prices down. Our direct access to coal keeps our prices down in Alabama which makes us able to recruit industry like Mercedes, ThyssenKrupp, and Hyundai.”
It is jobs that has leaders like Henley and Cavanaugh worried because as they see it coal means jobs.
Henley says that the average wage for coal miners in Alabama is “about sixty to eighty thousand a year.” He says that with that kind of income, “You can achieve the American dream.”
Henley questions all the talk about good paying jobs coming to Alabama, “They keep saying that they are good jobs but the people I talk to are always a few dollars short every payday of being able to have a solid middle class standard of living.”
But even those jobs might be in jeopardy if coal mining is devastated in Alabama.
Henley says he believes that “environmental groups that are supported by [PSC Commissioner] Dunn’s office” are working to close coal fired plants in the state.
He also said that he doesn’t understand President Obama’s position on coal-fired plants either.
In 2008, Obama told the San Francisco Chronicle that under his administration, “If someone wants to build a coal-powered plant, they can. It’s just that it will bankrupt them.”
There are those who believe that the president will use regulations in concert with environmental lawyer to close coal-fired plants across the nation.
Just recently, 15 coal-powered units were scheduled for closure in Georgia. According to a story in the “Atlanta Journal Constitution,” this will remove, “20 percent of electrical capacity from its power grid.” http://m.ajc.com/news/business/georgia-power-looks-for-alternatives-to-coal/nT7Yx/
The article says that, “Hailed by its defenders as reliable and cheap and blasted by critics as dirty and inefficient, coal helped shape America’s history, powering steamships and railroad engines. But the resource has come under increased scrutiny for two reasons — environmentalists’ pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to raise clean air standards and a precipitous drop in the price of natural gas.”
Henley says he and his members are concerned that the environmentalists are working in Alabama to do here what they have done in Georgia.
In fact according to the January report, “Just five years ago, 70 percent of the fuel used by Georgia Power to produce electricity came from a source lambasted by environmentalists from shore to shore — coal. Today, that number is down to 47 percent.”
Commissioner Cavanaugh see the same trend in Alabama, “In 2007, over 60 percent of electricity was made using coal, five years later it’s 50 percent and the trend seems to be going down.”
Fox News in Georgia, reported that the plant closing would cost around 480 jobs. They also reported that, “Federal regulators and environmentalists say power plants are responsible for about half the nation’s mercury toxins, which contaminate water and fish. The new regulations are designed to help prevent premature deaths, asthma and other health problems, but coal industry officials, say the aggressive rules are costing jobs and driving up the price of electricity.”
A toxic fear is pervasive for those who believe that the recent calls for court-like hearings at the PSC will lead to a scenario were environmental lawyers will use the proceeding to destroy Alabama’s coal industry through lawsuits.
Real or imagined, the closing of coal-fired plants in the neighboring state of Georgia is seen by many as an omen if things are allowed to get out of control.

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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Health

Ivey awards more than $17 million in federal coronavirus aid to local agencies

Eddie Burkhalter

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More than $17 million in coronavirus relief aid has been awarded to 20 state community action agencies, Gov. Kay Ivey’s office announced Friday. 

“COVID-19 has disrupted lives in many ways and in varying degrees,” Gov. Ivey said in a statement. “It is my hope that the services provided by these funds will help people as they work toward a quick and complete economic recovery.”

The Community Service Block grants made available by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will be used by the various local agencies to provide aid to those impacted by the pandemic, including seniors,  the disabled and low-income families, according to a press release from Ivey’s office. 

“Gov. Ivey is determined to help Alabama and Alabamians emerge from this pandemic as strong if not stronger than ever,” ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said. “ADECA stands ready to be a part of that process with the funds made available through our programs.”

Agencies, amounts and coverage areas include:

  • Community Action Agency of Northwest Alabama Inc. – $668,160 (Colbert, Franklin and Lauderdale counties)
  • Community Action Partnership Huntsville/Madison and Limestone Counties – $1.05 million (Limestone and Madison counties)
  • Community Action Agency of Northeast Alabama Inc. – $1.35 million (Blount, Cherokee, DeKalb, Jackson, Marshall, and St. Clair counties)
  • Community Action Partnership of North Alabama – $775,602 (Cullman, Lawrence and Morgan counties)
  • Marion-Winston Counties Community Action Committee Inc. – $226,538 (Marion and Winston counties)
  • Walker County Community Action Agency Inc. – $273,782 (Walker County)
  • Community Action Agency of Talladega, Clay, Randolph, Calhoun and Cleburne counties – $1.02 million (Calhoun, Clay, Cleburne, Randolph, and Talladega counties)
  • Community Action of Etowah County Inc. – $379,592 (Etowah County)
  • Pickens County Community Action Committee and Community Development Corp. Inc. – $117,329 (Pickens County)
  • Community Service Programs of West Alabama Inc. – $1.65 million (Bibb, Choctaw, Dallas, Fayette, Greene, Lamar, Perry, Sumter and Tuscaloosa counties)
  • Jefferson County Committee for Economic Opportunity – $2.19 million (Jefferson County)
  • Community Action Committee Inc. of Chambers, Tallapoosa, Coosa – $351,259 (Chambers, Coosa and Tallapoosa counties)
  • Community Action Partnership of Middle Alabama Inc. – $793,918 (Autauga, Chilton, Elmore and Shelby counties)
  • Montgomery Community Action Committee and Community Development Corp. Inc. – $911,887 (Montgomery County)
  • Alabama Council on Human Relations Inc. – $550,919 (Lee County)
  • Macon-Russell Community Action Agency Inc. – $375,068 (Macon and Russell counties)
  • Organized Community Action Program Inc. – $806,165 (Bullock, Butler, Covington, Crenshaw, Dale, Lowndes and Pike counties)
  • Community Action Agency of South Alabama – $1.24 million (Baldwin, Clarke, Conecuh, Escambia, Marengo, Monroe, and Wilcox counties)
  • Southeast Alabama Community Action Partnership Inc. – $827,944 (Barbour, Coffee, Geneva, Henry and Houston counties)
  • Mobile Community Action Inc. – $1.77 million (Mobile and Washington counties)
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Crime

“A horrific scene”: Seven found dead after Morgan County shooting

Brandon Moseley

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Seven people were found dead in a horrific scene at a home in rural Morgan County late Thursday night after gunshots were reported.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office Friday morning said its deputies responded to the scene Thursday night. At approximately 11:23 p.m. deputies responded to a gunshots call in the 500 block of Talacuh Rd in Valhermoso Springs. Police confirmed seven adult fatalities.

“The scene is secure and no immediate threat to the public in the area,” the sheriff’s office said in a statement, but no suspect in custody.”

There are media reports that the victims include four men and three women.

“Morgan County Sheriff and Madison County Sheriff Crime Scene Units are processing the scene,” the Sheriff’s Department said in the statement. “The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is part of the FBI Violent Crimes Taskforce which is also assisting. Sheriff Puckett, Coroner Jeff Chunn and District Attorney Scott Anderson have been on scene throughout the night and morning.”

Upon arrival at the residence, deputies saw part of the home was on fire and later discovered seven bodies inside after the fire was extinguished. The deputies were able to put out the fire before the fire department arrived. A dog was also found dead in the home.

“It is a horrific scene and to be able to process it will take some time,” MCSO’s public information officer Mike Swafford told WAAY. “We don’t have a motive at this time. We don’t have a determined suspect at this time. Investigators are following leads to piece together exactly what happened and who was involved. We can say we don’t believe there is an active threat to anybody in the area.”

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The neighbors called 911 to report the gunshots

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National

Mobile removes Confederate monument overnight

Chip Brownlee

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The city of Mobile removed a Confederate monument from downtown overnight following days of protest in Mobile and nationwide over police brutality and systemic racism.

Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson said he ordered the statue removed from its prominent location in downtown Mobile overnight.

“Moving this statue will not change the past,” Stimpson said in a statement on Twitter. “It is about removing a potential distraction so we may focus clearly on the future of our city. That conversation, and the mission to create One Mobile, continues today.”

The 120-year-old statue of Admiral Raphael Semmes, a Confederate Navy admiral, is the second Confederate monument removed in Alabama since protests gripped the nation over the police killing of an unarmed black man, George Floyd, in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

“To be clear: This decision is not about Raphael Semmes, it is not about a monument and it is not an attempt to rewrite history,” Stimpson said.

Stimpson said the statue has been placed in a secure location.

Last week, Birmingham Mayor Randall Woodfin ordered a Confederate monument in Linn Park removed. That statue had been at the center of a years-long legal battle between the city of Birmingham and the Alabama Legislature, and Attorney General Steve Marshall has since sued the city a second time seeking a $25,000 fine for removing the monument.

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It is likely that Mobile will also face a similar fine.

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Crime

More prison workers, inmates test positive for COVID-19

Eddie Burkhalter

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Four more prison workers and three inmates have tested positive for COVID-19, the Alabama Department of Corrections announced Thursday. 

Workers at the Julia Tutwiler Prison for Women, the Elmore Correctional Facility, the Kilby Correctional Facility and the Bibb Correctional Facility self-reported positive coronavirus test results, according to an ADOC press release. 

Fifty-one cases among prison staff remain active while 25 workers who tested positive have been cleared to return to work. 

One inmate at the Easterling Correctional Facility and another at Tutwiler prison were moved into isolated areas in the facilities’ infirmaries after testing positive for the virus, according to the release. There have been 17 confirmed COVID-19 cases among staff at Tutwiler and 2 infected inmates. 

In addition to those two new confirmed cases, an inmate at the St. Clair Correctional Facility who had pre-existing medical conditions was taken to a local hospital after exhibiting coronavirus symptoms, where he tested positive for the virus. 

Thirteen of 22 confirmed COVID-19 cases among inmates remain active, according to ADOC. 

ADOC has tested 191 of approximately 22,000 inmates as of Wednesday.

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