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Wind Farm Regulation Bill Stalls in House

Brandon Moseley

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By Brandon Moseley
Alabama Political Reporter

On Tuesday, April 1, the Alabama House of Representatives voted to carry over a bill to provide oversight and regulation over controversial new wind farms that are being built across the state starting in Etowah and Cherokee Counties.

Senator Phil Williams (R) from Rainbow City is the Sponsor of Senate Bill 12, but it was carried in the Alabama House by Rep. Becky Nordgren (R) from Gadsden.  One version of SB 12 was passed by the Senate.  A second version was passed after negotiations between Sen. Williams and stakeholders in the House Committee.  A third version of the bill was introduced on the floor by Nordgren.

Rep. Nordgren said that her bill, H.B. 106, never got on the agenda in committee and she was not invited to the negotiations. She lives on Shinbone Ridge in Etowah County where the wind turbines are located and the Committee version of the legislation would not have prevented the Turbines from being built in her neighborhood, but her substitute bill would.

Nordgren said that out of state wind energy companies were looking at siting wind turbine projects in 8 Alabama counties.  Nordgren said that the 350 foot tall (500 foot with the blades) wind turbines on tops of ridges and mountains would be unsightly, would lower property values, become a potential danger, and would kill thousands of birds annually.

Rep. Patricia Todd (D) from Birmingham said that we don’t seem concerned when coal pollutes the air, the water, and blows up whole mountains.

Rep. Nordgren said, “We have coal we don’t have wind in Alabama.”  When there is not enough wind to turn the blades, the turbines use dirty energy motors to turn the blades.  TVA put wind turbines on a mountain and found that they were not cost effective as a source of power.

Rep. Todd said. “I don’t mind the regulation.  If they are coming in they should be regulated.”

Many legislators were angry with the substitution and asked that SB 12 be carried over.  The first attempt by Rep. Jack Williams (R) from Vestavia narrowly failed. An hour later a second attempt by Rep. Paul Beckman (R) was successful

Rep. Mack Butler said on Facebook later, “SB 12 which would regulate wind mills has been carried over. Thankfully, we do have the local bill already passed.”

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In the House committee, which was also covered in detail by the Alabama Political Reporter. Sen. Phil Williams introduced kindergarten anti wind turbine activist and kindergarten student Lily Coker.  Coker and her mom has started a petition drive to oppose the proposed wind farms.  Coker said, “I started a petition to stop a wind mill farm from being put on the mountain where it is close to my daddy.”  Sen. Williams said that Coker’s father is dead.  Her and her mom like to hike in the ridges and hills of the southern Appalachians (ridges that Pioneer Energy wants to mount large wind turbines on top of.)

Coker’s mom said that Lily started the petitions it was her idea.  “I started the online petition.”  The Cokers presented 1261 signatures opposing wind farms and supporting SB 12.

Rep. Jack Williams asked Coker, “What does your teacher thing about you being down here?”

Lily Coker answered. “I have not told her yet.”

House Minority Leader Craig Ford (D) from Gadsden Congratulated Coker said, “Your school is right near where I live.”  Ford then awarded her a state of Alabama flag.

Sen. Williams said that these wind farms are being proposed, “For an area represented by myself, Rep. Ford, Sen. Dial, Rep. Nordgren, and Rep. Lindsey.”  Sen. Williams said that Etowah and Cherokee County are important rock climbing areas.

Williams said that a company named Pioneer Green has begun planning wind farms and my “Phone began burning up.”  Residents are filing class action lawsuits and whole school buses full of residents were prepared to come to the public hearing.

Williams acknowledged that the Pioneer Green Company have the right to do what they want on their own land; but said that the wind farms are nuisances.  The neighbor do have something to say about it.

Sen. Williams said that he began researching Alabama regulations on wind farms.  “What I quickly found out is that there is zero laws and regulations regulating wind farms in Alabama.”  Nuclear power plants, coal power plants, and natural gas power are all regulated by the state of Alabama.  The state has nothing on wind farms.  Williams said that he spent a year and a half doing research on wind farms.  Sen. Williams said, “Some wind farms work but not at the expense of our citizens.”  Williams warned that the big wind turbines can throw debris and ice for over a quarter of a mile.  “When they go bad they go bad.”  Williams showed video of a wind turbine breaking apart in high winds and slinging one of those large blades a sizable distance through the air.

Rep. Richard Lindsey (D) said that he had visited an abandoned wind farm while in Hawaii

Rep. Jack Williams said that SB 12 has passed the Senate and since then more negotiations have gone on.

Sen. Williams said that there is a great deal of input here.  The bill has input from Alabama Power, aviation, electric cooperatives, etc.  “If they want to come here and compete with coal and gas jobs they need to go before the Public Service Commission like everybody else.”  Williams said, “This will supersede our local bill.  I think this is a lot stronger than our local bill.”

Rep. Ford asked the lobbyist hired by Pioneer Green, “Were you involved with the negotiations.  You are ok with the bill?”

The lobbyist said, “We do have some issues with it and have requested some amendments.”  They cancelled the public hearing because they did not think the public hearing was necessary.

Rep Baughn said that the Obama administration has spent $8.4 billion on tax credits.   The subsidies became available after 2009.  Baughn asked if the wind farms would be cost effective without the subsidies?

Rep. Mack Butler (R) from Rainbow City offered a substitute bill.  It was adopted by the Committee without opposition.

Sen. Phil Williams said that under SB 11 public hearings will be held at the Public Service Commission (PSC) for each wind farm project.  The substitute of SB 11 clarifies the definition of abandoned wind farm

Rep. Jack Williams said, “Thank you Sen. Williams for your work on this project.”

Rep. Ford asked the Pioneer lobbyist if passage of this legislation would hinder their work.

The lobbyist said it would hinder our ability to develop projects in Cherokee and Etowah County.  I am not sure if it would prevent them from being built.

Sen. Phil Williams said that noise standards for the turbines need to be developed.  Williams warned that Pioneer is looking at these projects in eight different Alabama Counties.

Now that the full House has carried over SB 12 it appears that this legislation is dead for this legislative session unless it is brought back today or tomorrow.

Rep. Butler said, “My guess is that it (SB 12) is (dead). We have tomorrow and Thursday and wow was it controversial today. Becky did an amazing job but there was still much opposition.

Brandon Moseley is a senior reporter with eight and a half years at Alabama Political Reporter. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Facebook. Brandon is a native of Moody, Alabama, a graduate of Auburn University, and a seventh generation Alabamian.

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Slow absentee voting in Tuscaloosa sparks outrage, possible legal action

Among the issues were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours. 

Josh Moon

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(STOCK PHOTO)

Long lines and slow absentee ballot processing in Tuscaloosa County have left voters outraged and incumbent Sen. Doug Jones’s campaign threatening legal action. 

On Wednesday, Jones’s campaign attorney, Adam Plant, sent a letter to Tuscaloosa County Circuit Clerk Magaria Bobo, outlining a number of issues with ongoing absentee voting and promising to take legal action if Bobo doesn’t improve the process on the final day, Friday. Among the issues documented by Plant were incredibly long lines that left some voters waiting more than five hours and an inefficient process that managed to take in fewer than 100 absentee ballots in six hours. 

Additionally, Plant noted that Bobo has hired her family members to help process absentee ballots and at least one family member had made disparaging remarks on social media about voters. 

“You and those acting on your behalf are suppressing the vote of qualified Alabama voters,” Plant wrote in the letter. “If you are unable or unwilling to execute your duties competently, and allow Tuscaloosa voters to exercise their voting rights without undue burdens, we will take further action.”

In an interview with the Montgomery Advertiser on Wednesday, Bobo noted that her office had received more than 13,000 requests for absentee ballots — a remarkable uptick from the 3,000 or so her office usually receives — and there had been problems in managing that number of ballots while also adhering to social distancing guidelines within the office. 

However, as Plant’s letter notes, the massive increase in absentee ballots for this election shouldn’t have been a surprise. Also, Secretary of State John Merrill had made additional funds available to absentee managers to facilitate hiring extra staff, purchasing additional computers and staying open for longer hours to accommodate the anticipated increase. 

In a press release on Wednesday, the Alabama Democratic Party criticized Bobo and her family members, and the release included screenshots of Facebook posts from Bobo’s daughter lashing out at voters who complained about the long wait times. 

“No voter should have to wait in line for hours to exercise their rights,” said ADP executive director Wade Perry. “We should leverage every tool we have to make voting easier, not harder. Also, it should go without saying that election workers should not insult the very people they are employed to serve. If Ms. Bobo is incapable of processing voters quickly, someone else needs to do the job.”

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Jones campaign calls Tuberville a “coward” after no-show at Auburn forum

“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” Jones’s campaign said.

Brandon Moseley

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Sen. Doug Jones, left, and Senate candidate Tommy Tuberville, right.

There are only four days left before election day, and incumbent Democratic Sen. Doug Jones’s re-election campaign is slamming Republican challenger Tommy Tuberville, accusing him of “hiding” and calling him a “coward.”

On Wednesday, Jones addressed an Auburn University forum. Tuberville did not attend.

“Tonight, the College Democrats and College Republicans at Auburn University co-hosted a debate between Doug Jones and Tommy Tuberville, offering students a chance to ask the candidates about the issues that matter most to Alabama,” the Jones campaign said in an email to supporters. “But Tuberville never showed up – he’s too scared to face Doug… even on his own home turf. Tuberville has repeatedly refused to debate Doug Jones. He’s consistently refused to be interviewed by the press. He’s refused to tell Alabama the truth about who and what they’re voting for – and it’s clear why.”

“Tuberville is hiding because he knows that on every front — policy, experience, character, competence — he loses to Doug Jones. Hands down,” the campaign continued. “If he won’t tell the truth, we will. Tuberville expects to win this race off of his blind allegiance to the President and his party affiliation. But Alabamians know better.”

“People deserve to know who they’re really voting for if they vote for Tuberville: someone who … won’t protect our health care, doesn’t believe in science, has no idea what the Voting Rights Act is, and doesn’t care about the lives and livelihoods of Alabamians,” the Jones campaign concluded. “Alabama will never elect a coward. Pitch in now and help us spread the truth about the man hiding behind the ballot.”

“I am disappointed that Tommy Tuberville is not here,” Jones said. “I think it is important that people see two candidates side by side answering the same questions.”

Tuberville meanwhile is canvassing the state, speaking to rallies and Republican groups to turn out the Republican vote for himself and President Donald Trump. Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest in Madison County on Thursday and at the Trump Truck Parade rally in Phenix City.

“It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who represents our conservative beliefs and traditional values,” Tuberville said in Phenix City. “It’s time Alabama had a U.S. senator who supports the Second Amendment, the right to life, and putting God back in the classroom.”

Polling consistently shows Tuberville with a commanding lead over Jones. Real Clear Politics lists the race on their current board as a likely Republican win. FiveThirtyEight’s election model gives Tuberville has a 79 percent chance of defeating Jones.

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Tuberville says election is about “the American dream”

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, Tommy Tuberville spoke at Freedom Fest asking Madison County voters to support him and re-elect Donald J. Trump Tuesday.

The former Auburn University head football Coach told the estimated crowd of 350 that, “It is great to be here. This has been a lot of fun for me. Two years ago, my wife and I started to pray on whether or not to run. When we decided to run, she said don’t come back until you win.”

“This is a very serious election,” Tuberville said. “This is not about Donald Trump. It is not about me. It is not about Biden or Jones. It is about the American dream. They are trying to take it away from us.”

“I always told my players this: this country gives you the opportunity to fail and if you fail you get back up and try again,” Tuberville said. “When I was growing up in Arkansas I wanted to be a college football coach. People in high school laughed at me for it and people in college. It takes perseverance.”

Tuberville said that this country gives you the opportunity to succeed, more so than any other country in the world. Most of the rest of the world is socialist.

Tuberville warned that the other side is trying to turn America into a socialist country.

“We are not going to let them ruin this country,” Tuberville vowed.

The 2020 Madison County GOP Freedom Fest was held at the brand new Toyota Field, the new home of the Huntsville Trash Pandas minor league baseball team.

Tuberville praised President Trump whom “I have gotten to know through all of this and we have become friends. He never slows down; and he is sharp as a tack.”

Tuberville said that the President once called him at 2:30 in the morning, “He said sleep is overrated.”

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To protect the American dream we need to vote on Tuesday to keep the Senate and get Donald Trump re-elected.”

Tuberville said that he has spoken with, “A lot of people who as nervous as I am about Tuesday.” Coach Tuberville, who is being outspent, urged the crowd to ignore all of the television ads by his opponent, incumbent Senator Doug Jones (D).

Tuberville vowed to defend the Second Amendment if elected, “They ain’t getting my guns….or your guns.”

“We need to get God back in our schools and teach values again,” Tuberville stated. “The other side does not talk about values and morals.”

We are not going to allow them to tear down our country,” Tuberville said. “God will not allow them.”

“We are going to get God back in our country like it is supposed to be,” Tuberville said.

Coach Tuberville was introduced to the crowd by State Senator Clay Scofield (R-Guntersville).

Scofield said that he “is ready to send Doug Jones back to California.”

“Yes I know he is actually from here; but he sure votes like California. He certainly doesn’t vote like the vast majority of the people of Alabama want him to vote.”

Scofield called Tuberville is “A fighter” who will stand up for the values of the people of Alabama.

Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) said, “This is the most important election of my lifetime.”

“Do we believe in freedom and liberty or do we believe in socialism?” Brooks said. “We need to beat them like a drum.”

The general election is on Tuesday. You must bring a valid photo ID with you to your assigned polling place in order to participate.

Secretary of State John H. Merrill predicted that the state would have record participation on Tuesday.

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State is cleaning up after Hurricane Zeta

Brandon Moseley

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Thursday, the state of Alabama began working on recovering from Hurricane Zeta.

“Zeta gave us a real pounding, and many areas are just beginning the clean up process,” said Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Montrose). “The storm had an especially serious impact in north Mobile County, Washington County, and Clarke County. My staff and I stand ready to assist our city, county, and state partners to ensure folks get the help they need to clean up and rebuild.”

Almost 500,000 Alabama Power customers were without power immediately following the storm, including 163,000 in Mobile County alone.

“Our storm team is working into the evening replacing downed lines and poles to restore service for our customers,” Alabama Power announced on Twitter. “At 9:30 p.m., 258,000 customers remain without service across the state.” “As of 6 a.m. there are 243,000 outages across the state.”

There was damage across much of the state. As Hurricane Zeta moved through Alabama, it left behind many problems. Thousands of trees are down. There are trees down on homes, businesses, cars, power lines, fences, barns, and blocking roadways.

Some school systems are closed or are conducting classes remotely on Friday due to ongoing cleanup efforts and the widespread power outages. The schools plan to reopen Monday.

Flooding from the higher than expected storm surge hit downtown Mobile according to the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

The National Weather Service said that water in parts of Mobile Bay rose to “major flooding” levels overnight on October 28 to 29.

Rep. Byrne warned constituents to be careful using chainsaws in the cleanup and using generators to power their homes and businesses.

The Alabama Department of Public Health warned that, “It might take longer than normal to get power and water back up after #HurricaneZeta. Take steps to prevent carbon monoxide poisoning if you’re using a generator.”

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Portable generators should be kept OUTSIDE of the home. Carbon monoxide can build up rapidly if you are using a generator inside of a building. Carbon monoxide is odorless, colorless, and it kills hundreds of Americans each year.

Because the storm was moving so rapidly, it was not just the coastal counties that were hit hard by Hurricane Zeta. Elmore, Butler, Shelby, and Calhoun Counties are among the many counties with extensive damage.

The state was already recovering from Hurricane Sally in September.

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