Consumer Energy Alliance President David Holt was in Montgomery Tuesday to brief legislators on offshore oil and natural gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
Holt agreed to talk to the Alabama Political Reporter about offshore oil and gas drilling and American energy policy.
Holt said the state of Alabama just received over $30 million in revenue from energy currently being produced in the Gulf of Mexico and will make more if President Donald Trump’s administration’s offshore energy plan is implemented.
Holt said he has been very pleased with the Trump administration. The offshore energy plan was postponed due to a recent federal court ruling that found that areas off of Alaska that had been protected by former President Barack Obama’s administration could not be opened for oil and gas exploration by the Trump administration.
Holt said the administration should just set that area aside and proceed with the rest of the offshore oil and gas development plan.
Holt said the plan has also been delayed by the new Department of Interior Secretary, David Bernhardt. He said he believes that Bernhardt is a professional who is making sure that all the “i”s are dotted and all the “t”s are crossed before proceeding.
Holt showed APR maps of the Gulf of Mexico and identified a spot approximately 200 miles to the south of Baldwin County where he said that he is told is very promising.
Holt said the depth of those wells would be about two miles down.
APR asked so they will be far enough away that you won’t be able to see them from the top of our beach condos”
Holt said the farthest out you can see from the top of a condo tower is 26 miles and about 15 miles from the beach and even at that distance it would look like a star.
When the Deepwater Horizon accident happened, the tourism industry in Baldwin and Mobile Counties was impacted for about 18 months. APR asked what is keeping something similar from happening if the state expands offshore oil and gas exploration.
Holt said there are 4,000 wells currently working offshore.
“He said what happened at Macondo was terrible, and safety advances are being made to help prevent another disaster.” There is an entire company, the Marine Well Containment Company, to deal with accidents, find new ways to prevent accidents and find other safety improvements since the Macondo blowout.
“We want to protect the beaches, too,” Holt said. “We have been drilling in the Gulf since the 1940s.”
APR said Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York, has proposed ending internal combustion energy motor vehicles within 10 years and asked if there is still a need for the oil and gas industry moving forward.
Holt said the Green New Deal is not practical or realistic and would put every man, woman and child in this country $700,000 in debt. Oil demand plateaued for a couple of years after the Great Recession but has grown substantially since then. Even as more wind and solar power sources have gone online, their share of the total energy supply has not increased. Nuclear is flat as new plants have been unable to get permits and older plants are decommissioned. Coal is going away. He said oil and clean burning natural gas remain an important part of this nation’s energy supply.
“We support wind and solar and have wind and solar companies that are part of our association,” Holt said.
Holt said raising the prices of energy disproportionately affects the poor. The average American spends 6 percent of their income on energy, but, he said, studies show that the working poor often spend as much as 30 percent of their income on energy. Anything that raises the cost of energy hurts those poor families.
Holt said the U.S. pulled out of the Paris Climate Accords but is second, behind only Sweden in attaining our goals for reduction of emissions. He said the U.S. has done that by increasing efficiency in how we use fossil fuels while other countries have been moving in the other direction.
APR asked if ethanol still had a role going forward.
As far as ethanol’s role going forward, Holt said ethanol is used as an additive in gasoline. Sometimes there are some supply issues, but as long as the farmers keep doing what they are doing, it will continue to be a part of the fuel mix going forward.
Holt said that new technology and methods like fracking have led to more recoverable oil and natural gas. There is enough supply to last 120 years. Our grandchildren will have plenty of fossil fuels, and by that time, new technology will have been developed so that they won’t need it.
According to their website, the Consumer Energy Alliance is an organization advocating for all types of energy consumers across this nation, CEA continues to stand by its commitment to ensuring families – especially low-income individuals and those on fixed incomes or living paycheck to paycheck – and businesses trying to meet budgets and payrolls are able to access the energy they need.
Alabama Gulf Coast beaches remain closed for now
Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey announced that beaches will remain closed for now due to ongoing repair and cleanup efforts in the wake of Hurricane Sally.
“Working closely with Gulf Shores Mayor Robert Craft and Orange Beach Mayor Tony Kennon, as well as Commissioner Billy Joe Underwood, the governor has agreed to keep Baldwin County’s beaches closed until Friday, October 2nd,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “This will allow those communities additional time to get their beaches ready for public enjoyment in a safe, responsible manner.”
Mobile County beaches might open earlier than that.
“Likewise, the governor has been in touch with Mayor Jeff Collier, and she is prepared to amend the beach closure order for Mobile County when he signals that Dauphin Island is ready to reopen their beaches,” the governor’s office said in a statement. “At the present time, all Alabama beaches remain closed until further notice.”
Hurricane Sally came ashore near Gulf Shores on Sept. 16 as a category two hurricane with 105 mile per hour winds. Numerous homes, businesses and farms have been destroyed and many more have seen serious damage.
“As of Wednesday night, approx. 37,000 cubic yards of Hurricane Sally debris (equivalent to roughly 1,700 truck loads worth) has been picked up in Orange Beach since Sunday (4 days),” the city of Orange Beach announced. “Kudos to our debris contractor CrowderGulf.”
“I spent Sunday afternoon meeting with senior staff and I believe we will need some time to get our buildings safe for children to return,” said Baldwin County Schools Superintendent Eddie Taylor in a letter to parents. “We live in a very large county. Power may be on in your area and your school may not have any damage, but we cannot open schools unless all schools can open. Our pacing guides, state testing, meal and accountability requirements are based on the system, not individual schools.”
“We have schools without power and for which we do not expect power until later this week,” Taylor said. “In this new age, we need internet and communications which are currently down so we cannot run any system tests. We have physical damage at our schools including some with standing water, collapsed ceilings and blown out windows. We have debris on our properties and debris blocking our transportation teams from picking up students. All of this must be resolved before we can successfully re-open.”
“If everything goes as planned, I expect we will welcome back students on Wednesday, September 30,” Taylor said. “Prior to returning students to school, we will hold two teacher work days to get our classrooms and our lessons plans back on track.”
Bidens suggest that Hurricane Sally due to climate change
Former Vice President Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, released a joint statement this week on Hurricane Sally, suggesting that the hurricane and fires in the West are due in part to or exacerbated by climate change.
“Jill and I are praying for everyone from the Gulf Coast in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and Florida and up the East Coast into the Carolinas as Hurricane Sally unleashes fury and flood that are leaving hundreds of thousands of people without power and evacuating their homes and businesses,” the Bidens wrote. “Our hearts are also with everyone in California, Oregon, Washington, Colorado, and across the West who have lost everything and the firefighters and first responders who are risking their lives as the wildfires rage on and ash falls from an orange sky.”
“Every year the devastating impacts of climate change — in billions of dollars in damage, in immeasurable loss of lives and livelihoods — sets new records of destruction in big cities, small towns, on coastlines, and farmlands across the country,” the Bidens wrote. “It is happening everywhere. It is happening now. And it’s all happening while we fight off a historic pandemic and economic recession.”
But it doesn’t have to be this bad, the Bidens wrote.
“We have to come together as a nation guided by science that can save lives,” the Bidens wrote. “And grounded by economics that can create millions of American jobs — union jobs — to make us safe, stronger, and more resilient to a changing climate and extreme weather that will only come with more frequency and ferocity.”
“And we have to keep the faith in the capacity of the American people — to act, not deny, to lead, not scapegoat, and to care for each other and generations to come,” the Bidens concluded.
Hurricanes are not new to the Alabama Gulf Shore. Since 1852, at least 27 hurricanes have hit the state of Alabama gulf coast, with Katrina in 2005 being the most recent until Sally on Wednesday.
By comparison there were four hurricanes to strike the state between 1912 and 1917 and five between 1852 and 1860.
Democrats claim that President Donald Trump’s policies on climate change are having a negative effect on the planet and that a Biden administration would be better at reducing U.S. CO2 emissions.
Biden and Trump will be on the Nov. 3 general election ballot.
Plume site under downtown Montgomery removed from EPA superfund priority list
A toxic plume that formed underneath several blocks of downtown Montgomery is being removed from the EPA’s superfund priority list after years of cleanup efforts have reduced the threat to the public, the agency and the Alabama Department of Environmental Management announced on Wednesday.
Known as the Capital City Plume, the 50-block area of contaminated groundwater and soil covered much of downtown Montgomery and required millions of dollars in remediation costs. The city, county and a coalition of downtown businesses took control of the site in 2015, in an agreement with the EPA, and sped up cleanup efforts.
The site was first discovered in 1993 and the EPA took control shortly thereafter, but very little remediation occurred because the agency could not definitively identify businesses that were responsible for the contamination.
The city’s agreement with EPA put to rest the issue of responsibility and allowed for a shared responsibility that apparently resulted in faster cleanup.
“This is validation of all the hard work by many parties – city, county, state, federal and business entities – over many years to address and resolve a real environmental challenge,” said ADEM Director Lance LeFleur. “It couldn’t have happened without all the parties deciding we needed a plan to tackle the problem and agreeing to work together to carry it out. Now, this area of downtown Montgomery that has already seen significant redevelopment and reuse can blossom even more.”
The removal of the site from the National Priorities List should also remove burdensome and costly testing that hampered additional growth in many areas of downtown Montgomery.
“This announcement charts a path forward for our community and is essential to our vision for a stronger, more vibrant downtown core,” Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed said. “We commend the collaboration and steady resolve of the Alliance, ADEM, the EPA and everyone involved in doing what is right for our city and our region. Moving forward, we are committed to continue building on this success as we expand economic opportunity and progress in Montgomery.”
The Downtown Alliance, as the collection of businesses, city, county and state government entities was known, was the brainchild of former Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange and attorneys negotiating with the EPA. At the time, it was a first-of-its-kind agreement.
Alabama Power extends summer pool on Lake Martin into fall
Last week, Alabama Power announced that it is extending the summer pool on Lake Martin into fall, allowing more boating and recreational opportunities than would be possible if the implementation of the winter drawdown began last Tuesday as scheduled.
Hydro Services manager Jim Crew said that the fall extension is granted because water is plentiful throughout the Tallapoosa and Coosa river basins and conditions are met at Alabama Power dams across the system.
Until Oct. 15, Lake Martin’s water level will remain at 491 feet mean sea level. After that date, the level gradually will be drawn down to 484 feet mean sea level by the third week of November. The seasonal drawdown has several advantages, the most important of which is flood prevention. The winter pool level provides storage space in the reservoir system for spring rains.
At the local level, the lower water allows repairs and improvements to docks that are underwater during the summer. The drawdown also allows more access to the lake bottom during winter cleanup efforts and assists in the control of some invasive weed species along the shoreline as well.
Alexander City Chamber of Commerce President and CEO Ed Collari said that extending the summer pool level offers economic benefits to Lake Martin communities that provide services to part-time lake residents and visitors.
“Economically, that’s great news for our community,” Collari said. “The increased lake levels will allow people to continue to enjoy the lake into the fall. We’ve seen already this year what having people here around the lake will do, as that’s reflected in our community sales tax levels. The higher water level will encourage people to spend more time in our communities.”
Alabama Power is licensed to operate Martin Dam and manage the reservoir. The license stipulates Sept. 1 as the drawdown commencement date unless four specific criteria are met, indicating that the system of reservoirs on the Tallapoosa and Coosa rivers contains enough water to maintain navigation levels downstream.
The conditional fall extension of the summer pool is new to the licensing terms for Lake Martin. It was not included in license terms of Alabama Power’s earlier licenses, but the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission added it to the license issued in December 2015 after the lake community overwhelmingly argued for it.
Analysis of data at that time indicated the fall extension could be expected to occur about once every four years; however, this is the third year since the license has been in effect the fall extension has been granted.
Rainfall has been far above average in the Lake Martin area this year. Normal precipitation for the period of January through August is just under 39 inches, but more than 54 inches of rain have fallen in the lake area so far, according to the National Weather Service.
Alabama Power representatives urge boaters to enjoy the extension of summer safely.
Individuals with boats and other water-related equipment and facilities should always be alert to changing conditions on Alabama Power reservoirs and be prepared to take the necessary steps to protect their properties.
Manmade lakes across Alabama provide fishing, boating and recreational opportunities to people across Alabama. It also provides habitat for wildlife including ducks, geese, turtles and many other water birds including seagulls.
The lakes provide plenty of cheap, renewable electric power through the hydro-electric dams Alabama Power operates while increasing shoreline habitat and flood control.
For more information about Alabama Power lakes, download the new Smart Lakes app or visit apcshorelines.com. You can call 800-525-3711 for lake condition updates.