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The Conversation: Impact of climate change in Alabama

Eddie Burkhalter



Editor’s note: This is the second installment in APR’s yearlong series on climate change in Alabama. See our first story: Introduction: Impact of climate change in Alabama. Eddie Burkhalter is a staff writer at Alabama Political Reporter and a fellow at the Poynter-Koch Media and Journalism Fellowship. The program is a partnership between the Poynter Institute and the Charles Koch Institute. Charles G. Koch is chairman of the board for the Charles Koch Institute and CEO of the multinational petroleum company Koch Industries.

Jim Allen’s latest edition of the Free Fredonia Times is a make-believe glimpse back at the small rural Alabama community from a hundred years into the future. 

Issue number 67 begins, “Fredonia then and Now, 1919-2119.” 

Most of the then-modern homes from photographs taken in 2019 weren’t designed to make use of natural heating and cooling, Allen wrote, and instead used mostly coal-fired electricity or propane. In the 2119 Fredonia, folks run their homes on electricity provided by local solar systems and windmills, Allen wrote. 

“We are of course thankful that the Great Transition away from fossil fuels, accomplished shortly after 2019, kept climate change from becoming as devastating as it surely would have become by now,” Allen writes. 

Allen’s article on the imagined future of Fredonia in the publication that has been published “on no particular schedule” for many years includes the usual church announcements and a piece on a storm that killed power during singer-songwriter Jim Scott’s June 22 performance, which went on “without amplification and by flashlight.” 

Allen, 83, taught  English at Auburn University in the 1970s before becoming a publications editor for the university’s extension service in 1978. He was a founding board member and president of the Alabama Sustainable Agriculture Network, and over the years has spoken often about the environmental, energy issues and climate change. 

Allen isn’t a climate scientist but he’s passionate about it, and said he wants to continue his work to start a dialogue with others. 


It’s that desire to talk about climate change and the science behind it that researchers at Yale University recently found is important to increasing knowledge and concern about the issue. That might seem like common sense, but just talking about climate change has become such a partisan topic that many say they avoid those conversations altogether. 

The report, published July 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found that talking about climate change facts led to increased knowledge and understanding of the extent of human-caused climate change. 

Matthew Goldberg, one of the authors of the study, is a postdoctoral associate at the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication. Golderbg told APR that the most surprising aspect of their findings was that the effect ran both ways. More discussion led to increased perceptions of scientific agreement, he said, and increased perceptions of scientific agreement led to increased discussion.

“Our new study builds on previous work coming from the Yale Program on Climate Change and its collaborators, showing that highlighting the fact that 97 percent of climate scientists have concluded that human-caused climate change is happening can be very effective in moving people’s beliefs,” Goldberg said. 

In a separate report in April, researchers at Yale found that while 69 percent of Americans surveyed think that global warming is happening, only about 1 in 6, or 17 percent, of Americans understand how strong the level of consensus among scientists is. About 63 percent of Americans say they never or rarely talk about climate change with family or friends, according to the report. 

Whether or not someone believes that the earth is warming due to human activity comes down, in part, to which side of the political fence they fall on. 

A 2018 study by the nonpartisan Washington D.C.-based think tank the Pew Research Center found that 83 percent of liberal democrats believed that humans were the biggest cause of global warming, while just 18 percent of conservative republicans thought so. That divide shrinks between moderate republicans and moderate democrats. 

Back in Fredonia about 50 families live in the Chambers County community, situated between Auburn and Wedowee and a short drive from the Georgia line. There’s a vending machine and a pay phone, and most folks are either retired or farming, Allen said. 

“Antiques and Uniques is open Saturdays only,” Allen said. 

The Fredonia area is heavily republican, Allen said, and there are a fair share of climate change deniers, but that hasn’t stopped Allen from talking and writing about it. 

“In this last issue, I’m appealing to hear from people,” Allen said. “Let’s talk about it. Have a conversation. I said that I’m going to reserve a whole page for reader comments.”

“No death threats,” Allen said with a laugh, speaking of the reaction from his latest issue. “Sometimes I think I would welcome some, but most of the time I just don’t get much feedback, and what I do get is ‘thanks for keeping us informed about what is going on in Fredonia.’” 

But any notion that conservatives don’t care about climate change simply isn’t true, said Benji Backer, the 21-year-old conservative environmentalist and founder of the American Conservative Coalition, a group of young conservative activists working to spread the message of pro-market clean energy policies. 

Backer’s group has received national attention, and he’s spoken at the Conservative Political Action Committee, better known as CPAC, more than once. Backer also doesn’t buy into the assumption that republicans and democrats can’t reach compromises to combat climate change.  

“There are so many ways to talk about climate change that are bipartisan,” Backer told APR on Saturday. “You can talk about it from the environmental or the economic angle. … We need to stop vilifying each other. We’re being told and convinced to hate each other.” 

Progressives and young conservatives like himself might disagree on how best to deal the climate change, but Backers said there’s plenty of agreement on the things like the need to reduce greenhouse gas emission and fossil fuel use. 

Backer said while younger conservatives are much better on these issues than their older counterparts, he believes the elders are listening to their younger counterparts, and it helps to approach the subject carefully. 

“They care about the environment just as much as anybody else, so you have to come at them from a point of, as cliche as it sounds, compassion and of trying to work with them where they’re at to get them re-engaged,” Backer said. 

Backer’s group played a role in the formation of the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus, which was announced earlier this month by founding members Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Cory Gardner of Colorado. 

“I believe the nine out of the 10, not the one,” Graham said of scientists’ consensus on human’s role in climate change, speaking at the announcement of the caucus. “I would encourage the president to look long and hard at the science and find the solution. I’m tired of playing defense on the environment.”

There’s plenty of skepticism from the left for what many see as a late-in-the-game attempt by the caucus members to rebrand the Republican Party as environmentally conscious. 

The Trump administration has worked to weaken federal climate rules, erase climate scientists’ data from federal websites and Trump himself has said climate change is a “hoax” invented by China. In June 2017, Trump announced the U.S. would withdraw from the Paris Agreement on climate change. 

And despite Graham’s statements encouraging Trump to believe the science behind climate change,  the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus isn’t likely to take up climate change policy early on, according to Backer. 

“Specifically, conservation is the goal for right away,” Backer said.

National parks funding and wildlife management issues often fall behind concern over climate change, Backer said, so those are the areas he believes the caucus will focus on in the coming months. 

And it comes down, again, to meeting people where they’re at, Backer said. Some in the Roosevelt Conservation Caucus haven’t done much for the environment in the past, while still others have done a lot, but it’s important to work with them all, he said. 

For 17-year-old Isabel Hope of Tuscaloosa speaking about climate change comes easy. In October 2018, she founded the Meddling Kids Movement, which brings together young people from across the globe to discuss topics important to them, including climate change. 

The group’s website,, has more than 100 interviews with youth worldwide. It’s those young voices that seemed to be missing from much of the coverage on these issues, Hope said, so she did something about it. 

“A lot of the kids I talk to are from underrepresented or low-income communities, and they don’t get that much of a spotlight, so I really wanted to showcase them and their work, as well,” Hope said. 

Hope organized the Alabama Youth Climate Strike, held in Montgomery on March 15. She joined about 60 others on the steps of the Alabama State Capitol to demand lawmakers do more to address climate change. 

When asked what she would tell those who say they’ve given up trying to talk to others about climate change, that doing so just leads to arguments, Hope said that not talking about it won’t make the problem go away. 

“I would say that that’s a very privileged standpoint to have,” Hope said. 

If those same people who realize how little time we have to act, she said,  then perhaps they’d “get a little uncomfortable” and have those conversations. 

Discussing global warming study



Ivey announces $11.9 million for fisheries impacted by COVID-19, flooding

Eddie Burkhalter



Gov. Kay Ivey on Wednesday announced the $3.3 million in federal coronavirus aid money will be available in the coming months to Alabama’s seafood industry, impacted by the outbreak. 

In addition to the $3.3 million from the CARES Act, the state is to also receive $8.6 million in federal fisheries disaster relief funds due to freshwater flooding in 2019 that impacted fisheries in the Gulf, according to a press release from Ivey’s office Wednesday. 

“The Gulf and its fisheries are vital to Alabama’s economy by providing jobs for fishermen, processors, and others in the seafood industry,” Ivey said in a statement. “We are thankful to provide this much needed relief to those affected in our coastal communities.”

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources worked with the seafood industry to calculate the damages and coordinated with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on the disaster relief funding.

The federal money isn’t yet available to affected commercial and charter fishing businesses, agriculture operations and seafood processors, however. 

 The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (ADCNR) is currently and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to establish eligibility guidelines for applicants, the press release states. Those guidelines are expected to be finalized and released “in the coming months.” 

 “Once we receive documentation regarding the guidelines, the state will develop a spending plan and submit it to NOAA for approval,” said Christopher Blankenship, ADCNR Commissioner, in a statement. “When approved, we will announce the application period and the requirements for eligibility to the public. I would like to thank Senator Richard Shelby for his work to provide the fisheries disaster funding for the seafood industry and for including the fisheries funding in the CARES Act.”

Visit NOAA’s website for more information on federal relief for fisheries and the response to COVID-19.

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ADEM receives EPA grant to “help keep our waters clean”





Sunset on the Tennessee River

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management recently received a $500,000 competitive grant from the U.S Environmental Protection Agency as part of ADEM’s efforts to keep trash out of Alabama’s waterways and from entering the Gulf of Mexico.

ADEM’s “Help Keep Our Waters Clean” litter abatement project was one of 17 recipients of EPA’s 2020 Trash Free Waters grants in the Southeastern U.S.

“ADEM has a long history of fostering good stewardship of the Gulf’s vast natural resources,” ADEM Director Lance LeFleur said.This grant will help the Department preserve, enhance and develop the area’s resources for present and future generations of Alabamians.

The “Help Keep Our Waters Clean” project is designed to promote awareness about watersheds and reduce nonpoint source pollution entering waterways that drain to the Gulf of Mexico. A goal of the project is to engage the community in the fight against litter through education and outreach that encourage the use of voluntary and sustainable best practices.

“We want to inspire and empower citizens through their voluntary actions to help prevent litter from even reaching our waterways,” LeFleur said. “This project will both educate them about the importance of our rivers, streams and other bodies of water, and create opportunities for them to actually get involved in efforts to prevent and collect litter.

Perhaps the most visible aspects of the “Help Keep Our Waters Clean” project are signs being placed along interstates in Alabama to inform motorists they are entering a watershed and encourage them not to litter, as well as colorful metal sculptures of water lifesuch as fish, turtles and water birds – that will mark litter collection sites at rest areas and other strategic locations.

An important component of the project is education. ADEM will reach out to disadvantaged and other communities to promote anti-littering messages and to educate the public about the importance of good watershed health. The project will target specific locations andschools in its efforts.

In addition to ADEM, the City of Mobile and the Freshwater Land Trust also received EPA competitive grants.


“The EPA has over 50 partnership projects across the country as part of our Trash Free Waters Program, which focuses on preventing trash from reaching waterways in the first place,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “These 17 recipients will target the Gulf of Mexico Region for clean-up, trash prevention and education. Preventing trash from entering the waterways will have an immediate impact on the Gulf’s ecosystem.”

EPA Region 4 Administrator Mary S. Walker added, “Staying on the front lines of environmental protection requires ingenuity and proactive practices. Investing in efforts to eliminate trash from entering waterways is critical for the protection of our streams, rivers, lakes and oceans and essential for healthy drinking water. From a healthy ecosystem, to an economic boom, to flood protection, the benefits of trashfree waters are endless.”

According to the EPA, common trash from consumer goods makes up the majority of what eventually becomes marine debris, polluting our waterways and oceans. Plastics in the aquatic environment are of increasing concern because of their persistence and effect on the environment, wildlife and human health. About 80 percent of plastics come from land-based sources carried by both wind and water.

ADEM Director LeFleur said the “Help Keep Our Waters Clean” project will be a continuing effort of the state’s environmental watchdog agency.

“This isn’t a one-time deal. We want to promote long-term,sustainable, voluntary practices to reduce this form of pollution,which fouls Alabama waterways, spoils nature’s beauty and harms aquatic life. This grant help jump-start those efforts.”

For more information about the Alabama Department of Environmental Management, go to For more information about EPA’s Trash Free Waters program, visit


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Interior Dept. issues new offshore air quality regulations





In support of President Donald Trump’s America-First Offshore Energy Strategy, the Department of the Interior (Department) and the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) today announced a final rule to update air quality regulations for applicable BOEM activities in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico and off the coast of Alaska’s North Slope Borough. The new rule does not relax any standards for regulating air quality, uses the best available science and makes important technical and compliance-related updates to bring the regulation into this century. 

“Under the President’s leadership, the Department has taken numerous, commonsense actions resulting in billions of dollars in deregulatory savings, and we will continue to take actions to better serve the American people,” said Secretary David L. Bernhardt. “The final rule released today incorporates current standards, creates consistency with the statutory authorities and is one more step in the right direction.” 

The final rule respects the clear and distinct authority Congress delegated to the Department. The Department’s jurisdiction is limited to activities authorized under the OCS Lands Act in the Central and Western Gulf of Mexico and offshore the North Slope Borough of Alaska. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has air quality jurisdiction over all other parts of the OCS. It is also limited to regulating offshore emissions of criteria and their precursor pollutants to the extent they significantly affect the air quality of any state. With this clear mandate, the final rule operates within these parameters to improve air quality. 

“Offshore energy development accounts for 18 percent of our nation’s oil production and billions of dollars in revenues for the states, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, and the American people,” said Deputy Secretary of the Interior Kate MacGregor. “This commonsense update brings the Department’s regulations in line with current standards and within our distinct, statutory mandate.”

The final rule provides a commonsense approach to ensure BOEM’s Air Quality Regulatory Program remains in compliance with the OCS Lands Act requirements by ensuring that BOEM uses up-to-date air quality standards (i.e., National Ambient Air Quality Standards (NAAQS)) and benchmarks consistent with those already established by the EPA. 

Summary of Changes under the Final Rule

Pursuant to Executive Order (E.O.) 13795 signed by President Trump and Secretary’s Order (S.O.) 3350, BOEM reviewed its 2016 Proposed Rule on Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance. As a result of this review and analysis of comments received on the proposed rule, BOEM’s final rule adopts the following, notable changes: 

1 Compliance with NAAQS. As was the case with the proposed rule, this final rule adds a definition of the NAAQS. It also clarifies that the Department’s reporting and compliance requirements apply to the emissions of all pollutants on the OCS for which a national ambient air quality standard has been defined. 


2 Updating Significance Levels (SLs). The final rule replaces the table of SLs in BOEM’s existing regulations – dating back to 1980 – with a revised table, which is based on values set forth in EPA’s regulations (40 CFR 165.51(b)(2)). BOEM will continue to update the table of SLs as appropriate, which will save operators from having to search for the SLs in EPA’s regulations. 

3 New Requirements for PM2.5 and PM10. This final rule replaces the former criteria air pollutant “total suspended particulates (TSP)” modeling requirements with new modeling requirements for the criteria pollutants “particulate matter 10” (PM10) and “particulate matter 2.5” (PM2.5). BOEM is also updating its forms to enable lessees and operators to identify, report, and evaluate PM2.5 and PM10 pollution in the air quality spreadsheets that they submit in connection with their exploration or development plans. 

4 Emissions Exemption Thresholds. The final rule also updates existing regulations that refer to Emissions Exemption Thresholds to clarify that these formulas apply equally to Development and Production Plans (DPPs) and Development Operations Coordination Documents (DOCDs). This update will not lead to a change in practice because BOEM has always applied its existing regulations on air quality to both DPPs and DOCDs. 

5 Clarifying Terminology. The final rule updates various terminology to better clarify the intent of the regulations. For example, the final rule replaces the term “air pollutant” with the term “criteria air pollutant.” Under the OCS Lands Act, BOEM regulates the emissions of criteria air pollutants, since those represent pollutants for which the EPA has defined a NAAQS. BOEM regulates only those emissions that could affect BOEM’s obligation to ensure compliance of state air quality with the NAAQS, so previously  using the term “air pollutant” was not appropriate. 

6 Air Quality Spreadsheets. With the implementation of the new air quality rule, BOEM is also updating the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)-approved air quality spreadsheets, BOEM-0138 (for exploration plans) and BOEM-0139 (for DOCDs, and DPPs). The lessee or its designated operator must use these forms for proposed operations in areas of BOEM air quality regulatory jurisdiction. Concurrent with these changes, BOEM is phasing out its previous practice of including the emissions from transiting support vessels in the EET calculations, consistent with BOEM’s statutory mandates. Air quality modeling will henceforth only be required in situations when a regulated facility, exclusive of support vessels, exceeds the relevant EET. 


On April 5, 2016, BOEM proposed regulations to update air quality regulations promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior almost 40 years ago. 

On April 28, 2017, President Trump issued E.O. 13795 titled, “Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.” The E.O. directed the Secretary of the Interior to “take all steps necessary to review BOEM’s Proposed Rule entitled ‘Air Quality Control, Reporting, and Compliance,’ along with any related rules and guidance, to determine whether it should be revised or withdrawn.” 

On May 1, 2017, in response to E.O. 13795, the Secretary of the Interior issued S.O. 3350, requiring the Director of BOEM to “provide to the ASLM, the Deputy Secretary, and Counselor to the Secretary for Energy Policy, a report explaining the effects, if any, of not issuing a new rule addressing offshore air quality, and providing options for revising or withdrawing the proposed rule consistent with the policy set forth in section 2 of the E.O.” This final rule is consistent with the policies of those orders. 

BOEM promulgated the final rule after careful analysis of comments received in response to the proposed rule, including those provided by other government agencies, industry and non-governmental organizations. A summary of the relevant comments and BOEM’s response to them can be found in the final rule. 

More information about the final rule can be viewed here.

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Alabama state waters closed for shrimping from May 1 to June 1

Brandon Moseley



Wednesday, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources’ Marine Resources Division announces that as of 6 a.m., Friday, May 1, 2020, all inside waters will close for commercial and recreational shrimp harvesting.

All inside waters, that are not permanently closed by law or regulation, will reopen to shrimp harvest at 6 a.m., on Monday, June 1, 2020.

Inside waters are defined in Rule 220-3-.04 as all waters north of a line extending from the Florida-Alabama line westward along the shore to Alabama Point; from there along the Baldwin County beaches of the Gulf of Mexico to the intersection with the Territorial Sea Line on Fort Morgan Peninsula, known as Mobile Point (30°-13.46’N, 088°-01.72’W); from there following the Territorial Sea Line across the mouth of Mobile Bay to Dauphin Island (30°-14.77’N, 088°-04.48’W); from there along the Dauphin Island beaches of the Gulf of Mexico to the intersection with the Territorial Sea Line on the west point of Dauphin Island (30°-13.72’N, 088°-19.81’W); from there following the Territorial Sea Line southwest to the intersection with the Alabama-Mississippi state line (30°-12.82’N, 088°-23.54’W).

Licensed live bait dealers are reminded that the taking of live bait north of a line beginning at the northern shore of East Fowl River running along the northern edge of the Fowl River Channel to marker number two in the Fowl River Channel then southeasterly to Middle Bay Light and then northeasterly to Great Point Clear is prohibited during this closure except by permit holders in the Special Permit Area in the Mobile Ship Channel. Recreational shrimp vessels possessing a Special Live Bait Permit may only take one gallon of shrimp per boat per day.

Special Live Bait Area Permits are only available at the Marine Resources Office on Dauphin Island. For more information, call (251) 861-2882.

Shrimp are an important food species for a number of fish and wildlife species. Alabama waters contain 15 to 22 species of shrimp. Only three of these are eaten. These are: the brown shrimp (Penaeus aztecus), the white shrimp (P. setiferus), and the pink shrimp (P. duorarum). Shrimp, along with crabs, lobsters, and crayfish, are a species of invertebrates known as decapods. There are about 2,000 species of shrimp in the world.

The brown shrimp is by far the most abundant The pink shrimp is the least abundant of the three. Alabamians harvest approximately 20.5 million pounds of shrimp with an estimated dockside value of $45 million.

The Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources promotes wise stewardship, management and enjoyment of Alabama’s natural resources through four divisions: Marine Resources, State Lands, State Parks, and Wildlife and Freshwater Fisheries.


To learn more about ADCNR, visit

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