Tuesday, the Alabama House of Representatives passed a bill to change the statutory definition so that temporary “cover” in landfills can be a material other than “earth.” Earth is also known as soil or just dirt.
House Bill 140 is sponsored by State Representative Alan Baker (R-Brewton).
Rep. Baker said that all the bill does is allow the use alternative daily cover in solid waste disposal landfills.
“The EPA has allowed this since 1979,” Baker said. It would save landfills the cost of using earth for daily cover.
Rep. Thomas Jackson (D-Thomasville( said, “Everything has been deregulated since 2016. We used to have very good EPA rules.”
“This does not change anything in the operating rules for landfills,” Baker said. Alternative covers could be limbs and debris, demolition waste, incinerator waste, etc.
Alternative daily cover is often described as cover material other than earthen material placed on the surface of the active face of a municipal solid waste landfill at the end of each operating day. It is utilized to control vectors, fires, odors, blowing litter, and scavenging. Federal and various state regulations require landfill operators to use such earthen material unless other materials are allowed as alternatives. (Mitchell Williams writing on Oct 31 in JDSUPRA)
Soil cover can use valuable air space. Further, it can generate the need to excavate and haul soil to the facility. Alternative daily covers are often advocated to be a more efficient and cost-effective means of cover. (Williams)
Baker said that it would be up to ADEM (the Alabama Department of Environmental Management) in the permit whether to allow a proposed alternative cover or not.
Jackson asked. “There is a lot of old buildings being demolished and a lot of them have asbestos. What is to keep that from leaching into the earth and the groundwater?”
“This bill does not address any of your concerns,” Baker said. “Cover is there to keep odors down, keep it from blowing and from keeping rats and other pests out.”
Rep. Kyle South (R-Fayette) said, “Thank you for taking the time to share my concerns with you. My concern is the list of materials that could be used as cover. You know that in Jefferson County we have had some major issues with material not being used as cover properly.”
Baker said, “This bill does not change any of the materials used as cover?”
South asked, “How many landfills use biosolids as cover.”
Baker answered, “As far as I know, zero.”
“This would keep us from having to use that good earth in landfills when other materials are available. If it becomes a nuisance ADEM can revoke a cover on the permit. Daily cover has to be approved at the discretion of ADEM.”
Rep. Matt Simpson (R-Daphne) said, “Thank you for bringing the bill and cleaning up some of the language to make it more effective for the people of Alabama.”
Baker said, “Demolition material could be sheetrock could be a demolished lumber, plywood, many number of things.”
Rep. Mary Moore (D-Birmingham) said, “I think in the long run earth would be better. This is not the solution that we need.”
“In Jefferson County we have Human waste coming in in poop trains,” Moore said. “I can’t even foresee how the temporary layering would work.
Baker said, “This has been in place for three decades. This is already in place.”
Moore replied, “Its not working and ADEM knows its not working. I don’t think it needs to be codified. We need to go back and look at alternative. I have several landfills in my district.”
“Regardless of the cost of earth it might be the best solution,” Moore said.
Baker responded, “Earth is an excellent covering, but there are alternatives that can work as well.”
Rep. John Rogers (R-Birmingham) asked, “What about that poop train that is coming in to Jefferson County.”
Baker said, “This is not something that is part of this bill.”
“I don’t trust ADEM anymore considering what happened in North Birmingham,” Rogers said. “They can cover with household waste.”
Baker said that only materials not constituted as a risk to health or are not a hazard can be used.
Rep. Pebblin Warren (D-Tuskegee) said, “It is upsetting to me that so many of these landfills have located in Black communities.”
An amendment by Warren was tabled 55 to36.
This was a topic in an October 11, 2019 case before the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals.
Three individuals (collectively, “Smith”) challenged in Montgomery Circuit Court ADEM’s rules allowing the operators of the Stone’s Throw Landfill in Tallapoosa County to use at least one material other than earth as alternative daily cover.
The Court of Civil Appeals ruled in October that ADEM had exceeded its mandate by allowing the landfill operator to use “alternative covers” when Alabama law expressly says that landfills must cover their waste every day with “earth.”
HB140, if passed, would address this oversight in the Alabama legal code so that ADEM and the landfills can legally continue to operate as they have for decades.
A Senate version of the same bill received a favorable report on Wednesday from the Fiscal Responsibility and Economic Development Committee.
The House is expected to resume debate on HB140 on Thursday.
Alabama Legislature plans to return to work briefly March 31
The Alabama Senate is planning to get to only a few big, constitutionally mandated items before calling an end to the year’s legislative session amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but whether they’ll get those tasks accomplished remains to be seen.
Senate leadership is advising lawmakers who fall into “at-risk” categories because of their age or pre-existing medical conditions to not attend the Senate’s meeting when it resumes.
Among the items legislators tentatively plan to tackle before gaveling the session closed sometime in the future are the passage of the Education Trust Fund budget and the General Fund budget, which is the Legislature’s only constitutionally mandated duty.
And “other bills deemed necessary.”
The state Senate’s Plan of Action, obtained by APR Friday, states that the Senate will meet at 2 p.m. on March 31 for its 14th legislative day.
“The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House,” the plan reads.
The State Senate’s plan:
“As leaders, it is imperative that we demonstrate that the business of this state carries on in an orderly and systematic fashion while adhering to the recommendations of our public health officials.
The Alabama Senate will meet on Tuesday, March 31 at 2:00 pm at the Statehouse in the Senate Chamber as scheduled. This will be the 14th Legislative Day.
The intent for this legislative day is to advance only essential attendance items and then to adjourn to a date certain for the 15th Legislative Day. April 28 has been discussed with the House.
Below is a draft agenda for Tuesday, March 31.
- Gavel In
- Pledge and Prayer
- Roll Call
- Excuse all Senators
- Points of Personal Privilege
- President Pro Tem Marsh
- Majority Leader Reed
- Minority Leader Singleton
- Adjourn to date certain for 15th Legislative Day.
“It is highly recommended that any Senator that falls into any of the at-risk categories stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day,” the plan advises. “However, each Senator’s personal wish will be accommodated.”
Any Senator or staff member that is ill, has been ill, or has been in the same room of anyone that has had any symptom of illness in the 72 hours preceding the March 31 Legislative Day must stay away from the March 31 Legislative Day, according to the Senate’s leadership.
A disinfecting station will be provided under the canopy of the second-floor rear entrance for each senator to disinfect hands and cell phones as they enter the State House and as they leave the Statehouse.
“We must ensure that we practice all Health Department recommendations while at the Statehouse,” the plan reads.
Social distancing will be accomplished by having senators report to their offices by 1:45 p.m. They will then walk into the chamber as the roll is called and then go back to their offices.
“As much separation as possible is required therefore greetings must be verbal only from a distance of 6 feet or greater,” the plan reads.
The remainder of the session will be held possibly Tuesday, April 28 through Monday, May 18.
This timeframe includes three weeks of the session plus the last day of May 18.
A specific plan for meeting more days than normal will be developed and provided prior to the next legislative meeting date.
$200,000 in campaign finance penalties deposited into State General Fund
Act 2015-495, which went into effect beginning with the 2018 Election Cycle, allows the Secretary of State’s Office to issue penalties to Political Action Committees (PACs) and Principal Campaign Committees (PCCs) that fail to timely file campaign finance reports.
As of today, the Office of the Secretary of State has collected $202,504.20 which has been deposited into the State General Fund to benefit the people of Alabama.
Conversations with the Senate and House General Fund Chairmen are currently underway to determine the best way to allocate these resources to counties.
Anyone who receives a campaign finance penalty is able to appeal their penalty to the Alabama Ethics Commission who has the authority to overturn a penalty.
“When I campaigned for this office in 2014, I made a promise to the people of Alabama that I would work to see that it is easy to vote and hard to cheat in this state. Since then, we have worked to make the electoral process more fair and transparent through requiring the honest reporting of all PACs and PCCs,” stated Secretary of State John H. Merrill.
Anyone who suspects an individual may be in violation of the Alabama Election Fairness Project is encouraged to report suspicious activity to StopVoterFraudNow.com.
Daniels: We have to get help to those who need it most
There is not enough help coming fast enough to the people struggling the most.
That was the message from Alabama House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels, who was asked on the “Alabama Politics This Week” podcast about the efforts of Alabama’s state government to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
“If you’ve never been poor, you don’t fully comprehend how things like this affect the poor and the unique problems the poor people face,” Daniels said. “I commend Gov. (Kay) Ivey and her staff for working to try and address this crisis the best they can, but I just think there’s a lack of understanding among all of us in some cases of how people need help.”
To address those issues, at least in part, Daniels is writing a series of letters to different entities, including Ivey, to explain how they can best help the state’s most vulnerable.
Daniels plans to ask the Alabama Supreme Court to order lower courts to halt foreclosure proceedings and evictions for those affected by coronavirus job losses and illnesses. He also will ask Ivey to intervene with banks on behalf of customers who are falling hopelessly behind on mortgage, car loans and other installment loans. And he will seek additional assistance from the state for borrowers with overwhelming student loan debt.
“I want people to understand that I’m not criticizing what’s being done or trying to take control, I just hear from these folks on a daily basis and believe there are some better ways to help people,” Daniels said. “President Trump has addressed student loan debt by knocking the interest of those loans, but what does that really do for a person who just lost a job? Or someone who’s had hours and pay cut? We need to pause those payments and give people substantial forgiveness.
“Otherwise, it’s going to be ugly.”
Democrats in the House also have been putting together potential legislation that could be passed to help the state’s poorest citizens and those who have been laid off from jobs. The specifics of those pieces of legislation weren’t available, but Daniels said they would have the same focus — providing real help for those who need it most.
If those bills are anything like the measures taken during the last economic downturn, you can expect a relaxing of rules on social programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and unemployment assistance programs.
One of the first moves could be overturning a measure passed during the last legislative session that cut the number of weeks of unemployment pay in the state from 26 to 14. State Sen. Arthur Orr sponsored that legislation, and critics argued at the time that a downturn, such as the one that occurred in 2008, could suddenly leave thousands in the state without jobs and job prospects. It passed anyway.
Alabama House cancels March 25 committee meetings due to coronavirus
The Alabama House of Representatives announced on Monday that committee meetings scheduled for Wednesday, March 25 will be cancelled due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak.
The legislative day on March 26 has not technically been cancelled but the House is not expected to have a quorum for that day.
A “quorum” is the minimum number of House members that must be present at any meeting to make the proceedings of that meeting valid. If there are not enough members present, then the meeting cannot proceed and House rules state that the speaker of the House is allowed to set a new date for the meeting.
The Legislature is currently on an annual spring break. The House and Senate are both expected to reconvene on March 31. According to the statement from the House, a joint decision will be made regarding the future legislative meeting days.
The full statement reads:
“The leadership of the Alabama House of Representatives has made several changes to the upcoming meeting calendar because of the coronavirus crisis in the state.
House committees that were scheduled to meet on Wednesday, March 25, 2020 have been cancelled.
The House is scheduled to meet on Thursday, March 26, 2020 at 9:30 a.m. but no quorum is expected that day.
Under House Rule 5(b), if there’s no quorum to conduct business during a state of emergency declared by the governor, the speaker of the House is allowed to set the date and time of the next meeting day.
Both the House and Senate will reconvene on Tuesday, March 31, 2020 and at that time a joint decision will be made as to future legislative meeting days.”
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