Tuscaloosa News Editorial: Not all can afford global-warming tax

It’s not often that we support the positions that newspaper editorialists take on issues related to climate-change, but we agree wholeheartedly with the Tuscaloosa News’ editorial “Not all can afford global-warming tax.”

The fact is, there is a huge disparity between the lifestyles of the politicians and environmental activist elites that are praising EPA’s Climate Agenda and the average working families whose quality of life will be diminished by the higher energy costs and job loss that will result from EPA’s overreaching carbon rules. In the coming months, JobKeeper will be highlighting the “carbon footprint hypocrisy” that exists within the environmental activists community. In the meantime, please take a moment to read this editorial and share it with your friends and co-workers.

Tuscaloosa News Editorial: Not all can afford global-warming tax
Published September 26, 2014

Ordinary people should pay more to stay warm in the winter and cool in the summer. They shouldn’t have the freedom of movement that automobiles offer. And they shouldn’t be allowed the luxury of world travel.

So say wealthy corporate executives and plutocrats who claim it’s time for something be done about global warming or climate change; you know, the theory that it’s getting colder because it’s getting warmer.

“The idea long advocated by policymakers, economists and environmental activists is that the world can’t hope to slow the heating of the planet until its cost is incorporated in the everyday activities that contribute to it, such as gas or coal-generated electricity, driving a car, shipping a package or flying around the globe,” reports the Associated Press.

This is what AP reports “hundreds of corporations, insurance companies and pension funds are calling on world leaders gathered for a U.N. summit on climate change” in New York to do. No doubt they made their voices heard from the backseats of stretch limos, the cabins of private jets and the studies of massive mansions.

It’s easy to propose “paying a little more,” whether its taxes or just the cost of everyday items like food or fuel, when you can afford to “pay a little more” and still have more than enough to enjoy those things and plenty others. The people who propose the sacrifices for ordinary working people, the plutocrats and the political elite know that their lifestyles will continue unabated.

Thus they can put their faith in the alleged science of climate change, in computer models that keep missing predictions. It’s easy to be a true believer when the cost is negligible. It’s easy to advocate costly policies that make people feel good while accomplishing little or nothing when your lifestyle rocks on as fat and fine as ever.

JobKeeper Alliance Organizes Letter to EPA Requesting More Time for Public Comments on Carbon Rules

Request signed by all seven members of Alabama’s delegation in the House of Representatives

On the heals of the request from Alabama’s full delegation in the House of Representatives and a similar request supported by 53 U.S. Senators, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) granted a 45-day extension to the public comment period on a proposed rule to tighten restrictions on carbon emissions from existing power plants.

JobKeeper Alliance, a nonprofit organization whose mission is to create and protect quality jobs, worked closely with Congressman Bradley Byrne’s (AL-1) office to draft the letter to the EPA and collect signatures from Alabama’s six other congressional representatives. The letter also received support from other business and labor organizations in the state.

The letter pointed out that EPA’s proposed rule will have a real and adverse effect on the local and state economies that rely heavily on our nation’s electricity providers, such as rural electric cooperatives and municipal utilities, for employment and economic growth. Many people do not yet know the full extent of the impact these complex rules will have on their jobs and their communities.

“EPA’s proposed regulation of carbon emissions from existing power plants will kill tens of thousands of jobs throughout the Southeast,” said Patrick Cagle, Executive Director of JobKeeper Alliance. “The hardworking men and women that could lose their livelihoods as a result of this regulation deserve a chance to have their voices heard.

In a continuing effort to advocate on behalf of business and labor in the face of EPA’s regulations, JobKeeper Alliance is urging members of business and labor organizations to submit comments to the EPA. JobKeeper Alliance will also provide assistance to members who need help with drafting and submitting comments. The EPA’s extended deadline for comments ends on December 1, 2014.

The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s Carbon Emission Hypocrisy

Over the past few months, proponents of EPA’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gas emissions from power plants have been diligently praising the agency and President Obama for “taking action on climate change.” In this region, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy is one of the strongest supporters of the costly carbon rules. However, this organization’s words do not match their actions.

During the EPA’s public hearing in Atlanta, Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Executive Director Stephen Smith told the agency that “rejecting science and failing to address and curb global warming pollution, which is leading to climate change and extreme climate disruption, shreds the intergenerational commitment of leaving a better world to our children.” Smith’s testimony sounds convincing, if you ignore the fact that he flew to and from that hearing in a luxurious private plane paid for by his environmental activist group.

Those who visit the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy’s website, cleanevergy.org, will find a lot of information about the pitfalls of carbon emissions and even some stories about Smith’s Nissan Leaf. What you will not find is any mention of the $92,000 that the nonprofit group paid to an aviation company owned by their executive director for private flights on his $300,000 plane. Many in the environmental community might consider the heavy carbon footprint left by one of their own a cardinal sin.

Actions speak louder than words, which is why it is hard to take the words of Stephen Smith and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy seriously. Flying hundreds of miles in private plane so that you can lecture the public about carbon pollution is hypocrisy, not environmental advocacy.

To be clear, JobKeeper Alliance strongly opposes EPA’s proposed carbon emission regulations for existing power plants. This misguided policy will kill jobs, weaken our economy, raise energy costs, and make our grid less reliable. We believe the high cost of this regulation far outweighs the benefit of the projected 1% reduction in global carbon emissions.

Stephen Smith's Plane 07-29-2014 w- SACE logo

Alabama coal war: Judge dismisses federal lawsuit seeking to shutter dozens of coal mines

Published by Al.com on May 28, 2014
By Kent Faulk | kfaulk@al.com
 

BIRMINGHAM, Alabama – The Black Warrior Riverkeeper last week lost a federal court battle to bring a halt to permits that allow Alabama mining companies to fill small streams with coal waste.

Coal groups applauded the judge’s ruling, saying it protects coal jobs in Alabama. They called the Riverkeeper’s lawsuit frivolous and a part of what they say is a war by the Obama Administration on the coal industry.

“The baseless attacks of these local liberal groups are nothing more than an effort to do the bidding of west coast extremists who will stop at nothing to get their way in Alabama and kill our jobs and raise our energy prices,” Alabama Coal Association President George Barber stated in a Wednesday press release.

But the war isn’t over for the Birmingham-based Riverkeeper group, which says the issue is about protecting state water resources.

“We are disappointed in the ruling because it effectively gives Alabama’s rivers and streams less protection from destructive coal mining impacts than rivers in other mining states, including Kentucky and West Virginia.,” Catherine Wannamaker, attorney with the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Wednesday.

The Riverkeeper’s attorney, Eva L. Dillard, on Wednesday also filed the group’s notice of appeal to the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals.

The Alabama Coal Association was represented by attorneys from Balch & Bingham LLP.

U.S. District Court Judge William Acker last week issued a ruling in a 2012 lawsuit brought by the Riverkeeper and one other environmental group over the permits that allow the filling of streams with coal waste. The judge granted summary judgments in favor of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which issues the permits, and the Alabama Coal Association and four of its member companies.

The four companies are MS&R Equipment Co., Inc., Reed Minerals, Inc., Twin Pines, LLC, and Walter Minerals, Inc.

The Riverkeeper in the lawsuit, among other things, challenged the grandfather provision in the 2012 Nationwide Permit 21. That permit, which is issued by the Corps under the federal Clean Water Act, allows the filling of streams and wetlands with coal mining material. The grandfather provision allows mining companies that had five-year permits under 2007 rules to continue the unlimited filling of streams for five more years without obtaining a new authorization under the more restrictive 2012 rules, according to the group’s lawsuit.

The Riverkeeper claims more than 27 miles of streams in the Black Warrior River watershed are being filled as a result of 41 permits issued in Alabama. Courts have barred coal mining companies in other states, including Kentucky and West Virginia, from operating with permits under the grandfather rule, the Riverkeeper has noted.

Acker had earlier rejected a motion by the Riverkeeper for an injunction to halt the permits while the lawsuit proceeded. The group, the Corps and coal industry then each sought summary judgments in their favor on the issues.

Acker granted the summary judgment motions by the Corps and coal industry but not the Riverkeeper in last week’s ruling.

Acker, in his 38-page opinion, rejected arguments by the Riverkeeper that contended that the Corps improperly relied on an analysis of the accumulative effects of allowing stream fills performed from 2007 when it issued the new NWP 21 in 2012. The judge also rejected the group’s claim that the Corps’ Clean Water Act cumulative effects analysis under the permit is arbitrary and capricious because the Corps did not properly consider compensatory mitigation “and because compensatory mitigation does not have a factual basis.”

An Environmental Protection Agency website defines compensatory mitigation as “the restoration, establishment, enhancement, or in certain circumstances preservation of wetlands, streams or other aquatic resources for the purpose of offsetting unavoidable adverse impacts.”

In his ruling, also Acker found that the Riverkeeper should have filed its suit when the new rules were put in place, not months afterward. “Intervenors (coal companies) took actions in reliance on the (permit) reauthorizations in the 9-10 months that plaintiffs delayed before bringing suit. The court knows that intervenors would be badly hurt by a vacatur (removal) of 2012 NWP 21(a), but cannot say whether vacatur would benefit plaintiffs,” the judge states.

The coal industry had told the judge that granting summary judgment in favor of the Riverkeeper would bring a halt to the surface coal mining industry in Alabama and put a $783 million dent in the state’s economy.

“Judge Acker’s prompt dismissal of this lawsuit is a major victory for the estimated 1,000 coal miners whose livelihoods were put in jeopardy by this legal challenge,” Patrick Cagle, executive director of JobKeeper Alliance, stated in an email to Al.com on Wednesday. “Black Warrior Riverkeeper and the Southern Environmental Law Center have routinely pursued litigation such as this as a back door approach to ending coal mining in Alabama.”

EPA regulations not stringent enough, according to local environmental group

By Patrick Cagle
Special to AL.com 
Posted April 11, 2014
Stacie Propst, executive director of the environmental group GASP, recently published a guest editorial that was inexplicably misleading.

In her opinion piece, Propst urges members of the community to oppose the renewal of ABC Coke’s Title V Operating Permit as a means of “taking back control” from the “political goliaths.” Her populist rhetoric is used as a diversionary tactic that implies impropriety by omitting relevant facts.

Propst never mentions that ABC Coke, a plant that turns Alabama mined metallurgical coal into a product used to make steel, is in full compliance with all regulations and mandates established by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The truth is, GASP wants ABC Coke to be held to standards stricter than those required by the EPA, which is a tough pill to swallow since overregulation has become a hallmark of the environmental agency under the leadership of President Obama.

The mounting regulatory burden the EPA has placed on the coal industry has pushed it to the verge of collapse. Now, local groups like GASP are urging regulators to tighten their stranglehold on the embattled industry. This two-pronged approach is the San Francisco-based Energy Foundation’s strategy for killing coal. First, the Foundation applies pressure from the top-down by giving grants to groups working at the national level to “secure new EPA rules to limit pollution from coal-fired power plants.” Then, they apply pressure from the bottom-up by giving grants to environmental groups like GASP that are working at the state and local level to “accelerate the retirement of coal-fired power plants in Alabama.” By creating this echo chamber of activist groups demanding action, they produce the illusion of broad public support that encourages the Obama Administration to call for new job-killing EPA regulations. This strategy bears a striking resemblance to the “sue and settle” tactic that environmental groups have used to induce EPA rule making behind closed doors.

The Energy Foundation has given $2.8 million dollars to the coalition of anti-coal environmental groups that are active in Alabama. This coalition is comprised of the Alabama Environmental Council, Alabama Rivers Alliance, GASP, the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, and the Southern Environmental Law Center. This month, GASP is earning their keep by fighting against the ABC Coke Plant. Next month, it could be any combination of these groups. The Energy Foundation sees the big picture, and so must we. Their ideology should take a backseat to the economic wellbeing of hardworking Alabama families.

Alabama legislators show overwhelming, bipartisan support for state’s coal industry and miners

 SJR116, COMMENDING THE COAL INDUSTRY AND THE COAL MINERS IN THE STATE OF ALABAMA.

WHEREAS, the State of Alabama is blessed with the abundance of coal that is used to provide low-cost electricity to individual homes, business, and industry; and

WHEREAS, this same low-cost energy is a key factor in recruiting industry into the state, which in turn provides employment opportunities not otherwise available; and

WHEREAS, the State of Alabama utilizes coal as part of the overall mix of energy production and has a 200-year supply of coal remaining; and

WHEREAS, the coal industry has been very vibrant in Alabama for well over 100-plus years and has employed thousands of miners to extract this valuable natural resource; and

WHEREAS, currently there are over 4,000 miners working to provide coal for the benefit of the State of Alabama and its citizens; and

WHEREAS, there are over 16,000 indirect vendor jobs associated with the mines that provide good employment not only directly, but also indirectly; and

WHEREAS, the mining industry is a two billion dollar annual industry in Alabama, producing millions of tax dollars into the state and local governments each year, along with millions more in charitable and civic contributions; now therefore,

BE IT RESOLVED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF ALABAMA, BOTH HOUSES THEREOF CONCURRING, That we hereby commend the Alabama coal industry and the individual miners for their continuing efforts, under great duress from outside interests, to provide a low-cost energy source in order that our citizens may continue enjoying a good quality of life and access to good jobs.

Sponsored by:  Senators Bedford, Waggoner, Singleton, Blackwell and Reed

 

Group says opponents, regional planning commission conspired to kill Northern Beltline project

By: Mike D. Smith | Birmingham News
BIRMINGHAM, Alabama — The JobKeeper Alliance, a group of business and labor interests formed to support the Northern Beltline, claims an opponent worked with the Regional Planning Commission of Greater Birmingham to kill the project.
Construction of the first segment of the planned $5.45 billion, 52-mile corridor is scheduled to begin early next year between Alabama 75 and Alabama 79 near Pinson.

The project has attracted vocal public opposition from opponents who question the new interstate’s need and economic and environmental impacts. The JobKeeper Alliance states that a prime opponent has had inappropriate influence with the planning commission in an attempt to block construction. Alliance spokesman Patrick Cagle said emails requested from the planning commission show Keith Johnston, managing attorney for the Southern Environmental Law Center, had undue influence on the planning commission’s selection of a $250,000 consultant firm that has say in the priority of regional transportation projects. In 2012, the commission selected a firm to help form the regional transportation plan. Listing a project in the regional plan is a required step for securing federal construction money.

Cagle said email communication shows that during the selection process, planner Darrell Howard allowed Johnston and other SELC lawyers to evaluate and rank nine sealed bids from firms competing for the contract. The winning firm was Renaissance Planning Group, which Cagle said was recommended by Johnston even though it ranked third after the firms were evaluated and scored. The SELC is involved in two lawsuits filed to stop the project. One, filed in 2011, calls for an updated environmental impact study. The other, filed in October, challenges a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit for the first segment of the highway. Other communication shows Howard and Johnston met in a secret location with the leader of the Ochs Center in May 2012 to discuss the project. Cagle said at that time, the Ochs Center was working on its economic impact study that countered job and economic benefit numbers put forth by proponents.

“This unethical and potentially illegal collusion associated with the awarding of this consulting contract is appalling,” Cagle said. “We believe this issue must be fully investigated by the appropriate federal and state agencies. Cagle said the relationship implied by the emails could put the future of the project in jeopardy, possibly by keeping future segments out of the regional plan which would render them ineligible for funding. He called on planning commission Executive Director Charles Ball to launch an internal investigation. Cagle said the alliance has given the information to U.S. Rep. Spencer Bachus, who has forwarded the information to the U.S. Department of Transportation’s inspector general for review. The contract involved federal funds, he said.

JobKeeper Alliance To SELC: Don’t Use Lawsuit To Block 1,300 New Jobs

JobKeeper Alliance issued the following press release on October 9, 2013:

Birmingham, Ala.­– JobKeeper Alliance, a job-focused nonprofit organization, is concerned the Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) will try to use the federal lawsuit the firm filed more than 30 months ago to block the start of construction on the Northern Beltline, which is currently slated to begin in early 2014.

Last week, Governor Robert Bentley announced that ALDOT has been issued the final permit needed to begin work on the first segment of the 52 mile Northern Beltline. He also expressed his confidence that the new highway will not threaten the environment. “We’re committed to building the Northern Beltline in the most environmentally responsible way possible,” Bentley said.

In 2011, SELC filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of Black Warrior Riverkeeper claiming ALDOT inadequately assessed the potential environmental impact of the proposed highway.

However, for the last two years SELC has used economic concerns to fight against the Northern Beltline, saying very little about the ongoing environmental lawsuit.

JobKeeper Alliance, a vocal supporter of the job-creating highway project, believes SELC filed the lawsuit to delay the project while the law firm and Black Warrior Riverkeeper attempted to erode public support for the Northern Beltline through an aggressive PR campaign focusing on the cost of the project.

“The fact that this project is supported by the vast majority of elected officials, including Governor Bentley, is a clear sign that the public has rejected SELC’s claims” said Patrick Cagle, Executive Director of JobKeeper Alliance. “Our concern is that SELC will now try to use the federal court system to accomplish their goal of killing the Northern Beltline; disregarding the will of our state’s leaders.”

Jobkeeper Alliance says it is highly likely that SELC will attempt to use their lawsuit to block the start of construction on the Northern Beltline, which is currently scheduled to begin in early 2014. The Alliance says it would be wrong for the environmental law firm to block the more than 1,300 initial jobs that will be created when construction starts on the highway project.

JobKeeper Alliance is a 501c(4) alliance formed between the business community and labor. This partnership is cemented by the two group’s mutual interest in protecting jobs and working to create new jobs. For more information, visit www.jobkeeperalliance.org

 

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Bigger Pie Forum Hires Private Investigator To Attack JobKeeper Alliance

BPF Resorts To Intimidation After Questions Raised About Its Use of Taxpayer Money

JobKeeper Alliance issued the following press release on September 30, 2013:

A private investigator from Mobile, AL says he has been hired by Bigger Pie Forum to investigate JobKeeper Alliance. Now, JobKeeper is raising new challenges to Bigger Pie Forum’s use of taxpayer funds transferred to the organization by the state and federally funded Institute for Technology Development (ITD).

Eddie Curran, whose website says he is a licensed private investigator from Mobile, emailed the leadership of JobKeeper saying he was “retained by a group in Mississippi called the Bigger Pie Forum.” Curran’s email says he has been hired to investigate JobKeeper and other groups that have opposed the positions taken by Bigger Pie Forum.

“JobKeeper shined a light on Bigger Pie Forum’s use of taxpayer-derived funds to kill jobs in Mississippi. So now they are using those same taxpayer-based funds to hire a private investigator to attempt to intimidate our organization. This is really a new low for Kelley Williams and Ashby Foote,” said Patrick Cagle, Executive Director of JobKeeper Alliance.

“It is more than ironic that JobKeeper’s call for an investigation of Bigger Pie Forum has resulted in private investigators accosting our organization, while at the same time no investigation of Bigger Pie Forum and its use of taxpayer money has been launched,” Cagle said.

“Today, I am calling on the Attorney General, other state officials and every member of the state legislature to exercise the investigative abilities at their disposal to get to the bottom of what ITD and Bigger Pie Forum have been doing with taxpayer money,” Cagle said.

Earlier this year JobKeeper accused the organizers of Bigger Pie Forum of taking money from the publicly funded ITD to establish and support Bigger Pie Forum. Kelley Williams and Ashby Foote, both board members of ITD, are the primary founders of Bigger Pie Forum. Since JobKeeper’s public accusation, Bigger Pie Forum has confirmed that funding for the organization comes from ITD.

“JobKeeper blew the whistle on the scheme Williams and Foote put together and now, with public funds, they are hiring private eyes to attempt to intimidate us and make us go away. Well, that is just not going to work,” Cagle said.

JobKeeper Alliance is a 501c(4) alliance formed between the business community and labor. This partnership is cemented by the two group’s mutual interest in protecting jobs and working to create new jobs.

ITD & Bigger Pie Forum Lie About Use of Taxpayer Money Being Used to Fight MS Jobs

Press release issued by JobKeeper Alliance on August 27, 2013 

Take Away Points:

  • ITD lied when they said they’ve not received any taxpayer money since the “mid-1990’s.” State appropriation documents show they’ve received millions between 1995 and 2002*.
  • ITD admitted transferring taxpayer money to Bigger Pie Forum.
  • JobKeeper again calls on a full investigation and accounting of all taxpayer money and activities by both ITD and Bigger Pie Forum to help protect the public trust.

 In a joint press release last week with Bigger Pie Forum, ITD, a taxpayer-funded “economic development” organization admitted it used taxpayer money to form and fund Bigger Pie Forum in 2012. Now, to cover their misdeeds, the organizations are lying to avoid having to come clean about their misappropriation of money entrusted to them by the taxpayers of Mississippi.

“It is outrageous to claim, like ITD and Bigger Pie do, that the profits from taxpayer funded investments somehow belong to Kelley Williams and his personal agenda rather than the taxpayers of Mississippi,” said Patrick Cagle, executive director of JobKeeper Alliance. “JobKeeper Alliance is calling for an investigation of both ITD and Bigger Pie Forum to get to the bottom of how taxpayer money was spent in an attempt to kill jobs in Mississippi. Without an investigation, we may never know the extent to which taxpayer funds have been squandered by Williams and his cronies.”

“In addition to this bit of ENRON accounting, ITD and Bigger Pie Forum shamelessly lie when they claim they have not received any taxpayer money since the mid-1990s. In fact, public records clearly show, in spite of their obvious lie, ITD was appropriated taxpayer funds in 1995, 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001.* The fact that they are telling such a verifiable lie should serve as an insult to Mississippians and their elected leaders.”

Kelley Williams, who sits on the board of both ITD and Bigger Pie Forum, has used taxpayer money to fund his personal project, Bigger Pie Forum, with absolutely no public oversight. To date, Williams refuses to disclose exactly how that money has been spent.

“They are basically telling Mississippi taxpayers that they will use public money any way they see fit,” Cagle said.

Bigger Pie Forum is a group that has been aggressively fighting against economic development projects in Mississippi, an activity in direct conflict with ITD’s original charter to foster economic development in the state.

Bigger Pie Forum has already been forced to admit it is funded by taxpayer money through ITD. The questions that have not been answered are A) how much taxpayer money Bigger Pie received from ITD, B) why it received it, C) if Williams was directly responsible for the group receiving it, and D) how those funds have been spent.

JobKeeper Alliance is determined to set the record straight about ITD and Bigger Pie Forum and is calling for a full accounting and investigation of ITD’s and now Bigger Pie Forum’s expenditures of public money.

“At best, the use of this public money by Kelley Williams and Bigger Pie Forum is an unethical move that deserves official scrutiny,” Cagle said. “At worst, this is an illegal act involving taxpayer money that merits a full investigation at the highest level. Until Kelley Williams and his accomplices come clean about the transfer of money from ITD to Bigger Pie Forum, or are forced to reveal the truth through an official investigation, JobKeeper Alliance will continue to raise these questions and expose this betrayal of the public’s trust.”

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 *Known regular session legislative appropriations made to ITD: 1985 (SB2984 appropriated $4,000,000); 1986 (SB2903 appropriated $1,000,000); 1987 (SB 2959 appropriated $1,000,000 up to $2,000,000); 1988 (SB3104 appropriated $1,000,000); 1989 (SB2993 appropriated $1,000,000); 1993 (HB1587 appropriated $260,000); 1995 (SB2641 appropriated $2.5 Million); 1998 (SB3224 appropriated $750,000); 1999 (SB3155 appropriated $750,000); 2000 (SB3260 appropriated $750,000); 2001 (SB3106 appropriated $650,000). Additionally, the legislature authorized the issuance of up to $10,000,000 in bonds for the benefit of ITD in the 1987 regular legislative session (SB2857).