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.

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


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



Public hearings held by the Alabama PSC produces results

08-13-2013_PSC_meeting The three part series of public rate hearings held by the Alabama Public Service Commission to review the ratemaking process for state’s largest electric utility culminated with an agreement that will save ratepayers money. The rate reduction, along with modifications to the ratemaking formula known as RSE were recommended by PSC staff and accepted by a majority vote of the commission at the PSC’s August 13th meeting.

At the first PSC meeting of 2013, JobKeeper Alliance held a press conference to express our concerns about a coordinated effort by several environmental groups and their allies seeking to create a “fire-storm about utility rates.” Their goal was to create a controversy that would lead to formal rate hearings, then hijack the closed-door venue and use it to advance their anti-coal agenda. We adamantly oppose this radical agenda because ending the use of coal in Alabama will raise energy costs, kill thousands of existing jobs, and hamper future economic development and job creation efforts.

We appreciate Commission President Twinkle Cavanaugh and Commissioner Jeremy Oden for supporting inclusive and transparent public rate hearings and opposing the environmentalist’s demand for closed-door hearings. By welcoming all citizens and organizations to participate in the open public hearings, the environmentalist’s unpopular agenda was met with fierce opposition from dozens of pro-job groups, local leaders, and hard-working Alabamians.

We are, however, disappointed that Commissioner Terry Dunn voted against the rate reduction supported by Commissioners Cavanaugh and Oden. Commissioner Dunn’s vote against the plan has once again placed him on the side of the environmental groups and their ally AARP, who is publicly backing the environmentalist’s agenda in nearby states. With Commissioner Dunn’s base of supporters thinning, we are concerned that he will likely continue clinging to the company of those courting him.

We also fully expect that the environmental lobby will continue to push forward in their campaign to change Alabama’s energy policy. As a result, JobKeeper Alliance will continue to vigorously oppose efforts of those who threaten existing jobs and future job-creating economic growth.


JobKeeper Alliance Statement on President Obama's Climate Agenda

Coal Barg Captin JobKeeper Alliance strongly opposes President Obama’s plan to sidestep congress and use his executive power to impose new regulations on existing power plants. The plan he outlined promises to be an unprecedented government overreach that will kill countless jobs. This policy shift will turn the war on coal in to the war on working families, and it could not have come at a worse time. Our economy is still struggling to replace the jobs lost during the Great Recession, and we cannot afford another setback.

The President’s climate agenda is simply cap-and-trade by another name. It is a policy that he admitted would cause energy costs to “necessarily skyrocket” during a 2008 meeting with the San Francisco Chronicle’s editorial board. (view the video) The ripple effect caused by rising energy costs will negatively impact all aspects of our economy. Higher energy costs will ultimately be passed onto the consumer as an ad hoc energy tax added to the price of all domestically produced goods and services. Even worse, it will actually penalize U.S. manufacturing companies by making it harder for them to compete against foreign made products.

Environmental activist groups have promised to defend the President’s misguided climate agenda. The odds may be against us, but we must aggressively fight to protect working families and the jobs they depend on.