Coosa Riverkeeper Introduces New Fish Guide, Fish Advisory Hotline

Coosa Riverkeeper Introduces New Fish Guide, Fish Advisory Hotline

The Alabama Department of Public Health issues fish advisories for contaminants like methylmercury and PCBs — which are toxins hazardous to human health. ADPH also makes recommendations about portion size and frequency of fish consumed in specific waterbodies.

When our friends at Coosa Riverkeeper interviewed more than 125+ fishers, they found some startling results. Nearly half of the Coosa fishers didn’t know about the 34 fish advisories ADPH issues last year for polychlorinated biphynels (PCBs) and methylmercury — or how exposure to those pollutants affect their health.

In response, Coosa Riverkeeper released its new Fish Guide this week, which now includes a toll-free hotline that fishers can dial to find out about fish advisories throughout the state. Fishers can call 1-844-219-RISK and follow the prompts to hear advisories in their watershed.

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is emitted from coal-fired power plants like Alabama Power’s Gaston Plant located on the Coosa River in Wilsonville, Ala. It is converted by organisms in nearby water sources like streams and rivers into methylmercury, which is absorbed by fish. Infants and children under the age of 14 are the most at-risk. Women who are nursing, pregnant, or plan to become pregnant are also especially vulnerable.

“We saw a need for a better way to alert citizens of these advisories and were excited to tackle the challenge,” Executive Director Justinn Overton said. “We are confident our new toll-free hotline will be make these advisories more accessible and easier to understand for the hundreds of subsistence fishermen throughout the Coosa River and the entire state.”

In addition to the new hotline, Coosa Riverkeeper has also developed an interactive map with advisories as well as popular fishing locations along the Coosa. They also created two videos to compliment the Fish Guide. One demonstrates how to properly filet a fish — very useful info for folks like me who love to cook fresh food! The other video shows alternative cooking methods that help reduce exposure to the toxins found in these fish.

We urge you to use this resource from Coosa Riverkeeper and support their work! Air pollution does not happen in a vacuum — what goes up in the air can end up contaminating our soil, our water, and our food supply (like fish). That’s why we work so closely with local water groups. We’re all in this together!

Alabama is the 3rd Most Expensive State for Electricity Bills

Alabama is the 3rd Most Expensive State for Electricity Bills

Here we go again. Alabama has been named one of the most energy-expensive states according to WalletHub, a website that provides consumers with free financial information and analysis.

Source: WalletHub

We fared better overall in this year’s report than we did in 2014. Alabama now ranks 13th most expensive, compared to sixth two years ago. While that is an improvement, electricity bills continue to be the main driver.

Related: Read our statement on Climate Change & Energy Policy

Alabama ranked 3rd most expensive for monthly electricity bills behind Hawaii and South Carolina Alabama and just ahead of Mississippi. The state ranks 14th for motor-fuel costs; 39th for home heating-oil costs; and 40th for natural gas costs. Below are some tips, which I’ve semi-plagiarized from my last post on this topic, on how to reduce electricity consumption.

Unplug.

airplane plugAn easy way to reduce the amount of energy you’re using and lower your electricity bill is to unplug appliances and other electronics that aren’t being used. If you have a spare refrigerator in the garage that you never utilize, pull the plug! That TV in the spare bedroom? Disconnect that bad boy. For appliances that you use on an irregular basis, such as a home theatre system, use a power strip and flip the switch when you want to use it.

Turn Down the Thermostat.

dog-ac

It’s summertime in Alabama. I get it. But one of the easiest ways to reduce your electricity bill a little bit is to set your thermostat a couple degrees higher. Increasing the temperature from 72 degrees to 76 degrees can save a couple bucks each billing cycle — and that adds up! The inverse goes for winter months (e.g., set the thermostat to 67 degrees or so). If you’re going to be out of town for a few days, you can be even more extreme. Adjusting your thermostat with the seasons also critically reduces the amount of electricity you’re using. Less power means less pollution.

Turn Out the Lights.

cat turning off light

This is one of the oldest energy saving tips in the book, but it’s always worth the reminder. When you’re not home or if you leave a room, just flip that switch to “off.” It only takes a second, but it’s one of the most common wastes of energy that we’re all guilty of from time to time.

Invest in Home Improvement.

home improvement opening

No, we’re not talking about the popular 90s sitcom. Investing in upgrades in your home is the best long-term solution to reducing your energy output. Home improvement encompasses a broad array of upgrades: better insulation, energy efficient appliances, compact fluorescent lightbulbs, new windows. Look for the Energy Star® label when you’re ready to make an investment. The label is on everything from microwave, washers, dryers, dishwashers, and even windows.

WalletHub Artwork: Most and Least Expensive States

Source: WalletHub

SCOTUS Denies Appeal Over Embattled MATS Rule

SCOTUS Denies Appeal Over Embattled MATS Rule

On Monday, the Supreme Court of the United States denied certiorari in Michigan v. EPA. This means that SCOTUS rejected Michigan’s and 20 other states, including Alabama, appeal to block the mercury and air toxics standards (MATS). In denying review, SCOTUS upholds the D.C. Circuit’s decision to not vacate the rule.

Almost a year ago I wrote about the SCOTUS decision that resulted in EPA performing a cost analysis for the MATS rule. Because the rule was not invalidated or stayed, crucial protections for air quality and public health have remained in effect.

Mercury Pollution

Image courtesy Moms Clean Air Force (source: http://www.momscleanairforce.org/how-mercury-poisoning-works)

Mercury is a potent neurotoxin that is emitted from coal-fired power plants. It is converted by organisms in nearby water sources like streams and rivers into methylmercury, which is absorbed by fish.

This is what leads to fish advisories like the ones published by the state of Alabama Department of Public Health and our friends at the Coosa Riverkeeper. It has even been linked to lower IQs and can have harmful health effects in children.

Thank you to everyone who told Attorney General Luther Strange to stop wasting taxpayer’s money opposing MATS! Today is a great day for air quality and public health!

Check out this helpful infographic on mercury pollution from Moms Clean Air Force.

MCAF_how_mercury_poisoning_works_Page_1 MCAF_how_mercury_poisoning_works_Page_2

Here Comes the Sun: Project Sunroof Shows Your Potential

Here Comes the Sun: Project Sunroof Shows Your Potential

When you think of Google, you probably think of searching the internet for those random questions that pop into your head throughout the day. Or maybe email, chat, mapping directions, document collaboration or one of a dozen other ubiquitous products the company is known for.

But Google is also an advocate for clean, renewable energy and just so happens to be the world’s largest corporate purchaser of clean energy. The company launched Project Sunroof last August in three metro areas — San Francisco, Fresno and  Boston — calling it “a kind of treasure map of solar energy.”

In January, Project Sunroof expanded to 20 additional metros in California, Massachusetts, Arizona, New York, New Jersey, Nevada, Connecticut, Colorado and North Carolina. Now the tool is available in 42 states. (Sorry, Texas, Hawaii, Rhode Island, Idaho, South Dakota, Mississippi, Tennessee, Alaska and the District of Columbia!)

Project Sunroof is a tool that allows users to enter their address to get an estimate of how much they could save by installing solar power on their home. Users can toggle through average monthly utility bill amounts and different financing options to come up with what works best for their home.

To determine costs and potential savings, Google calculates the cost to lease, finance (loan), or buy solar panels based on current solar industry pricing data. Then it makes a recommendations for what’s best. Google compiles info on federal and state tax credits, utility rebates, renewable energy credits and net metering to come up with the savings estimates.

The tool tabulates your solar potential by estimating how much sunroof your rooftop receives each year thanks to Google’s extensive mapping technology and data resources. It uses:

  • Google’s database of aerial imagery and maps
  • 3D modeling of your roof
  • Shadows cast by nearby structures and trees
  • All possible sun positions over the course of a year
  • Historical cloud and temperature patterns that might affect solar energy production

Alabama is behind the times when it comes to offering incentives to residential power customers to switch to clean energy like solar. Even though we rank in the top 20 for potential solar capacity we lag behind on solar installations and even further behind when it comes to solar jobs. (Last year we ranked a dismal 49th.)

The good news is we have tools and information available to you for free on our SolarWorks website. Get educated and to become an engaged advocate for clean energy here in Alabama! And if you want to go a step further, join Gasp as a member today!

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Mississippi Beats Alabama to Net Metering

Mississippi Beats Alabama to Net Metering

I’m sure you’ve heard Alabamians say “thank God for Mississippi.” Whether we are looking for a silver lining whilst bemoaning Alabama’s low rankings for education or obesity, in many categories, Alabama edges out Mississippi to where Alabamians can breathe a sigh of relief that we are not the worst.

However, that old adage is not quite as comforting as it once was. This is especially true when it comes to how customers in Alabama and Mississippi are treated by the regulators who balance their interests with those of the electric utility. Just this week, Mississippi became the 46th state to adopt rules promoting solar power. Alabama has adopted no such rules, so we are not thanking God for Mississippi this week. In fact, Alabamians should be quite envious of what regulators have made possible for the growth of solar energy in Mississippi.

Put simply, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) adopted net metering standards and created a rule that allows for third party financing where residential customers interested in solar can lease panels from a third party company and enjoy the many benefits of going solar. Adding insult to injury for Alabamians, the PSC in Mississippi also created an extra price subsidy for the first 1,000 low-income customers who sign up.

Why did this happen in Mississippi? It’s simple, really. Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. assisted the Mississippi PSC by conducting a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for net metering and interconnection in Mississippi. The PSC found that it was in the best interests of the ratepayers to proceed with the development of net metering and interconnection rules. Mississippi PSC Commissioner Brandon Presley said, “I can’t tell you what a gallon of gasoline will cost or what a gallon of milk costs. But, I can tell you the sunshine is going to be free. We ought to be using it to power our homes and where it makes economic sense, be plugging it into our electric grid. This is a big step in that direction.”

Compare the actions of the Mississippi PSC with the Alabama PSC’s actions. We have our PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh praying away the EPA and penning press releases and letters to President Obama about his War on Coal. Such shenanigans replace meaningful public participation and a balancing of the interests of the utility and consumer that occurred in Mississippi this week.

Beyond distinguishing the political posturing of Commissioner Cavanaugh with those of Commissioner Presley in Mississippi, something more egregious has occurred for residential solar customers in Alabama. Specifically, the Alabama PSC, without any public participation or input, in 2014 approved a $5/kW “capacity reservation charge” for Alabama Power customers wanting to generate his or her own electricity. Paired with a low pay back rate, this “capacity reservation charge,” which functions as a solar energy production fee, makes the economics of solar that will be realized in Mississippi barely achievable for Alabama Power customers.

Mississippi has left Alabama in the dust when it comes to creating policies that promote the growth of the solar energy industry. In fact, our PSC in Alabama would much prefer you choke on the dust of traditional sources of electricity than conduct a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for solar policies that would be in the best interest of the ratepayer.

Want to change the status quo? Visit our Solar Works website to learn more about solar power in Alabama and to take action to support pro-solar policies.

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