Legal and Policy Updates: February 26, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: February 26, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: February 26, 2020

Air Permits

Below are air permits up for public comment across the state. If you are interested in learning more, or getting involved, please email me at [email protected] or call me at 205-701-4272.

County*FacilityType of permitDate posted**
LeeCreekwood Resources, LLCMinor Permit (and public hearing scheduled for March 31, 2020 at 6 PM)2/20/2020
ColbertTechnocon International dba Alliance MetalsSynthetic Minor Operating Permit2/13/2020
FranklinTiffin MotorhomesTitle V (major)2/6/2020
WashingtonBay Gas Storage Company, LLCTitle V (major)2/5/2020

 

*Jefferson county air permitting is handled by the Jefferson County Dep’t of Health and the City of Huntsville air permitting is handled by the Huntsville Dep’t of Natural Resources. All other counties are handled by the Alabama Dep’t of Environmental Management.

**For Title V permits, comments are due 30 days from the posted day. For other permits, the comment deadline is 15 days from the posted date. Extensions and public hearings can be requested within those time frames.

State Legislation

You can find an updated 2020 AL Legislative Session Bill Tracking sheet here.

As I mentioned last time, the bills we are most interested in are HB36 and SB57. I blogged about their practical implications last time. Here are the updates on their movement:

  1. HB36: the “drone” bill. I haven’t mentioned yet, but this House bill has a Senate Companion Bill, SB45, and some additions were made to HB36 on the 20th. The effect of these additions, put simply, expands the already broad scope of this bill. Both bills seem on track to sail through committee, and HB36 was just added to the special order calendar for Thursday. If you agree that these bills infringe on First Amendment rights and threaten the ability to gather information to hold polluters accountable, then be sure to fill out this action alert that our friends at the Alabama Rivers Alliance have on their site.
  2. SB57: The Open Records Act bill. There was a public hearing scheduled for the bill on February 25, 2020. However, Sen. Cam Ward told reporter Bryan Lyman that he got “railroaded.” It appears opposition to the bill is coming from municipalities. This makes it even more crucial to voice your support of a more robust Open Records Act for Alabama.

A new bill that we are looking at more closely is SB117 (Companion bill is HB140, which has already moved to the Senate). This bill addresses the type of of “alternative cover materials” that ADEM has approved for use at landfills.  ADEM does not demand that the landfill operator demonstrate that the alternative cover material is as effective in controlling odors, disease vectors, fires, scavenging, and littering as does a minimum of six inches of soil cover.  In fact, many of the approved alternative cover materials are waste products. We believe that SB117 will allow poor alternative cover materials to be approved by ADEM without adequate investigation of their effectiveness.

David Ludder, an experienced environmental attorney who also works with Gasp and other environmental groups, suggests two improvements could be made to SB117.  The first is that ADEM should be required to demand that landfill operators demonstrate that proposed alternative cover materials will be as effective as soil in controlling odors, disease vectors, fires, scavenging, and littering as soil AND that it not be waste materials.  Second, SB117 should be revised to prohibit approval of alternative cover materials where the closest residence is within one mile of the landfill facility boundary.  That distance will significantly ameliorate concerns about offensive odors and disease vectors.

Local Policy/Hearings

A hearing is scheduled at the Alabama Public Service Commission on the Alabama Power gas plant expansion (you can weigh in here to let the PSC know you don’t support this gas expansion) for March 9 starting at 10 AM. The hearing is likely to take several days and may run through March 12.

Hearing Location info: Carl L. Evans Chief Administrative Law Judge Hearing Complex Room 900 of the RSA Union Building 100 North Union Street Montgomery, AL 36130.

Federal Policy

Sponsors of the EJ For All Act plan to introduce the bill tomorrow (Thursday, February 26, 2020). For any of you reading this in D.C., supporters are invited to a press conference from 10:00 A.M. to noon Eastern in the hearing room in Longworth 1334.

The bill has some of the same components as the Booker/Ruiz bill, including a right of action to go to court for violations of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act and agency regulations, amendments to the Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act requiring consideration of cumulative impacts in permitting, and enshrining the requirements of the EJ Executive Order into statutory law.

Initial principles for the bill online for comment, with a draft of the bill that you can see here. There are instructions of how you can get directly involved in this process as well. Be on the lookout for an action alert from Gasp about the EJ for All Act too!

 

Legal and Policy Updates: February 26, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: February 14, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: February 14, 2020

Air Permits

Below are air permits up for public comment across the state. If you are interested in learning more, or getting involved, please email me at [email protected] or call me at 205-701-4272.

County*FacilityType of permitDate posted**
ColbertTechnocon International dba Alliance MetalsSynthetic Minor Operating Permit2/13/2020
MarengoWestRock Mill Company, LLCTitle V (major)1/24/2020
WinstonFontaine Trailer CompanyTitle V (major)1/17/2020
FranklinTiffin MotorhomesTitle V (major)2/6/2020
WashingtonBay Gas Storage Company, LLCTitle V (major)2/5/2020

 

*Jefferson county air permitting is handled by the Jefferson County Dep’t of Health and the City of Huntsville air permitting is handled by the Huntsville Dep’t of Natural Resources. All other counties are handled by the Alabama Dep’t of Environmental Management.

**For Title V permits, comments are due 30 days from the posted day. For other permits, the comment deadline is 15 days from the posted date. Extensions and public hearings can be requested within those time frames.

State Legislation

You can find an updated 2020 AL Legislative Session Bill Tracking sheet here.

So far, the bills we are most interested in are HB36 and SB57, but I’m sure more will come. There hasn’t been movement on either of these this week, but we wanted to go a little deeper into the practical implications of both.

HB36 would amend existing state law to create new criminal penalties for conduct that may arise in the course of peaceful protests and civil disobedience near oil or gas pipelines and other infrastructure facilities. Alabama law already criminalizes trespass onto “critical infrastructure” (Alabama Code, Section 13A-7-4.3). The bill would expand the definition of “critical infrastructure” to include pipelines, and create a new felony offense for damaging or interfering with critical infrastructure while trespassing. It would also newly prohibit the operation of drones over critical infrastructure. Finally, the bill may have implications for organizations involved in protest activity. HB36 also expands criminal trespass to include drone operation. The creation of this new offense could have chilling implications for protesters as well as journalists.

This week, AL.com columnist Kyle Whitmire wrote about the sad state of affairs of the public’s ability to get public records, and mentioned several times Gasp’s issues in getting public records from various entities in Alabama. Sen. Ward’s SB57 still has not moved since it was introduced last week.

Local Policy

You have the opportunity to talk to elected officials and help weigh in on policies you want to see at these upcoming events:

 

Legal and Policy Updates: February 26, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: February 7, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: February 7, 2020

Air Permits

Below are air permits up for public comment across the state. If you are interested in learning more, or getting involved, please email me at [email protected] or call me at 205-701-4272.

County*

Facility

Type of permit

Date posted**

Jefferson

Big Sky Landfill

Title V (major)

1/2/2020

Jefferson

Reno Refractories

True Minor

1/19/2020

Marengo

WestRock Mill Company, LLC

Title V (major)

1/24/2020

Winston

Fontaine Trailer Company

Title V (major)

1/17/2020

Chambers

Knauf Insulation, Inc.

Title V (major)

1/14/2020

Butler

Coastal Forest Products, LLC

Title V (major)

1/13/2020

Franklin

Tiffin Motorhomes

Title V (major)

2/6/2020

Washington

Bay Gas Storage Company, LLC

Title V (major)

2/5/2020

 

*Jefferson county air permitting is handled by the Jefferson County Dep’t of Health and the City of Huntsville air permitting is handled by the Huntsville Dep’t of Natural Resources. All other counties are handled by the Alabama Dep’t of Environmental Management.

**For Title V permits, comments are due 30 days from the posted day. For other permits, the comment deadline is 15 days from the posted date. Extensions and public hearings can be requested within those time frames.

State Legislation

The legislative session started this week. The list from last week grew, so you can access the full list here.

The big news this week is Cam Ward introduced SB57, which would repeal and replace Ala. Code § 36-12-40 and § 36-12-41 (the Open Records Act). As the synopsis reads: “This bill would repeal existing law providing access to public records and replace it with a new Alabama Public Records Act with provisions establishing the rights of citizens to access public records, enumerating exceptions to disclosure, establishing procedures for making and responding to requests for access, setting the charges associated with responding to requests, establishing a Public Access Counselor within the Alabama Department of Examiners of Public Accounts, creating administrative and judicial remedies, and establishing civil penalties for noncompliance.”

We will update you more in the coming months, but we have previously posted about Gasp’s issues in getting public records from various entities in Alabama. We are actively following developments in SB57 and will keep you all updated as well.

Local Policy

This week, Birmingham City Councilor Clinton Woods (District 1) announced that he is hosting a conference to discuss the feasibility and details of Birmingham being connected to the high-speed I-20 eXpress line that will eventually stretch from Atlanta to Dallas.  The conference will be March 19, 2020 at the BJCC. You can read more here.

Federal Legislation and Policy

A final rule was published in the Federal Register this week (85 Fed. Reg. 24 (February 5, 2020)) affecting processes and content for Petitions to Object to Title V permits (Title V petitions). The final rule, which goes into effect April 6, 2020, basically does 3 things:

  1. Establishes an electronic submittal system for petitions (and e-mail and physical mail being alternate routes to submit petitions);
  2. Incorporate certain content and format requirements into the regulations;
  3. EPA is now requiring that permitting agencies prepare a written response to comments (RTC) document if significant comments are received during the public participation process on a draft permit, and the permitting agency must sent the RTC, where applicable, to EPA as part of the permit record during EPA’s 45 day review period.

This is a helpful graphic on the lifecycle of a Title V permit and where Petitions to Object fit in. We have blogged about this before here, and you can also read our Petition to Object to ABC Coke’s permit that we submitted to the EPA Administrator in June of 2019 here.

Legal and Policy Updates: February 26, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: January 31, 2020

Legal and Policy Updates: January 31, 2020

Woah. I have not written a blog post in so long. 2019 was jam packed (so far, 2020 still is…), and my legislative updates fell by the wayside. I’m sorry to leave all of you hanging for a year. But I’m back! A couple of my New Years Resolutions are to 1) start up this blog series again (checked that box off as of today, yes!) and 2) start doing more work in mine and my family’s life to tackle climate change (I’ll update you all on that periodically too).

So, I’m doing this a little differently this year. We’ll have a section for air permits, state legislation, local (greater Birmingham area, typically) policy, and federal legislation and policy. You can know that anything checking at least one of these boxes will be something I’ll update you on here:

  • Environmental justice
  • Climate change
  • Air quality, air pollution
  • Environmental health (especially health related to air quality)

So, now that I’ve apologized for my absence (and promised you I’m back) and let you know what to be on the lookout for, let’s dive in.

Air Permits

Below are air permits up for public comment across the state. If you are interested in learning more, or getting involved, please email me at [email protected] or call me at 205-701-4272.

County*FacilityType of permitDate posted**
JeffersonBig Sky LandfillTitle V (major)1/2/2020
JeffersonReno RefratcoriesTrue Minor1/19/2020
MarengoWestRock Mill Company, LLCTitle V (major)1/24/2020
WinstonFontaine Trailer CompanyTitle V (major)1/17/2020
ChambersKnauf Insulation, Inc.Title V (major)1/14/2020
ButlerCoastal Forest Products, LLCTitle V (major)1/13/2020

 

*Jefferson county air permitting is handled by the Jefferson County Dep’t of Health and the City of Huntsville air permitting is handled by the Huntsville Dep’t of Natural Resources. All other counties are handled by the Alabama Dep’t of Environmental Management.

**For Title V permits, comments are due 30 days from the posted date. For other permits, the comment deadline is 15 days from the posted date. Extensions and public hearings can be requested within those time frames.

State Legislation

The legislative session begins February 4, 2020. There are already some prefiled bills we are watching before the session kicks off next week. For right now, while the list is small, it will stay here. But as it grows, we will keep it in a word document and link to it, and just hit the highlights in the post itself.

Bill No.SponsorSummaryCommitteeStatus
SB3ElliottProvides for the expenditure of funds received by AL Dep’t of Conservation and Natural Resources for coastal conservation, restoration and protection.Governmental AffairsPrefiled: 7/17/2019
SB36ChamblissSunset Law: to continue the existence of the Alabama State Board of Respiratory Therapy until October 1, 2024Governmental AffairsPrefiled: 1/13/2020
SB38ChamblissSunset Law: to continue the Public Service Commission until October 1, 2024Governmental AffairsPrefiled: 1/13/2020
SB49Coleman-MadisonAdd a consumer member (to be selected from a list of names submitted by the Alabama Cystic Fibrosis Association, the Alabama Lung Association and the Alabama Asthma Coalition, who shall submit 1 name for consideration) to the AL State Board of Respiratory Therapy.HealthcarePrefiled: 1/22/2020
HB36Brown (C)Expands the definition of the term “critical infrastructure” to include pipelines. Existing law provides for the commission of the crime of unauthorized entry of a critical infrastructure, including drone usage.Transportation, Utilities and InfrastructurePrefiled: 1/23/2020
HB46HollisThis bill would prohibit smoking tobacco products in a motor vehicle when a child aged 14 years and under is also present in the vehicle.HealthPrefiled: 1/23/2020

 

Local Policy

Following the ever-evolving aftermath of the criminal corruption that kept the 35th Avenue Site off the National Priorities List (NPL), Gasp and PANIC have been working tirelessly to get the site listed (albeit, 2 criminal convictions and six years later).

On January 21, 2020, Councilor William Parker sponsored a resolution to list the 35th Avenue Site on the NPL, which was approved unanimously. This resolution supports the efforts of Mayor Woodfin to encourage the EPA to list the site on the NPL. Both the Council and the Mayor are calling on Gov. Kay Ivey to also support listing the site on the NPL (because state support is critical to listing).

Federal Legislation and Policy

So, we know EPA is rolling back too many things to count. Our friends protecting our water have been especially busy. We will let you know of any more rollbacks impacting efforts to address climate change, mitigating air pollution and improving air quality.

But for now, on January 28, 2020 House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Subcommittee Chairs Bobby Rush (D-IL) and Paul Tonko (D-NY) unveiled a discussion draft of the Climate Leadership and Environmental Action for our Nation’s (CLEAN) Future Act.

While no piece of legislation is perfect, and we hope for some improvements, it is good to see Congress legislating to address climate change. The CLEAN Future Act would transition the United States to 100% clean energy across the entire economy by 2050, addresses environmental justice issues and includes a national clean energy standard, among other things.

Gasp Comments on JCDH Ambient Air Monitoring Network Plan for 2019

Gasp Comments on JCDH Ambient Air Monitoring Network Plan for 2019

Gasp Comments on JCDH Ambient Air Monitoring Network Plan for 2019

Every year Gasp comments on the Ambient Air Monitoring Plans put out by ADEM and JCDH. These plans contain any changes that either ADEM or JCDH plan to make to their ambient air monitoring network in that year. The plans are subject to public comment and EPA must approve the Plans.

Where ambient air monitors are placed and for what pollutant they monitor is crucial to the regulators’ and public’s ability to understand their air quality. For example, when Birmingham has “ozone days,” this information is being collected from the various ozone monitors throughout JCDH’s ambient air monitoring network. Gasp has been commenting on these plans the past several years not only because of the crucial role ambient air monitors play in informing us about air quality, but also because a more robust, intentionally strategic ambient air monitoring network is a critical component of establishing everyone’s right to breathe healthy air.

According to a recent article, the gains the U.S. has made in improving air quality have decreased over the past 2 years. “There were 15% more days with unhealthy air in America both last year and the year before than there were on average from 2013 through 2016, the four years when America had its fewest number of those days since at least 1980.” The American Lung Association ranked Birmingham 14th worst city for year round small particle (PM2.5) pollution.

This year, Gasp is asking for more monitoring. Specifically, for monitors to address the Acipco-Finley neighborhood’s concerns about emissions from scrap metal recycling facilities in their neighborhood and for a dedicated fenceline SO2 monitor for ABC Coke. These are very specific requests that could not only give a clearer picture of air quality in these communities, but such information gives residents the power to make their communities and air healthier.

Information is power. A robust ambient air monitoring network, with monitors placed in the right places (short version: the “right places” are in hot spots of pollution, not far away from them), gives people critical information about the quality of the air they breathe. This is why weighing in on JCDH’s Ambient Air Monitoring Network Plan for 2019 is a crucial part of advancing healthy air and environmental justice.