Help for Coal Impacted Communities: Congress, Don’t Come Home Without It

Help for Coal Impacted Communities: Congress, Don’t Come Home Without It

Help for Coal Impacted Communities: Congress, Don’t Come Home Without It

Stephen Stetson

Stephen Stetson is Senior Campaign Representative for the Alabama Beyond Campaign of the Sierra Club. Email Stephen

Michael Hansen

Michael Hansen is the executive director of Gasp, a healthy air advocacy organization based in Birmingham, Ala. Email Michael

There’s been a lot of talk about Alabama’s recent Senate election, but it’s now time to turn an end-of-year eye to what Congress can do before 2018 is upon us. It’s time to pass the RECLAIM Act. It can happen before the end of the year with just a little direction and focus from the folks in D.C.

The RECLAIM Act is a piece of federal legislation addressing the legacy of America’s coal industry, and it has been stalled since passing the House Committee on Natural Resources in June by a wide margin. It’s hard to understand why it hasn’t moved. The RECLAIM Act has 40 bipartisan House cosponsors, bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate, and favorable reviews from coal-impacted communities in states with historic coal mining. We need Rep. Terri Sewell to step up and help Congressional leadership get this bill passed this year, and time is running out.

The RECLAIM Act is a powerful step toward revitalizing communities hit hardest by the coal industry’s downturn. The bill commits $1 billion to projects that clean up abandoned coalmines, and waters polluted by them. It lays a foundation for future economic development and diversification in coal-impacted communities, and prioritizes public input and community participation on which projects are chosen and how they are run.

RECLAIM is a major opportunity for areas of Alabama that have historically depended on the coal industry for good jobs and economic stability to rebuild themselves by creating new, local economic opportunities. Let’s be honest: RECLAIM isn’t a cure-all for the parts of Alabama that have been hit hardest by America’s shift away from coal. However, it is a strong answer to the call for more opportunities in coal-impacted communities and can be a guiding light for future policies to help rebuild.

Our organizations, Gasp and Sierra Club, have been working hard to shine a light on the effects of the coal economy across Alabama. We support jobs and economic development, but are also aware of the costs to our health and our land presented by the extractive process of mining. Alabama has an opportunity to make something positive out of the mining sites across our state.

In other parts of the country, abandoned mines have already been leveraged to create jobs in agriculture, recreational tourism, retail, and even renewable energy production through sustained revitalization efforts. But funding has frequently been hard to come by. Bringing more of these opportunities to former coal mining areas across the country can be a boon to local workers and their families looking for jobs.

The funding supplied through RECLAIM isn’t just about cleaning up abandoned mining sites, it’s also about rebuilding communities to be stronger and more resilient in a changing economic landscape through planning and strategies that invest in local assets, workers and businesses, and create shared benefits. What’s needed in these communities is real economic diversity and opportunities that extend beyond coal mining with good family-sustaining wages and gainful benefits.

The RECLAIM Act represents an exciting opportunity to create jobs, empower local communities, and build long-term economic security for working families in communities where coal has historically been the backbone of the local economy. There’s no reason for it to be sitting idle in the U.S. House of Representatives, when it could be easily passed on its merits alone.

We need Rep. Sewell to step up and work with Congressional leaders to get this bill moving before the holidays. They shouldn’t return to their home districts without a signed law.

This essay was originally submitted to as an op-ed.

Show Your Support for the RECLAIM Act

The bipartisan RECLAIM Act would bring $1 billion back to coal-impacted communities. This legislation is a major opportunity for areas of Alabama that have historically depended on the coal industry for good jobs and economic stability to rebuild themselves by creating new, local economic opportunities. Send a personalized letter to your senators and representative saying you support passage of the RECLAIM Act.

Oppose “Transparency & Honesty in Energy Regulations Act”

Oppose “Transparency & Honesty in Energy Regulations Act”

Action Alert: Oppose the Deceptively Named “Transparency and Honesty in Energy Regulations Act”

At the end of June, H.R. 3117, also known as “Transparency and Honesty in Energy Regulations Act of 2017” was introduced. The bill is due for markup on Thursday in the Natural Resources Committee in the House.

Here’s what H.R. 3117 does:

  • Legislates that agencies ignore or drastically undervalue the cost of climate change by creating a wide-ranging restriction on the appropriate use of the social cost of carbon (and analogous estimates for methane and nitrous oxide). This includes any existing or future estimates.
  • Ties the hands of future decision makers in responding to changing circumstances on what is a very technical process, informed by up-to-date analysis.
  • Results in government decision-making that fails to adequately account for the costly damages of climate change.

The name of H.R. 3117 is completely misleading. It is neither transparent nor honest. As has become the normal pattern of practice, efforts to cater to the fossil fuel industry are masquerading as sound public policy. Put simply, the bill aims to prohibit the Secretary of Energy, Administrator of the EPA and the Chair of the Council on Environmental Quality from considering the social costs of carbon, methane and nitrous oxide in taking any action and for other purposes.

Why Does This Matter?

Carbon, methane and nitrous oxide are all greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. As was the case when the U.S. withdrew from the Paris Climate Agreement and the EPA proposed to rescind the Clean Power Plan in October of this year, H.R. 3117 shows we are moving backwards on policies and common sense efforts to combat climate change.

Climate change is not merely a threat to our environment and climate. It is a threat to human beings’ way of life in that it loads the dice for extreme weather events, creates droughts and flooding, leads to rising temperatures and intensifying smog. It is absurd and disastrous to suggest that there is not a social cost associated with these dangerous greenhouse gases.

What You Can Do

H.R. 3117 cannot become law. Our Congress cannot continue down the path of the executive branch of turning their backs on current and future generations when it comes to climate change. Let Congress know that H.R. 3117 flies in the face of the public interest and the environment that sustains us.

Action Alert

Climate change is real. Don’t let Congress try to muddy the water by barring federal agencies from considering of the costs of greenhouse gas pollution. Write your representatives in Congress to stop H.R. 3117 before it picks up momentum!




  • Heres a clear shot from Highland Ave of pollution coming
    2 weeks ago by gaspgroup Here’s a clear shot from Highland Ave. of pollution coming from ERP Coke (formerly Walter Coke) in Collegeville/Harriman Park.  #soot   #airpollution   #bhm 
  • Our intern wrote a poem for us
    2 weeks ago by gaspgroup ‪Our intern wrote a poem for us. ❤️‬
  • Trey Glenns federal financial disclosure form shows that the EPA
    4 days ago by gaspgroup Trey Glenn’s federal financial disclosure form shows that the EPA Region 4 Administrator — the person now responsible for overseeing the environmental justice calamity in north Birmingham — was paid at least $5,000 by Balch & Bingham for “Drummond/ABC Coke project.” Something doesn’t feel right about this. Read the story on our website (link in profile).
  • One month from today justice environment cleanair
    1 day ago by gaspgroup One month from today  #justice   #environment   #cleanair 
  • Giving to Gasp Inc just got easier! Weve officially launched
    4 weeks ago by gaspgroup Giving to Gasp, Inc. just got easier! We’ve officially launched a partnership with Planet Fundraiser, a free mobile app designed to help you give back without changing your routine or budget! Simply make everyday purchases at businesses listed in the app, submit a picture of your receipt and we’ll receive a percentage of the total. That’s it! It may not seem like a lot, but those percentages can add up quickly for a small, local nonprofit like Gasp! Your participation will help support our ongoing efforts at Gasp. Text “RAISE” to 444-999 to download the app and select Gasp as

Is Attorney General’s Office Stonewalling Gasp for Political Purposes?

Is Attorney General’s Office Stonewalling Gasp for Political Purposes?

If you’ve been following the North Birmingham corruption investigation involving Drummond Company, Balch & Bingham, and former Rep. Oliver Robinson, you know that our work is a huge part of the story. (Robinson plead guilty on Sept 7.) Yesterday,’s John Archibald reported that newly appointed U.S. Attorney Jay Town is asking for patience in the ongoing corruption investigation — which suggests more indictments may very well be on their way.

We’re trying to do our part to ensure everyone responsible for wrongdoing is held accountable. That’s why we sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to recuse himself from the investigation. His decades-long, lucrative relationships with Drummond and Balch & Bingham could compromise the case, in our opinion, and its better to be safe than sorry.

We are also trying to find possible connections between two $25,000 contributions made to former Alabama Attorney General (now-Senator) Luther Strange by Drummond and actions taken by his office opposing the EPA’s cleanup efforts. On Aug. 23, Gasp attorney David Ludder made an open records act request on our behalf to Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall. We requested “electronic mail records, letters, or other records of communications” between Luther Strange or any employee or agent of the Office of the Attorney General:

  1. Any employee or agent of Balch & Bingham LLP concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
  2. Any employee or agent of Drummond Company, Inc. concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
  3. Any employee or agent of ABC Coke concerning EPA, Drummond Company, Inc., ABC Coke, or the “35th Avenue site” in Birmingham dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.
  4. Any employee or agent of Drummond Company, Inc. concerning contributions to any political campaign of Luther Strange dated, created or received after April 1, 2014.

The AG’s office on Aug. 31 denied our request on the basis that our attorney is based in Florida. That’s not how the Open Records Act works, and we promptly let them know that Gasp is indeed based in Birmingham, Ala., and therefore has every right to review the requested communications. As of today (Sept. 18), we have yet to hear back from Marshall’s office.

That’s not how this works. That’s not how any of this works.

One has to ask, “Is Attorney General Steve Marshall playing politics with our request because he doesn’t want to hurt his predecessor, Luther Strange, in the runoff election on Sept. 26?”

If that’s the case, we’re even more disgusted than we already were. As a 501(c)(3), Gasp is a nonpartisan, apolitical organization. But we have a right to review public records and we shouldn’t be stonewalled for political purposes. Our members deserve answers, and we won’t stop until we get them.

Science Project Idea: Create Your Own Solar-Powered Fan

Science Project Idea: Create Your Own Solar-Powered Fan

Our mission requires us to educate the public about the harmful effects of air pollution and about cleaner sources of energy. You might say we’re big “fans” of clean energy like wind and solar — and science in general! We’re always looking for creative ways to teach kids about air pollution, health, and renewable energy.

One of our fall interns, Vaishali, found this video (above) that shows how to make a simple and efficient personal fan using solar energy! So she assembled a list of materials and equipment and wrote out the step-by-step instructions. This is a great classroom project for science teachers and science clubs. We created an Amazon Shopping List for anyone interested in trying it out. The materials cost about $32.The equipment will run about $25, but you should be able to borrow a hot glue gun and/or soldering kit if you don’t already have one of your own.

Teachers: Feel free to reach out to Michael Hansen (205-701-4270, if you’d like us to come to your classroom for a project like this one!


  • 3V Solar Panel
  • 12V Small DC Motor
  • Small Propeller
  • Styrofoam blocks
  • A plywood board

Equipment Used

  • Hot Glue Gun
  • Soldering Machine


  1. Connect the wires on the motor to the solar panel using soldering
  2. Cut two long rectangles of Styrofoam and glue them down to the cardboard with 3 inches separation
  3. Glue the motor to one Styrofoam
  4. Glue the solar panel to the other Styrofoam facing towards the sun
  5. Attach the propeller to the motor
  6. Congrats! You’re done!


Meet Fall Intern Kenneth Paik

Meet Fall Intern Kenneth Paik

The fall semester is in full swing at Alabama’s colleges and universities and we’ve got some awesome new interns to introduce! Last week we introduced you to fall intern Vaishali Nijampatnam, a junior at UAB majoring in biomedical engineering. Today, we’d like you to meet Kenneth Paik, who is also interning with Gasp through UAB’s Academic Small Business Alliance internship program. Kenneth is a pre-med student majoring in biomedical sciences at UAB.

What is your major at UAB and why did you choose it?
I always favored the idea of pursing science into a career that provides practical application, whether it be healthcare or research. The Biomedical Sciences program gave me an understanding of what that may look like. Class topics range anywhere from the basic fundamentals of genetics of the human body to the knowledge, skills, and attitudes it takes to provide health services. Having this sort of background definitely helps strengthen my goal with healthcare.

What do you hope to do after you graduate?
I am hoping to be able to travel much more after I graduate. Visiting and experiencing new cultures and languages has always been an interest of mine. I also hope to be in graduate school by then.

What is your dream job?
I first tell people what’s my parent’s goal for me—to become a doctor or dentist. But to simply state it, I want to serve the disadvantaged. Anything related with the fact that people are suffering, hurting, or struggling reminds me that there is more than just myself to take care of. Briefly speaking, my dream job isn’t anything specific, but to simply provide care for others.

What do you hope to learn while volunteering with Gasp?
I believe Gasp will encourage me to strive for higher ends. In a non-profit organization there is always a targeted goal. It’s all about the general population, making people safer, healthier, and happier. Hopefully, working as an intern here will help me gain a better sense of that.

Why is our mission to reduce air pollution important to you?
Moving out of the house and living on my own made me realize the importance of taking care of myself. That also includes the type of environment that I live in. Gasp advocates for a safer and healthier community in the Birmingham area by improving the air quality that helps benefit the lifestyles of people from every background.

What is your favorite food?
Korean food!

What are your hobbies?
I enjoy playing soccer, walking, running, and exercising. I also like to play guitar and sing.

Who or what are your influences?
My influences mainly come from my parents. They continuously encourage me to work hard and I accredit them for all of my accomplishments. They also teach me to appreciate the little things in life while tackling big goals on a day to day basis.

What are some other fun facts about yourself?
Though I’ve played sports my entire life, I’ve never broken, sprained, or bruised any bone in my body. Also, I come from three different ethnic backgrounds: Korean, Chinese and Vietnamese.