Winter 2009 Edition
Published February 25, 2009
2009 League of Women Voters of Alabama

Environmental News from the LWVUS

The LWVUS has chosen Global Climate Change and Health Care as the two top priority issues for 2009.  Our national advocacy team is working with many other groups on a joint statement for a national call to action on global climate change.  When the statement is issued in February or March, we can use it to help us shape communication with our Congressional delegation, and local leagues can benefit from educating ourselves about the consensus the national league shares with our allies. 

If you are receiving the VOTER on line, you can click here to access the LWVUS global climate change web page. If you are getting a paper VOTER but have internet access, go to the LWVUS website. You can go directly to two recently-released one-page documents at LWVUS Fact Sheets on the Climate Change. The first document outlines why the United States must support aggressive action on reducing greenhouse gases and the second outlines key elements in an effective cap and trade system.

In August of last year, the national League called for a 10-year moratorium on coal-fired power plants and stated that,  "A 10-year moratorium on new plants, along with incentives – like Renewable Portfolio Standards and a federal Production Tax Credit – will encourage cleaner and less destructive technologies to grow. It will also allow time to test carbon capture and storage (CCS) technologies, assess their commercial viability, and determine whether storing CO2 underground for hundreds of years is feasible and safe." They also pointed out that "New technologies can help reduce CO2 emissions from coal-fired power plants, but there is no such thing as 'clean coal.'" (See FAQ on 10-year moratorium.)

A national Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) would require that a certain percentage of each state’s electricity must be generated from renewable sources (such as wind, solar, geothermal, biomass) by a selected date (usually 2020).  The Alabama Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Energy, co-chaired by Sen. Mitchell and Rep. Wren, has objected to recent proposals for a national RPS, although some version is in place in over half of the states. The Alabama Committee on Energy’s position is that this legislation would be unfair to Alabama because it would not give credit for existing hydroelectric, clean coal, and nuclear capacity as renewable energy sources.  However, coal and nuclear are not renewable resources.

There is a major advertising campaign from the coal and power-generating industries to tout the advantages of 'clean coal' in spite of the reality that coal is far from clean.  It is a major pollution source of carbon dioxide, among other wastes.  For example, coal ash wastes stored in a pond in Kingston, Tennessee recently ruptured the dam, releasing a billion gallons of sludge and destroying over a dozen homes. The industry has been required by the Clean Air Act to reduce emissions of mercury, nitrous oxide, and sulfur dioxide (which causes acid rain) and has built scrubbers to remove some of these pollutants.  Only in the past year has the Environmental Protection Agency been directed to make a determination about the harmful effects of CO2, but it has yet to act.

The national League's positions on global climate change and the call for a moratorium on coal-fired power plants will be important for us to support as Congress begins work on the energy, environment and economy priorities of the new administration and our state legislature addresses energy policy.

-- Joyce Lanning
Natural Resources Coordinator and
LWVAL Representative on the
Joint Legislative Committee on Energy

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