The Alabama Voter 
Fall 2009 Edition
Published December 19, 2009

Environmental News: League Activities from Birmingham to Copenhagen

by Joyce Lanning


Conference of the Parties (COP) 15 – Climate Change: As an official non-government organization, the League of Women Voters of the United States (LWVUS) authorized an 8-person delegation to the Copenhagen meeting December 6-18, 2009. The League has identified global climate change is one of the most serious threats to the environment, health and economy of our nation. The delegates worked for success in achieving a broad international agreement with commitments to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions as well as implementation and oversight strategies to reduce the threats of climate change.

At this writing (December 16, 2009) it is unclear what the outcome will be. Over 100 heads of state will take part in the final two days of meetings, which have been slowed by disagreements over the GHG emissions to be allowed by developed and developing nations and measurement and verification agreements. Also at issue is the monetary support provided to poorer, low-emitting nations to adapt to the no-longer-avoidable environmental changes in the pipeline or ones already taking place.

The U.S. House passed the Waxman/Markey bill (H.R. 2454) with emissions targets for 2020 of 17% below 2005 levels, which is a much smaller amount than most scientists and leaders of many other nations believe is necessary to keep temperature from increasing more than 2 degrees Celsius or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit – a target agreed upon last June by 17 of the world’s greatest GHG emitters, including the U.S. Other countries have been unwilling to make commitments until the U.S. does, and that will not be until after the Senate passes a bill and the president signs the results of the conference committee, hopefully in the spring before the next COP meeting in Mexico in December, 2010.

Many states are acting in the absence of federal legislation, but Alabama is not among them. LWVAL will monitor energy and climate activity in the state and participate where our positions and program support our involvement.

LWV Testimony at ADEM Triennial Review of Water Quality Standards

On August 29, 2009, Alabama Department of Environmental Management hosted their Triennial Review Public Hearing where members of the public could give feedback on ADEM’s water quality policies. These comments will be taken into consideration as ADEM creates Alabama’s water policy for the next three years. At least 24 grassroots organizations submitted comments for ADEM’s proposed policies and eleven grassroots groups gave comments at the hearing: Alabama Rivers Alliance, Save our Saugahatchee, Lake Watch of Lake Martin, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Alabama Water Watch and the League of Women Voters of Alabama.

Our testimony, given by our Natural Resources chair, was prepared by several board members with the concurrence of Jeanne Lacy. It was based on the Coastal Zone Management position proposed by the Baldwin County League and adopted at Convention 2009. We called for new assessments for coastal areas because of the impact population growth has had on these regions as well as reform of state and local enforcement of coastal area standards.

We supported the classification of the Magnolia River as Outstanding Alabama Water; final determination of the status should be in early 2010.

Student Climate Rally - OXFAM America

On October 24, 2009, a rally was held on Birmingham-Southern Campus with the participation of enAct (BSC Students Engaged Actively in Environmental Issues), the University of Alabama at Birmingham Green Initiative and Samford University’s Restoring Eden. The event included information on Grow Alabama, community agriculture, the Alabama Environmental Council and The Climate Project. Climate Project presenter Michael Churchman, Executive Director of Alabama Environmental Council, gave a brief introduction to the rationale behind limiting atmospheric CO2 levels to 350 parts per million, and the group saw the Sisters on the Planet film created by Oxfam America.

The national League has partnered with Oxfam in promoting Sisters on the Planet, which not only stresses the need to responsibly reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but also the need for Congress to be cognizant of and to provide funding for climate change adaptation projects to assist the poor, who are the least responsible for - but the most severely impacted by - climate change.

LWVAL will follow the progress of a newly-forming student group, Coalition of Alabama Students for the Environment (CASE), to determine if there are ways the LWVAL can support their activities.

Interfaith Environmental Initiative Energy Forum and Follow Up

The Interfaith Environmental Initiative of Alabama hosted a very successful Energy Forum 2009: Challenges and Possibilities for Alabama, with a dinner on October 13 at the Birmingham Botanical Gardens featuring Stan Meiburg, acting director of Region 4 EPA, and an all-day workshop on the 14th with about 90 people working together to learn about energy issues and develop ideas for energy efficiency in our state. The League of Women Voters of Alabama and of Greater Birmingham helped advertise the event, which was supported by Natural Resources chair Joyce Lanning.

Five work groups formed after the Forum are: benchmarking to identify, support and measure opportunities for energy efficiency improvements; energy and water efficiency in industry; support of student energy education and action; transmitting efficiency options and opportunities to churches and homes; and information and resources.

This is a collaborative endeavor, convening leadership of groups such as Alabama Environmental Council, Alabama Faith Council, Alabama Power, Alabama Rivers Alliance, Alagasco, Birmingham Southern College, Cahaba River Society, Episcopal Diocese of Alabama, McWane, Inc., Protective Life and the Public Service Commission, among others, to develop a conference around energy challenges and opportunities in a format that facilitates creative conversation while producing practical solutions. (See

Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Energy

At their meeting on October, 29, 2009 (attended by Joyce Lanning), the Energy Committee reviewed the legislation which was passed during the 2009 Regular Session and adopted pending bills for the 2010 energy package. The legislation adopted in the last session included the following: Green Fleet Review Committee (ACT# 2009-650), Transportation of Ethyl Alcohol (ACT# 2009-651), Life Cycle Costing for the Procurement of State Property (ACT# 2009-652), Life Cycle Costing for the Procurement of State Motor Vehicles (ACT # 2009-653), B20 Resolution (ACT# 2009-162), B5 Resolution (ACT# 2009-231), Codification of the Joint Legislative Energy Committee Resolution (ACT# 2009-805), Interagency Working Group Resolution (ACT# 2009-797), RPS Resolution (ACT# 2009-796).

The six bills and one resolution to be reintroduced when the Legislature reconvenes in January are: 400lb Idler Arm Exemption (2009-HB190, SB213), Codification of the Joint Legislative Committee on Energy Policy (2009-HB189, SB80), Research and Development Bill (2009-HB194, SB260), Energy Star Sales Tax Holiday (2009-HB193, SB388), Alabama Wireless Telecommunications Siting Act of 2009 (2009-HB187, SB69), Energy Efficiency Incentives (2009-HB188, SB288) and the IECC Codes Resolution (2009-HJR41). We will be monitoring them on Alison, but they do not yet appear as prefiled bills.

Trey Glenn resigns as Director of Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM)

After accepting the resignation of Trey Glenn as director of the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM), the Environmental Management Commission is searching for a new director, with applications due by January 8, 2010. ADEM administers all major environmental laws, including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Safe Drinking Water Act and solid and hazardous waste statutes. The Department has approximately 600 employees, an annual $70 million operating budget. (

The ADEM Reform Coalition calls for the Environmental Management Committee, to:
“find a director who can reverse the trend of the recent negative reports about Alabama’s environment. Birmingham consistently is among cities nationwide with the poorest air quality. Coastal water quality continues to decline. Stormwater runoff is plaguing all parts of our state. Enforcement and penalties have taken a rapid decline in the past few years with no explanation. Excessive pollution in impoverished and minority communities continue to be allowed. Funding is consistently too low.” (

The LWVAL board will be watching the process and supporting the hiring of a strong director for this important environmental regulatory body.