The Wire

  • 16-year-old murder suspect admits setting fire that killed mother, records state

    Excerpt from

    Nicholas Lamons is charged in his mother’s fire death.

    A teen murder suspect admitted setting the Morgan County fire that killed his mother and sent two others to the hospital, court records state.

    Nicholas Lamons, 16, is charged in the Tuesday-morning fire death of his mother, 32-year-old Kimberly Lamons, at their Alabama 67 home in the Joppa area.

    “Nicholas was located a short time later asleep in the van in Somerville,” Investigator Jeff Reynolds wrote in an arrest affidavit. “Nicholas was questioned and admitted that he had started a fire in his bedroom prior to leaving the residence. Nicholas also stated that he came back by the house a short time later and saw the trailer burning but did not make an effort to notify anyone.”

  • Moore slams Washington Post’s Pulitzer Prize in fundraising email

    Excerpt from Associated Press:

    Former U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore of Alabama is trying to raise money by pointing to the Pulitzer Prize that The Washington Post won for its investigation of him.

    In a Friday fundraising email to supporters, Moore’s legal defense fund, said The Post won for “lies and slander.” The email sent by the Moore for U.S. Senate Legal Defense Fund then asked for people to help replenish his legal fund.

    The Post won a Pulitzer for investigative reporting for its stories revealing allegations that Moore pursued teenage girls sexually decades ago while he was in his 30s. Moore denied any misconduct.

  • Birmingham considering another Democratic National Convention bid

    Excerpt from WBRC:

    Birmingham is going after another Democratic National Convention, but the city says this time the committee asked to make a pitch.

    Last month, the Democratic National Committee reached out to Mayor Randall Woodfin about the city applying to host the 2020 convention.

    In a statement to WBRC, Mayor Woodfin says he’s considering applying.

    “We are very excited that the Democratic National Committee has recognized the City of Birmingham as an attractive, possible site for the 2020 Democratic National Convention. Such recognition shows how much progress our city is making when we receive these kinds of unsolicited invitations,” Woodfin said.

1 year ago

SEC football legend confirmed to Auburn board of trustees

AUBURN, Ala. — After the voters gave them the power to expand the Auburn Board of Trustees, the Alabama Senate approved two new members, including former Auburn Football player Quentin Riggins. The Thursday confirmation added Riggins, 41-year U.S. Army veteran Lloyd Austin, and CEO Raymond Harbert of Harbert Management Corp. in Birmingham as at-large members. All three men are graduates of Auburn University.

A graduate of Montgomery’s Robert E. High School, Riggins played Linebacker for the Auburn Tigers from 1986 to 1989. He twice earned All-SEC honors and Second Team All-American status while leading the Tigers to three straight SEC Championships form 1987-1989. Decades later, he was honored with induction into the SEC Legends Class of 2009.

After a brief stint in the Canadian Football League, he turned his talents towards business and lobbying. Riggins currently works as the Senior Vice President for Governmental and Corporate Affairs for the Alabama Power Company and has since 2011. In that role, he has led the largest governmental affairs shop in the state.

He has worked for governors on both sides of the aisle, and he served as a cabinet member in the Riley administration. He also worked for Democratic Speaker of the House Seth Hammet and later ran the governmental affairs operation at the Business Council of Alabama before briefly launching his own firm.

His significant work has earned him a spot on Yellowhammer‘s Power and Influence List numerous times. In 2015, former Yellowhammer CEO Cliff Sims wrote:

“The Power Company’s business is so vast there is hardly an issue before the Legislature that does not impact them in some way. It’s a big job, but Riggins has virtually unlimited resources and personnel at his disposal…From sports to politics to business, Riggins is another power player with an extensive reach.”

1 year ago

Coal still an important part of Alabama’s energy portfolio

(Photo: Flikr user rcene2010)

By Charles L. Karr, Ph.D.
Dean of The University of Alabama College of Engineering

I cut my teeth in the mining industry early in my career as a research engineer with the United States Bureau of Mines, and I have seen the strength and determination of the people who labor to bring us the raw materials that make so much of our life possible.

Alabama was modernized because of coal, taking us from an agricultural society into one driven by industry and technology. The energy industry in this state relied on coal to power our world, but that is rapidly changing. Still, as the market, government regulations and concerns over greenhouse gasses continue to stress the coal industry, it is important to remember coal remains a vital part of Alabama’s energy portfolio.

Coal has been mined in Alabama for more than 150 years, and the state ranks 14th in total coal production among the United States, according to an economic impact study commissioned by the Energy Institute of Alabama.

Historically, coal has fueled the largest share of electric power generation in the state. About a third of the coal mined in Alabama stays in the U.S., and about half of that is delivered to electric power plants in the state, according to the report.

The Alabama Power Company reported in 2015 that coal made up about half of its fuel mix, and about 15 percent of that comes from coal mines in the state. Alabama Power still operates 10 coal-fired generating units.

Those numbers are down, of course, as low prices for natural gas and regulations have seen Alabama Power transition. In the late 1990s, nearly 80 percent of electricity generated by the company came from coal, and there were 23 coal-fired units. Natural gas has provided a larger share of electricity in the state, exceeding coal-fired generation in 2012, 2014 and 2015.

Employment in the coal industry is down, too, but the Alabama Coal Association reports 4,000 people directly employed in the industry. This significant workforce in our state is buoyed by exports.

According to the U.S. Energy Department, in 2014, two thirds of the coal produced in Alabama was exported. Mobile is the nation's third-largest seaport for exporting United States coal, most of which is bound for Europe, South America and Central America. In 2015, Mobile also was second only to Tampa, Fla., in coal imports, according to EIA report.

It does not take much to read the tea leaves to understand challenges remain for coal as an energy source in the country. Besides market forces, there is concern over emissions, and that is something academia and industry are trying to resolve. In fact, researchers here at The University of Alabama College of Engineering are working with different solvents to more effectively scrub emissions from coal-fired power plants, and we have worked with the Southern Company and others to lead the way on carbon capture technologies.

Our researchers along with many across the state at other universities and private research labs are working to improve a host of other energy technologies to help diversify energy production here and around the world. Even with engineers and scientists moving forward, hurdles to more widespread reliance on renewable energy remain. Coal reserves are vast, and the industry is an important economic driver. Policymakers and cultural influencers must remember that coal is an engrained part of our energy mix.

Charles L. Karr is Dean of The University of Alabama College of Engineering and a Senior Policy Advisor for the nonprofit Energy Institute of Alabama. Visit to see the complete economic impact study commissioned by the EIA.

2 years ago

POWER & INFLUENCE 50: Alabama’s most powerful & influential business leaders

The Yellowhammer Power & Influence 50 is an annual list of the 50 most powerful and influential players in Alabama politics and business — the men and women who shape the state.

This year’s list is being released in three segments: Government officials and politicians, lobbyists and consultants, and today’s segment, business leaders.

Don’t miss Yellowhammer’s 2nd Annual Power of Service reception honoring the men and women on the Power & Influence 50 list who leverage their stature to make a positive impact on the state. The event is set to take place Friday, May 13th at the Grand Bohemian Hotel in Mountain Brook. Last year’s event attracted a who’s who of Alabama politics and business, including the Governor, Lt. Governor, Speaker of the House, Pro Tem of the Senate, numerous members of Congress, dozens of state legislators and many of the state’s top executives, lobbyists, opinion leaders and political activists. For more information on the event click here and to purchase tickets click here.



Rick Burgess, nationally syndicated talk radio host, Rick & Bubba Show

As the only media personality on the Power & Influence 50, Burgess is a unique fit among the state’s business elite. He and his co-host, Bill “Bubba” Bussey, have built a radio empire that gives them an unmatched platform to entertain listeners across Alabama and beyond, as well as advance their Christian, conservative worldview and political agenda.

Burgess represents the duo on the Power & Influence list because he has shown a greater willingness to throw his weight behind political candidates in recent years, most notably Congressman Gary Palmer, whom Burgess helped propel into office with a giant wave of ads featuring his endorsement. He has also become one of the state’s most outspoken opponents of gambling expansions of any kind.

Candidates will be lining up to garner Burgess’s backing in the years to come, but he’s already proven to be very picky when it comes to supporting politicians. That makes his endorsement even more valuable.



Mark Crosswhite, CEO, Alabama Power Company

Crosswhite is now two years into his tenure atop the Power Company and continues to impress with his exacting approach to both internal company operations and governmental affairs.

APCO’s operation is so vast that almost every state policy has the potential to affect their business in some way. For that reason, the company has been an active player for decades in every nook and cranny of state government — from the county and municipal levels up to the legislative and executive branches.

Crosswhite served as Alabama Power’s Executive Vice President of External Affairs for almost three years; then became CEO and President of Gulf Power, another Southern Company subsidiary. He was then Chief Operating Officer and Executive Vice President of Southern Company from mid-2012 until March of 2014 when he became CEO of Alabama Power at the age of 50.

With seemingly limitless resources, Crosswhite and Alabama Power wield influence on a level that most others — including many on this list — can only dream of.



Garry Neil Drummond, CEO, Drummond Coal

The Drummond family built a multinational coal juggernaut off of a $300 loan from Walker County Bank in Jasper, Alabama, using three mules as collateral on the note.

As the third generation CEO (he took over the company in 1961 and spurred it on to previously unfathomable heights), Mr. Drummond has endured the Obama administration’s wrath to an extent that few Americans can even imagine.

No other industry in America has been the target of such fierce opposition from the government, but Drummond has thrived by diversifying his company’s holdings and continuing to run one of the most efficient mining operations in the world.

Forbes ranks him as Alabama’s wealthiest individual, which means he is one of the few Alabama businessmen who routinely gets courted by national politicians. Presidential candidates have been known to carve out chunks of entire days to try to get on Mr. Drummond’s calendar for a meeting.

For most businessmen it works the other way around. Drummond’s in a league of his own in the Yellowhammer State. He doesn’t just work for a giant company — he is a giant company.



Joe Espy, President, Melton Espy & Williams PC

Espy is the preeminent criminal defense attorney in Alabama and the first call when almost any top tier political figure needs legal counsel. When it comes to needing the type of representation Espy provides, there are no party lines. He has represented Democrats and Republicans alike. He currently reps the governor, which means he will likely be omnipresent in political circles for the foreseeable future.

On top of his highly successful law practice, Espy is also a University of Alabama Trustee, placing him in rarified air among the state’s business elite.



Grayson Hall, CEO, Regions Bank

Hall has banking in his bloodstream. There was little doubt where he was headed after earning his MBA at the University of Alabama and later graduating from the Stonier School of Banking. He has been working his way up since then and now helms the largest publicly traded company in Alabama.

He is a fierce believer in the concept of “shared value,” which is essentially the idea that all company initiatives should create value in some way for its customers, employees, shareholders and communities. That approach has earned Regions the best reputation among banks nationally, up from No. 19 just a few years ago.

In addition to his enviable position atop Regions, Hall also serves on a handful of other influential boards of directors, including Alabama Power’s.

Every ambitious politician from Alabama or passing through the state — from members of Congress to presidential candidates — has Hall on their call list.



Johnny Johns, Chairman, President and CEO, Protective Life Corporation

The soft-spoken CEO of Protective Life Corporation has an unrivaled rolodex and intense desire to leave the state of Alabama better than he found it. Under Johns’ leadership, Protective has been a philanthropic powerhouse in the Birmingham community. After merging with Tokyo-based Dai-ichi Life Insurance Co. last year, the newly combined companies donated a stunning $4.1 million toward initiatives that will impact medical research, education and culture in Alabama for many years to come. This year the company donated $500,000 toward to the UAB Athletic Foundation’s $15 million goal for a proposed Football Operations Building.

Johns is on numerous influential boards of directors, including Regions Financial Corporation, Southern Company and the University of Alabama System.

His influence on Alabama’s political landscape extends back to the mid-90s when he and a group of powerful businessmen put together a successful effort to flip Alabama’s courts — which had become known as “tort hell” — to Republican control. He was also a major contributor to the 2010 effort to end 136 years of Democratic control in the Alabama legislature.

Johns is one of the first calls for any aspiring statewide candidate.



Terry Kellogg, CEO, Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama

Kellogg has spent three decades with BCBS, rising up through the ranks to become the company’s CEO in 2010. He has earned a reputation for being brilliant and not scared to tell it like it is. BCBS of Alabama maintains the largest market share of any health insurer in the country.

Under Kellogg’s leadership, BCBS has been one of the most politically active companies in Alabama, maintaining a strong presence at the Statehouse and actively engaging in a wide variety of policy issues. He has guided the company well through the tumultuous implementation of ObamaCare.

Kellogg told the Birmingham Business Journal last year that his leadership style is inspired by Dwight Eisenhower.

“Eisenhower was on the ground everywhere,” he said, “present all the time and accessible.”



Thomas M. “Tommy” Lee

Lee is president and CEO of Vulcan, Inc., an aluminum manufacturer based in Foley, and he’s got over four decades of south Alabama business and political connections at his disposal. He is a former Chairman of the South Baldwin Chamber of Commerce and a past winner of the Walton M. Vines Free Enterprise Person of the Year.

He is making his first ever appearance on the Power & Influence 50 this year due in large part to his ascendance to the chairmanship of the Business Council of Alabama, a powerful voice representing the statewide business community’s interests before state government.



John McMahon, Chairman, Ligon Industries

McMahon is the kind of industrialist who would fit right in in the pages of an Ayn Rand novel — a legendary investor in the Alabama business community whose holdings span diverse industries and dot the U.S. map. He is also on numerous influential boards of directors, including Protective Life Insurance Corporation, ProAssurance Corporation, National Bank of Commerce, Cooper/T. Smith Corporation and UAB Health Systems.

He keeps his head down and avoids the spotlights, but anyone in the know understands just how influential he has been and continues to be in Alabama politics. He was a key player in the business community’s revolt against “tort hell” in the mid-90s, a movement whose impact continues to ripple across Alabama’s economic landscape. Since then he has been a powerful ally for numerous powerful politicians, including state legislators, members of congress and presidential candidates.

When McMahon calls, everyone answers.



Claude B. Nielsen, CEO, Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc.

Claude Nielsen joined Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED, Inc. in 1979 and has been the company’s CEO since 1991. Under his direction, Coca-Cola UNITED has become the largest privately held Coca-Cola Bottler in the United States and is the 7th largest privately held company in Alabama.

He flexed his muscle politically last year by personally making calls to lawmakers in an effort kill a proposed soda tax increase. One legislator who was on the fence about the issue told Yellowhammer, “Once he called, I was a ‘no,’ end of discussion.”

That’s the level of influence that has propelled Nielsen onto this year’s Power & Influence 50.



Craft O’Neal, Chairman and CEO, O’Neal Industries

O’Neal runs Birmingham’s second largest private company, a $2.5 billion per year juggernaut that employs roughly 370 people in the Magic City alone.

The O’Neal name is golden in Alabama business circles. His grandfather founded O’Neal Steel, which is now O’Neal Industries, and his father ran the company for many years as the younger O’Neal worked his way up and ultimately succeeded him as chairman and CEO.

O’Neal flexed his muscle this past year by helping pull together a group of Birmingham heavyweights to resurrect UAB football. With O’Neal playing a key role, the group navigated a labyrinth of political challenges and ultimately succeeded, a result that could have a profound impact on the Birmingham community for decades to come.



Jimmy Parnell, President, CEO and Chairman, Alfa

Simply put: Parnell is a great American.

He was driving a tractor when he was five and managing his family farm’s payroll by age 12. His subsequent success in private business (he’s a partner in his family’s beef cattle farm and timber business) and deep farming background (he’s a fifth generation farmer) prepared him for his current role as CEO of Alfa, an organization whose agriculture and insurance interests make them one of the top players in Alabama’s economic and political landscape.

There isn’t an organization in the state that can touch Alfa’s grassroots capabilities. When their members get engaged on an issue or back a candidate, it matters. Their governmental affairs team is one of the largest and most active on Goat Hill.

It is hard to believe there was a time prior to Parnell’s tenure when Alfa was behind the curve in adjusting to Republican control after the 2010 election cycle. With Parnell at the helm, they’re not behind the curve on anything — ever.



Jimmy Rane, CEO, Great Southern Wood Preserving Incorporated

Alabama’s preeminent entrepreneur built a multinational lumber empire from the tiny town of Abbeville, then devoted his resources to sustaining and developing his hometown’s economy and culture. As a result he is beloved by the local community and revered by his employees.

Rane, who is commonly known as the “Yella Fella” after portraying that character in popular Yellawood TV commercials, now owns and runs the largest lumber treatment company on the planet.

Politically, Rane has long been one of the Republican Party’s most influential supporters, even while Democrats held total sway over the state. He was a major financial backer of the GOP’s successful effort to takeover the legislature in 2010, and remains a close ally of legislative leadership.

He is the most influential member of the Auburn University board of trustees, currently serving as president pro tem.



Britt Sexton, CEO, Sexton Inc.

Anyone who can position himself as a vocal leader on the University of Alabama Board of Trustees must have some serious juice. Behind the scenes, Sexton has been a major part of waking the sleeping political giant that is the UA System.

He is one of the state’s most successful investors, with business interests ranging from financial services and private equity to software and real estate.

His financial resources have allowed him to become one of north Alabama’s most significant philanthropists.

And when it comes to politics, any ambitious politician would do well to try to enter his orbit, because while many other power players of his stature are in the twilight of their careers, Sexton has decades ahead of him.



Gary Smith, President & CEO, PowerSouth

Smith has really shepherded a new era at PowerSouth. The company has gone from a small co-op at odds with the state’s largest utility, to a major statewide player in economic development and energy policy and a partner with Alabama Power.

Their influence will continue to grow in the political space with the founding of the The Energy Institute of Alabama, an advocacy group aimed at promoting the state’s energy sector that is being chaired by PowerSouth VP Seth Hammett.

Smith has put together a good team with a mix of veterans and young talent. This is his first year on the Power & Influence 50. Expect him and his company to continue to rise in the years to come.



Zeke Smith, Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Alabama Power Company

There has been a lot of internal shuffling at Alabama Power in recent months, which has actually allowed Smith — a longtime member of the Power & Influence 50 — to consolidate power with regard to the company’s enormous external affairs operation.

He has drawn rave reviews for his leadership on the Alabama Workforce Council, an organization that is leading the effort to redesign the state’s workforce development initiatives and prepare the next generation to compete in the global marketplace. Smith was personally tapped by the governor to spearhead the group, just one example of his stature in the upper echelons of Alabama’s political and business structure.

He is one of the few individuals whose political network and influence is felt in both Montgomery and Washington. Whether you’re a freshman state legislator or a long-time United States senator, you want Smith in your corner.



Finis St. John, IV, Attorney

“Fess,” as he is known, is perhaps the most influential member of the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and currently serves as the System’s Athletic Chair. He has been a fierce proponent of the UA System’s multi-campus setup. Most recently he has been the driving force behind the UA System getting more involved in federal and state governmental affairs, an initiative that could change the state’s political landscape in profound ways.

St. John’s family has a long history in Alabama politics. His father served as president pro tem of the senate in the late 1970s.

Today he and his wife run a highly successful law firm in Cullman. They are the only husband-wife pair who are members of the American College of Trial Lawyers, which is a big deal in the legal community.

St. John is Chairman of the Board of Directors for Southern Community Bankshares and First Community Bank and also is Chairman of the Board of Directors and co-founder of Cullman Environmental.

He has carved out an influential space for himself, in spite of not being based in the traditional power centers of Birmingham or Montgomery.



Lee Styslinger, III, CEO, Altec Inc.

From Birmingham, Styslinger runs an electric and telecommunications equipment manufacturer whose products can be found getting work done in over 100 countries.

His political influence, similar to his business interests, expands outside of Alabama. He is among the first Alabamians any aspiring Republican presidential candidate will try to get on the phone. When Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney came to Alabama, Styslinger was their guy. When Jeb Bush sought an Alabamian to activate his giant fundraising base in the state, Styslinger is the man he tapped to do it.

He is a member of the extremely powerful Business Roundtable, a group of CEOs of major U.S. corporations, and of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Perhaps most impressively in sports crazed Alabama, Styslinger is a member of the Augusta National Golf Club and part of the Masters Tournament Committee.



Mike Thompson, CEO, Thompson Tractor

When it comes to infrastructure projects in the state of Alabama, few people are as engaged as Thompson, whose machines have helped build an unfathomable number of miles of highway in the Yellowhammer State.

He was one of the key financial backers of the Republican takeover of the state legislature in 2010, and on the national level he is a coveted “bundler” for presidential candidates, most notably the Bushes.

Thompson has been known to call state lawmakers into his office to personally persuade them to support legislation he cares about. They usually get on board quickly.


Dr. Robert Witt, Chancellor, University of Alabama System

The UA System is Alabama’s largest employer and the umbrella organization for the state’s most iconic institution. That alone would make Witt one of the most influential individuals in the state, but in the same way he executed an unprecedented growth strategy in his previous post as president of the System’s flagship university, he is now taking the System’s political influence to new heights as well.

With the teachers union crippled, Witt and his allies on the UA Board saw an opportunity to fill the power vacuum with an advocacy group focused on education outcomes, rather than just teacher benefits. Witt now chairs Alabama Unites for Education, and is building out a multi-pronged political operation that includes lobbying, grassroots advocacy and candidate recruitment and support.

Witt is one of the few individuals whose influences touches all of Alabama’s “big three” — politics, business and sports.

2 years ago

Yellowhammer announces blockbuster lineup for Alabama Economic Growth Summit

Alabama Economic Growth Summit

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Yellowhammer Multimedia on Thursday announced program details for the inaugural Alabama Economic Growth Summit, a two-day event that will celebrate Alabama’s recent economic development successes and spur the state toward being the country’s most attractive state for business.

The Summit, which will take place at The Renaissance Ross Bridge Golf Resort & Spa in Hoover on Feb. 18th and 19th, will assemble the state’s top leaders in government, business, economic development and academia.

Tickets for the event are currently available at Seating will be limited. Additional questions, including sponsorship inquiries, can be directed to Yellowhammer Multimedia COO Ryan Boggus at rboggus(at)yellowhammernews(dot)com.

Program details are as follows:


The Summit will kickoff at 7 p.m. with a celebration of Alabama’s recent successes — including the state’s selection as Business Facilities Magazine’s “State of the Year” — featuring live music by Act of Congress and a buffet dinner prepared by Ross Bridge’s award-winning culinary staff.

Act of Congress is consistently voted one of the “must see live acts of Alabama.” The band has performed throughout the United States and around the world. Last year they participated in their third tour as U.S. Cultural Ambassadors, led by the U.S. State Department. Dave Higgs of NPR calls them “one of the freshest sounding, exuberant bands in all of the known acoustic universe.”

Ross Bridge Executive Chef Robert Kamm was named 2015 “Chef of the Year” by the Alabama Restaurant & Hospitality Alliance.

Summit attendees wanting to stay the night at the 4-star Renaissance Ross Bridge can do so at a discounted rate while rooms remain available.


Governor’s Breakfast
Day Two of the Summit will kickoff with a breakfast hosted by Alabama Governor Robert Bentley

PANEL: Perspectives of the Business Community: An Interview with Alabama Business Leaders
– John D. Johns, Chairman & CEO, Protective Life Corporation

– J. Michael Kemp, President & CEO, Kemp Management Solutions
– G. Ruffner Page, President and Director, McWane Inc.
– Jimmy Parnell, President & CEO, Alfa
– James W. Rane, President and CEO, Great Southern Wood Preserving

PANEL: Site Selection Experts: National Economic Trends and Emerging Industries
– Greg Canfield, Alabama Secretary of Commerce

– Jason Hickey, President, Hickey & Associates (Clients ranging from consumer products and health care, to defense and renewable energy, including UnitedHealth Group, Lockheed Martin, General Mills & many more)
– Mike Mullis, President & CEO, J.M. Mullis, Inc. (Clients ranging from automotive and aerospace, to the food industry and data centers, including Toyota, Harley-Davidson, Boeing, FedEx, Nike, and many more.)
– Hartley Powell, Principal and National Leader of Global Expansion & Relocations Services, KPMG
– Ron Starner, Executive VP, Conway, Inc., and Site Selection magazine, an international corporate real estate publication based in Atlanta.

PANEL: Alabama’s Workforce Strengths: Capitalizing on Public-Private Partnerships
– Zeke Smith, Executive Vice President of External Affairs, Alabama Power Company

– Ed Castile, Director, AIDT; Deputy Secretary of Commerce
– Dr. Mark Heinrich, Chancellor, Alabama Community College System
– Jennifer Himburg, Young Farmers Director, Alfa; Workforce Structure & Alignment, Alabama Workforce Council
– Fitzgerald Washington, Commissioner, Alabama Department of Labor

PANEL: Planning for the Future: Industries Poised for Economic Growth in Alabama
– Mary Johnson, Director of News Services, Alfa

– Brian Hardin, Director of Governmental Affairs & Agriculture Programs, Alfa
– Dr. Arthur J. Tipton, President & CEO, Southern Research
– Carter Wells, Vice President of Economic Development, HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology; Chairman, BioAlabama

Mr. Andrews, an Alabama native, is an internationally known speaker and novelist whose combined works have sold millions of copies worldwide. He has spoken at the request of four different U.S. presidents and coached numerous CEOs of billion-dollar corporations, top-tier college and professional sports coaches, the Special Operations Commander for NATO, and many more.

Dave Ramsey called him the “Life Whisperer.” The CEO of AdvoCare credited his company’s 247% growth to Andy’s work with their leaders. A Chick-fil-A executive called his presentation a “once in a lifetime experience.” The New York Times said he has become “one of the most influential people in America.” And famed motivational speaker and author Zig Zigler called him, quite simply, “the best speaker I have ever seen.”

Andy will close out the morning session with a can’t-miss presentation.

Senator’s Lunch
A conversation with U.S. Senator Richard Shelby, facilitated by Yellowhammer Multimedia CEO Cliff Sims

PANEL: The Politics of the Right-to-Work Movement in the Southeast
Jim McLaughlin, President, McLaughlin & Associates

Panelists: (Tentative)
– Billy Canary, President and CEO, Business Council of Alabama
– Catherine Glover, President, Tennessee Chamber of Commerce
– Ted Pitts, President and CEO, South Carolina Chamber of Commerce

Get your tickets while they last by visiting

For additional information contact Ryan Boggus at rboggus(at)yellowhammernews(dot)com.

3 years ago

Alabama PSC counters EPA regs with small business incentives that could drop power bills

Flickr user Peter Nijenhuis
Flickr user Peter Nijenhuis
Flickr user Peter Nijenhuis

MONTGOMERY, Ala. — The Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) this week unanimously approved two small business incentives the three Republican commissioners believe will “strengthen and grow the Alabama economy by encouraging investments and creating jobs.”

The PSC is the state government body tasked with regulating utilities, so while economic incentives that go through the legislative branch typically focus on tax credits or abatements, the incentives passed by the PSC focus on the state’s largest provider of electricity, Alabama Power.

The two incentives, the Community Redevelopment Incentive (CRI) and the Economic Development Incentive (EDI), will benefit new and expanding Alabama Power customers, according to a press release by the PSC.

The CRI provides a one-year incentive for customers that establish a new account for an existing building that has been unoccupied for at least six months. The EDI provides a two-year incentive for new or expanding customers meeting criteria related to additional incremental load. Because these incentives will increase the number of Alabama Power customers, they will also put downward pressure on the rates of all customers.

The three members of the PSC each released statements following approval of the incentives.

PSC President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said, “Alabamians can rest assured that I will continue to do what I have done throughout my tenure at the Public Service Commission – fight for you and against the federal government’s relentless assault on our economy. President Reagan was right when he said, ‘Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.’”

Commissioner Jeremy H. Oden said, “Small Business is a cornerstone to the American dream. One of my top priorities has always been to protect and promote small business and help provide every man or woman with the opportunity to achieve that dream. I was proud to vote today for incentives that will assist small business in today’s political climate.”

Commissioner Chris “Chip” Beeker, Jr. said, “The two incentives we approved today will benefit small business owners who take the risks necessary for job creation and retention. I am hopeful that our actions will work to counter the federal regulations that increasingly punish those individuals who serve as the backbone of our economy.”

Following the PSC vote, Alabama Power also announced the company has established a “Small Business Solutions” program, which gives their small commercial customers the opportunity to receive a refund on the deposit they paid to establish their initial business account. Alabama Power predicts the average rebates will be roughly $500, but as high as $1,000.

3 years ago

Alabama company uses drone technology to access dangerous and difficult locations

(Video Above: Alabama Power uses UAVs to access dangerous and difficult locations)

By Ike Pigott

Who knew that such a small motor could generate so much buzz?

Alabama Power’s newest equipment might look like a toy. In fact, it very much resembles unmanned aircraft that many purchased as gifts for children. But the implications are big, and could lead to cost savings, faster storm recovery and increased safety.

Company engineers are looking at how unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) can be used to inspect damaged lines after storms, and perform the routine inspections that help maintain a reliable system.

“There are literally dozens of things these vehicles could do for us,” said Engineering Manager Bobby Hawthorne, who is tasked with evaluating the field tests. “It’s just a matter of figuring out which ones provide the greatest benefit, and proving their value.”

Federal Aviation Administration restrictions govern who can fly UAVs. Alabama Power and Southern Company applied for and received a special FAA exemption to test the capabilities of the aircraft. The permission allows for flights of up to 400 feet above ground and only within line of sight of the operator.

So far, the company has flown more than a dozen tests, simulating the work that would be required for post-storm evaluations and other tasks.

“We are excited, as there are a number of potential uses in our field for these aircraft,” said Alabama Power Vice President Danny Glover. “I’m confident in the ingenuity of our system engineers and employees to find good uses for this technology. It will translate directly to improvements in safety, efficiency and production.”

5 years ago

Power points, prayer controversy & protestors: just another day at the PSC

(Above: Environmentalists protest at the Alabama Public Service Commission)

The Alabama Public Service Commission on Wednesday hosted the third and final public hearing of their open rate review of the Alabama Power Company.

The purpose of the meeting was to conduct an in-depth examination of the financial aspects of Alabama Power’s business. That certainly happened, but finances were hardly the only topic of discussion during the 12+ hour hearing.

Tea Party leader and local minister John Jordan opened the meeting in prayer, which immediately set off a firestorm on Twitter as members of the Alabama media and an environmental group representative expressed their outrage that prayer was allowed in a public meeting.

Michael Hansen, a communications specialist for GASP, a Birmingham-based environmental group, repeatedly called Jordan’s prayer “batsh** crazy” on Twitter. “I hope to have the clip of that dumb prayer rant ASAP,” Hansen said.

While that was taking place inside the PSC chambers, environmental protestors lined the street outside exercising their first amendment rights.

“Alabama wildflie isn’t a business to buy out,” one sign said. “Coming to a faucet near you,” said another sign, with pictures of dirty water below painted below.

But while most of the signs contained negative messages about the ills of fossil fuels and warnings of impending doom, the one sign with a positive message may have been the most noticeable of them all.

“WE [heart sign] Dunn” the sign said, referencing Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn who has been the only Commissioner on the panel to actively support the environmentalists’ agenda.

While none of the activist would agree to be interviewed on camera, and many of them simply said their signs “speak for themselves,” several of them expressed appreciation for Commissioner Dunn’s support of their efforts.

“Terry Dunn is the only commissioner who realizes none of us are going to be alive ten years from now if things don’t change,” one of the activists said.

Yellowhammer asked if they were concerned with electricity rates spiking if fossil fuels were no longer used as part of Alabama’s energy mix, several of them conceded that was a steep, but necessary, price to pay.

“You don’t care about your energy bill when you have emphysema or the earth is ruined,” the activist quipped. “And you can’t pay an energy bill if you’re dead.”

Back inside, a robust exchange of information was taking place, including over five hours of testimony and Power Point presentations from Alabama Power experts on the company’s financial operations. A diverse array of interest groups and private citizens were given another 5-6 hours to cross-examine Alabama Power representatives and each other.

Advocacy groups and research organizations represented at the hearing included AARP, Southern Environmental Law Center, League of Women Voters, JobKeeper Alliance, PACE, the Alabama Policy Institute, GASP, Alabama Environmental Council, and others.

But although a review of Alabama Power’s finances was the purpose of the public hearing, advocacy groups from both ends of the political spectrum continued to debate during the meeting over the process being used for the review.

Environmental groups and Commissioner Dunn have repeatedly called for closed legal proceedings, while conservative groups and Commissioners Cavanaugh and Oden preferred the open format achieved through the public hearings.

The Commission recently concluded the open review process with Mobile Gas Company, which resulted in a rate reduction for Mobile Gas customers and a decrease in the company’s profits.

That result hurt the narrative of some environmental groups, not to mention Commissioner Dunn, who have attempted to hide behind consumer-friendly rhetoric.

Cameron Smith of the conservative think tank Alabama Policy Institute called for the environmental groups to come clean about their true intentions. Moments later that’s basically what happened as Michael Churchman of the Alabama Environmental Council gave his closing remarks.

Churchman openly proclaimed that AEC wants to be part of the decision making process. In other words, being able to participate in the public debate is not enough for them. They don’t just want to have their voice heard, they wan’t control over the final decision.

But isn’t that why Alabama voters elect their officials? The open review process keeps the decision in the hands of the elected officials who were voted into office by the people of Alabama. The closed legal proceedings being advocated for by Commissioner Dunn would suddenly put lawyers and advocacy groups in a position to be decision makers.

Other members of the Alabama media have called this debate a “side show.” Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban disagrees. No, Coach Saban didn’t comment on what’s going on at the PSC. However, Saban is famous for his focus on “the process.” Even this week at SEC media days, Saban wasn’t talking about a three-peat, he was talking about his focus on the process Alabama will use as they prepare to compete. The correct process yields the correct results.

The process the PSC used on Mobile Gas resulted in rates being dropped for consumers and Mobile Gas remaining a strong utility able to adequately serve their customers. Win-win.

The same process is being used to review Alabama Power. We’ve watched it closely over the last couple of months. Everyone has had a chance to speak in public. All the information was presented in the light of day. As the Commission proved after the Mobile Gas hearings, if action needs to be taken, it will be done.

With that in mind, it is hard to see how anyone could have a legitimate issue with how this has all played out. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Oden stated in his concluding remarks that this process could end up being a model for other states around the country based on its efficiency and openness and the extent to which info is exchanged publicly.

PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh said the commission staff will now begin coming up with a proposal and a decision will likely come some time in August.

None of the activists from either side of the political spectrum were elected. They are given a voice as citizens and are allowed to participate in the open public meetings. But the freely elected representatives of the people should control the decision. We’ll find out next month what their decision is.

1. Clear contrast continues at PSC hearings
2. The War on Coal Hits Home
3. AARP environmental push part of increasingly liberal agenda

What else is going on?
1. The Byrne Identity: The front-runner with the target on his back
2. Enviro representative: It is ‘batsh** crazy’ to pray at public meetings
3. Mo Brooks: Senate ‘Gang of 8’ immigration reform would lower US standard of living
4. Roby seeks reforms to ‘No Child Left Behind’
5. Freshman Rep. Bill Poole to Chair Powerful Ways & Means Committee

5 years ago

Q&A with Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden

Yellowhammer caught up with Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden last week to discuss the environmentalist assault on the PSC, how Barack Obama’s mandates will effect Alabama jobs, and more.

How detrimental would President Obama’s recently announced environmental initiatives be to the state of Alabama?

Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden:
President Obama recently announced his climate change plan, which included directing the EPA to form carbon emission standards for existing and new fossil fuel power plants. In Alabama, we are blessed to have cheap, reliable power that is largely generated by coal. This is a direct attack on the coal industry and will effect Alabamians from residential to industrial customers. Recently TVA announced plans to idle Colbert Plant in Tuscumbia due to a settlement with the EPA and the Sierra Club. This will impact the Tuscumbia area and shows what Obama and the EPA’s intentions are nationwide.

Our state has been blessed to have multiple industries choose Alabama as a place to invest and manufacture. If the EPA does as President Obama wishes, power producers statewide will be forced to invest millions to meet regulatory standards; thus raising the costs to consumers, and risking future invest from business and large employers. The full impact of this attack will be felt statewide. We cannot let this attack on coal be successful.

The PSC just approved an agreement for Mobile Gas that lowered their revenues and lowered rates for consumers. How well do you think the review process has worked thus far?

Commissioner Oden:
Just last week the PSC voted on multiple aspects of the RSE mechanism for Mobile Gas that was preceded by a series of meetings comprising the informal hearing process. Although others have argued for a formal review, we were able to reach a decision that lowers rates for customers faster and without charging exorbitant legal fees to the state or to rate payers.

Being a former Representative, I’m used to hearing from the public and the main reason I was in favor of this process is largely due to the fact that individuals from throughout the state were able to come to the meetings and address the PSC and the utility directly. We conducted these meetings openly and I am honored to be able to help Mobile Gas customers through the decisions we voted on.

With representatives from various user groups present and the Attorney General being directly involved, the recent vote proves that this process not only works but excels. We are on the forefront in the nation in how we conducted these reviews.

I can not emphasis enough of how much money we saved the state and the consumer through this process — fully open and transparent. I am looking forward to continuing the review for Alabama Power Co. and Alagasco.

Agencies are tightening their belts all over state government. What has the PSC done to trim the fat?

Commissioner Oden:
We have taken many measures here at the PSC to reduce wasteful government spending while maintaining a state agency that is effective and efficient in all aspects.

Previously, and with President Cavenaugh’s leadership, we have drastically reduced our department’s number of state vehicles. Each commissioner gets only one car per office. The rest are placed in a car pool for use as needed by employees. We have also submitted several vehicles back to the state surplus and have not purchased any new vehicles to replace them.

We are currently finalizing a contract for our office spaces that will allow further reductions in spending while eliminating unused and unneeded space. The commissioners themselves are reducing their own office space so we can condense other departments into that space.

The PSC is one of the few state agencies that contributes money to the general fund on an annual basis instead of receiving it. We commit millions every year to help the general fund help other agencies. As our agency continues to review costs on a daily basis, we look forward to continuing to contribute in assisting our great state in the future.

Environmentalist groups were successful in shutting down 15 coal-fired plants in Georgia. What are you doing to make sure the same thing doesn’t happen in Alabama?

Commissioner Oden:
In Alabama we are lucky to have a very diverse blend of power generation that includes coal, natural gas, hydro, and nuclear. This results in a reliable and affordable supply of electricity to consumers. Whether it be generated from hydro by TVA, compressed air by Powersouth (which is one of only two in the WORLD and the only one in the U.S.), or one of Alabama Power Co.’s coal-fired plants, all are vital to the mix for continuing this delicate blend of power generation. I will always look to have diversity in our energy production.

Our coal production is the backbone of our cheap and reliable energy. I will be using my office to express the need to keep our coal production and to keep these jobs. I will fight these groups and stand up against any attacks that will make our production of energy costlier for our citizens.

At the heart of the matter, this is not only the fight to protect coal jobs from the environmentalists, this is also a fight to preserve our state rights. This is where it gets personal for me. Obama has used this and many other attacks to penalize the south and other conservative states that have stood against his overreaching presidential authority. He could not get a cap and trade bill passed, so he implements presidential orders to do it through agencies. Look at what is being attacked in our country and where the impact is.

This is also an attack on Alabama specifically — because of our success in creating jobs — and on the industries making use of our cheaper energy production. If the president can raise rates by raising the cost to produce energy through executive mandates, then Alabama will no longer be competitive with other parts of the country. The president is using the environmental groups to come into our state and begin a destructive onslaught of attacks against our way of life. We see them already in the energy sector, but it is only a matter of time before they fo after our agriculture, water usage, infrastructure creation, and industries. All of these sectors will begin to see these groups come after the way they maintain their production and how they operate. So I will use my office to confront and challenge them in every way I can.

We know who they are, and we will expose them.

How is serving in the PSC different from serving in the legislature where you served for 14 years?

Commissioner Oden:
It is definitely a new challenge and there is some difference and similarities. It is different in that it is statewide office. The issues are more general. In a house seat you have to always look at the local aspect of what you are doing — how it effects the ones you represent. In the PSC you have to look at the emphasis on the local area, but also you have to consider the statewide implication. Sometimes that is not as cut and dry as it is in the legislature. This is a huge state with a lot of difference in opinions and trying to blend those into an overall decision is difficult.

One aspect in which serving in the PSC is similar to the legislare is that you have to represent everyone and come to a decision based on what is best for the majority of the whole. That means sometimes not all will agree with your decision, but many will.

Another challenging aspect of the PSC is the voting. In the house you have 105 votes. In the PSC you only have three. In the house your vote can sometimes be a small drop in a big bucket. In the PSC it can be the deciding factor in every vote.

The most difficult thing for me to get used to is that I cannot talk directly to any of the other commissioners concerning the issues we will be voting on. Since there are only three members of the PSC, when two members are gathered, there is a quorum, so we are under the open meeting law. We have personal staff that has to be our representative to each other.

I like serving as Commissioner. Although this state is big, I love going into areas and meeting the people. Alabama is a great place. We have hard working and dedicated people that are friendly and just downright good. I am looking forward to meeting as many of them as I can.

I have learned several things over my years in public service. It is about the people you represent, so always listen to them. It is important to always do the best you can, no matter how difficult it may be. And your authority is given to you by the people, with submission to the ultimate authority — God.

5 years ago

PSC approves rate and revenue reductions for Mobile Gas

PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh
Montgomery – The Alabama Public Service commission today approved historic rate and revenue reductions for Mobile Gas Company and its customers. Yellowhammer was on hand to witness the event first-hand.

The Commission voted to lower the Rate of Return for Mobile Gas Company by the largest one-time decrease on a regulated utility in recent history.

The return for Mobile Gas Company, which has been in place since 2002, was reduced from 13.35% – 13.85% to the lower range of 10.45% – 10.95%.

This reduction in allowed earnings will result in an approximate $2.7 million in annual savings to Mobile Gas company customers, which equates to approximately $31 in savings per customer during each year of the four-year agreement.

PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh and Commissioner Jeremy Oden have been vocal proponents of holding open and transparent public meetings on the matter, while Commissioner Terry Dunn has called for more costly, closed legal proceedings. Advocates of the open review process pointed out today that the vote to reduce the rate and revenue range for Mobile Gas is proof positive that the process is working as it should.

“This is a victory for the consumers in Mobile,” Cavanaugh said.  “I promised to review all utility rates regulated by the PSC in order to keep utility rates down and, in return, continue to recruit and grow jobs in Alabama.  It all boils down to families, and today we lowered rates for Mobile Gas Customers and helped them keep more of their hard earned money.”

Cavanaugh also offered her special thanks to Public Service Commissioner Jeremy Oden who she said has “worked hard over the past seven months and helped us implement these historic reductions.”

Cavanaugh said past agreements between the PSC and Mobile Gas Company did not have a mechanism to address uncertain economic conditions like those experienced in the United States throughout the last five years, but the new agreement contains a provision that will safeguard consumers by ensuring open and transparent hearings can be held when necessary.

“One of the things we ensured during this thorough public hearing process is the rate payers’ right to have the rate of return examined when the economy is experiencing extreme volatility and changes,” Cavanaugh said.

The PSC is currently engaged in a similar rate review for Alabama Power Company. The last of three public hearings in the Alabama Power review is set to take place July 17.

1. House Republicans push for ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy
2. Obama declares war on energy production
3. Clear contrast continues at PSC hearings
4. Beeker challenging Dunn in PSC Republican primary

What else is going on?
1. Alabama ‘Stand your ground’ law remains in spotlight
2. Secretary of State Beth Chapman resigning
3. House Republicans push for ‘all-of-the-above’ energy policy
4. EXCLUSIVE: Q&A with Lt. Gov. Ivey, who just announced her re-election bid
5. Brooks, Roby and Rogers vow to fight ‘Gang of 8’ bill in the House

5 years ago

Clear contrast continues at PSC hearings

The Alabama Public Service Commission yesterday held its second public hearing as part of their open rate review of the Alabama Power Company.

On one side, the Southern Environmental Law Center, Alabama Environmental Council, the AARP and other leftist groups continued their call for Alabama to adopt stricter environmental standards on energy producers. On the other side, tea party leaders, conservative policy analysts, and citizens pushed back by pointing out that the policies for which the enviros are advocating would sacrifice thousands of Alabama jobs and, as President Obama said in 2009, cause “electricity rates [to] necessarily skyrocket.”

The contrast could not have been clearer — in both rhetoric and substance.

As recently as five years ago, Georgia produced 70 percent of its electricity from coal. After an initially routine rate review was hijacked by environmental groups, Georgia adopted stricter environmental standards that made it impossible for many coal plants to continue operating. As a result, 15 coal-fired plants were shut down and roughly 500 jobs evaporated overnight.

Referencing Georgia’s strict environmental standards, Joyce Lanning of the Alabama Environmental Council told the Public Service Commission at Tuesday’s hearing in Tuscaloosa, “If it works for Georgia, you should try it here, too.”

Tea Party leader John Jordan speaks out against radical environmental policies

One is left to wonder if Ms. Lanning asked any of the 500 Georgians who lost their jobs how it “worked” for them.

“Activist groups who point out the benefits of Georgia’s adversarial rate setting mechanism often leave out the results of their efforts,” Cameron Smith of the Alabama Policy Institute told Yellowhammer after the public hearing. “They shuttered numerous fossil fuel-fired plants, caused a loss of 20 percent of Georgia Power’s generating capacity, and eliminated hundreds of jobs.” According to Alabama Policy Institute’s website, API is a “non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.”

While the AARP bussed in activists to support the environmentalists, 60 plus, which identifies themselves as “a senior’s advocacy group with a free-enterprise, less government philosophy,” continued to support the open rate review process and reasonable environmental standards which are economically sustainable for both Alabama’s energy producers and consumers.

John Jordan, president of the Prattville Tea Party, spoke out strongly against the environmentalists, as did Murfee Gewin of Alabama Eagle Forum, whose stated principles include limited government, the private enterprise system, strong national defense and traditional moral values.

Tuesday’s public hearing was focused on how Alabama Power generates its power.

In spite of pressure from rogue Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn and his merry band of environmentalists, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh has said repeatedly that they will not mandate the Power Company produce any portion of its energy from so-called alternative sources.

Another public hearing is scheduled for July during which they will get into a detailed discussion about Alabama Power’s finances. Yellowhammer will continue watching this story as it plays out.

1. Recap from the first Alabama Power PSC hearing
2. Beeker challenging Dunn in PSC Republican primary
3. Alabama climatologist crushes enviros
4. Public Service Commissioner’s Chief of Staff, David Rountree, is at it again
5. Democrats Embrace Republican Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn

What else is going on?
1. Terri Sewell applauds Supreme Court ruling against voter ID laws
2. Aderholt believes getting too involved in Syria is ‘playing with fire’
3. Congress’ approval rating lowest of any institution on record, news industry not far behind
4. Black Louisiana senator releases stirring video explaining why he became a Republican
5. Sessions touts $625 billion defense spending mark-up with significant funding for Alabama

5 years ago

Recap from the Alabama Power PSC Hearings

Yesterday’s rate review hearing on Alabama Power at the Alabama Public Service Commission attracted an all-star cast of characters including wacko environmental groups, conservative policy wonks, power company executives, NAACP activists (huh?), reporters and more.

Alabama Power representatives gave in-depth explanations of their history and customer service and economic development efforts before getting into how utility rates are set in Alabama and how their ROE (return on equity) is calculated.

PSC staffers then gave a detailed description of their regulatory operation.

The testimonies by organizations from across the ideological spectrum were pretty bland for the most part.

Pro-economic development groups like the National Federation of Independent Business, conservative think tanks like the Alabama Policy Institute, and American energy advocates like the Partnership for Affordable Clean Energy spoke on the importance of maintaining Alabama Power’s ability to utilize a wide variety of energy sources — including coal, wind, hydro and nuclear. These groups also hit on the importance of Alabama Power to the state’s economic development efforts.

On the other side, environmental advocates like the Southern Environmental Law Center and the Alabama Environmental Council voiced their desire to have a “dialogue” and to be involved. But it was the press releases from these groups that spoke louder than their testimony at the hearing.

“We believe this and other opportunities on the horizon will help us encourage less dependence on coal-fired power plants in the state and grow investments in clean energy,” Vice President of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy Ed Passerini said in their release with regard to the PSC’s Alabama Power hearings.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, which is representing the Greater Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution (GASP) and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, also sent out a release yesterday. The group expressed frustration that Alabama is not moving away from fossil fuel sources of energy as quickly as they would like. In other states, “utilities are moving away from an over-reliance on older coal-burning plants…due to their age and the costly upgrades required to meet pollution standards,” the release said.

They also pointed out the Georgia recently shut down many of their coal plants because groups like the SELC succeeded in having them regulated to the point that they were no longer economically feasible.

There are two more public hearings currently scheduled for Alabama Power. In June they will discuss how the company generates power. In July they will get into a detailed discussion about the company’s finances.

The PSC recently held similar hearings for Mobile Gas.

Although no regulatory decisions have yet been announced from the hearings, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh has indicated that Mobile Gas customers will see their rates go down as a result.

The hearings come at a time when energy issues are again starting to bubble up to the surface nationally.

Breitbart News just broke a story based on information gleaned from Department of Energy Loan Programs office, that shows the DOE’s $26 billion loan program only created 2,298 permanent jobs.

If you do the math, that’s a cost of $11.45 million per “green” job created.

They also quoted the Climate Campaign Manager for Obama’s political action group as saying that conservatives who believe global warming is a fraud think unicorns exist.

According to the New York Times, one of the first major decisions of President Obama’s second term could be approving the Keystone XL pipeline, which they say would be a profound disappointment to “environmental advocates who have made the project a symbolic test of the president’s seriousness on climate change.”

The Times believes, though, that a tradeoff is likely.

Obama would approve the pipeline, which would bring tens of thousands of jobs with it, but would then seek to satisfy environmentalists with a major climate policy announcement.

“Could some kind of deal be in the offing,” the Times asks, “a major climate policy announcement on, for example, power plant regulation or renewable energy incentives — to ease the sting of the pipeline approval?”

The Times said that Paul Bledsoe, a former energy advisor to Bill Clinton, suggested that the president should “use the opportunity to announce a new regime of regulation for existing coal-fired power plants.”

Others have said that the President could launch a renewed push for a national clean energy standard, requiring that a certain percentage of U.S. electricity be produced from “carbon-free sources.”

Back in Alabama, PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh says the PSC will not mandate that the Power Company produce any portion of its energy from alternative sources.

What else is going on?
1. Undercover inside a late-term abortion clinic
2. Rumors & Rumblings
3. Internet sales tax bill advancing in D.C.
4. Alabama delegation punches above its weight
5. Who will be the next finance director?