1 year ago

Alabama legislature, Ivey stand up for coal during 2019 session

The Alabama legislature and Governor Kay Ivey stood up for the Alabama coal industry in two major ways during the 2019 regular session.

First, the legislature passed and the governor signed a bill sponsored by State Rep. Connie Rowe (R-Jasper) and State Sen. Gerald Allen (R-Tuscaloosa) to update the state’s archaic, WWII-era mine foreman law. This updated law puts the state on equal footing with other coal states, increasing Alabama’s economic competitiveness, and also increases safety for hardworking Yellowhammer State coal miners.

Additionally, the legislature and the governor backed coal through the now-signed Education Trust Fund budget for fiscal year 2020-2021.

This education budget includes $950,000 in funding to expand Bevill State Community College’s groundbreaking mine training facility to include longwall mining training. Bevill State is the only college in Alabama that offers Mine Technology curriculum.

“Bevill State Community College strives to set the standard of excellence for education, workforce training, partnerships and economic development in our service area. The Legislature’s support to expand the training opportunities provided by our mine training program is exemplary of government, education, and private industry working together to facilitate economic strength and development,” Dr. Kim Ennis, president of Bevill State, said in a statement.

Longwall mining is a highly productive coal mining technique. The expansion of the mine training center will enable all Underground New Miner Trainees at Bevill State to have a greater understanding of the coal extraction process from not only a continuous miner section but longwall mining as well.

Miners will also be shown the safest way to handle all aspects of assigned tasks. The focus of the training center is to instruct on how to do the job right with safety at the forefront. Protecting the health and safety of miners is the absolute top priority.

Warrior Met Coal has been a leading private sector partner with Bevill State.

“Bevill State’s mine training center is a perfect example of how much can be accomplished when the private sector and colleges are working together. The coal industry is a driving force of our state’s economy—it’s an industry that employs thousands of Alabamians—and Bevill State’s program gives young people the skills they need to earn a good living and support their families,” Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) said.

Reed is known as a staunch supporter of Alabama’s coal industry, and his leadership in the Senate was integral during the 2019 regular session.

“I was honored to work with President Ennis to help secure these funds in the state education budget for Bevill State,” Reed added. “This was an extremely busy legislative session, and the budget chairmen had a lot to weigh as they wrote the budgets, but I made sure legislators knew how important Bevill State’s mine training center is to west Alabama and the entire state. I am very excited to see how this program expands in the coming years.”

Currently, the training center, located on Bevill State’s Sumiton Campus, has a mock continuous miner section where miners are trained on the safest way to build and maintain all of the necessary equipment. The expansion will give the training center a state-of-the-art mock longwall with all of the necessary equipment and processes, including a modern classroom inside the mine.

The additions to the facility will also make the center a world-class training venue for mine rescue team scenarios.

“This funding will expand one of our State’s most successful workforce development programs. We appreciate the leadership of our legislative delegation who worked with the budget chairs and Governor Ivey to secure the resources that will make our mine training center one of the most advanced in the country,” Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, commented.

Met coal exports accounted for 80% of Alabama’s total coal production in 2018, while steam coal accounted for the rest. The state has large reserves of both steam and high-quality met coal, with underground coal miners in the state enjoying a starting salary of $85,000.

The expansion of this program at Bevill State will allow for more training in an industry that currently provides high demand, lucrative job opportunities.

“Met coal is a Made in Alabama product that is quietly helping fuel our state’s economic engine,” Cagle emphasized. “The industry’s impact is irreplaceable, from the thousands of high-paying jobs at underground met coal mines in the Tuscaloosa and Jefferson County area to generating almost half the revenue at Alabama’s Port.”

The funding for Bevill State’s training program was also celebrated from the perspective of coal miners themselves.

Larry Spencer, international vice president for United Mine Workers of America (UMWA) District 20, which includes the entire state of Alabama, said, “This is exciting news.”

“The United Mine Workers of America represents over 1,500 workers at four mines across Alabama, and our number one priority is the safety of each worker,” he explained. “Bevill State’s Mine Training Center plays an essential role in Alabama’s coal economy, from the annual training offered to veteran coal miners, to the intensive training programs offered for workers just entering the field.”

He also singled out Reed for his exemplary leadership.

“Senator Greg Reed has been a champion for Alabama’s coal miners. There isn’t a better friend in state government to the coal industry than Senator Reed, and I appreciate him working to secure these resources to expand Bevill State’s Mine Training Center,” Spencer outlined.

Bevill State is a member of the Alabama Community College System (ACCS). The ACCS is focused on being Alabama’s gateway to first-class, affordable education and technical training to compete in a constantly evolving workforce.

More than 168,000 Alabamians benefit from the various certification, credential, dual enrollment and degree programs ACCS offers alongside leading industry partners.

ACCS Chancellor Jimmy Baker applauded this new offering from Bevill State, made possible by the legislature and Ivey.

Baker advised, “The Alabama Community College System is grateful for the Alabama Legislature’s support of the education and workforce training programs our colleges provide across the state.”

“Bevill State’s Mine Technology Program is a key example of our successful efforts to work directly with industry to provide valuable, real-world training that prepares our students to be job ready on day one. This additional funding will ensure that Bevill’s students continue to train on state-of-the-art equipment that mirrors the industry standard and ensures a smooth transition from classroom to industry,” he concluded.

Sean Ross is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

11 hours ago

Alabama political leaders react to Kamala Harris as Biden’s choice for VP

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday selected U.S. Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) to be his running mate. Political leaders from both sides of the aisle in Alabama reacted to the news.

Harris served two terms as the attorney general of California before being elected to the Senate in 2016.

U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL), the Yellowhammer State’s most prominent Democrat and a longtime Biden ally, wrote “I know the power and energy of African-American women & the difference their hard work made in my race. Now we’ll make history by electing our first African-American woman VP & I’m so proud that person will be my friend and colleague ⁦Kamala Harris.”

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Jerry Carl, a Mobile County commissioner and the Republican nominee in Alabama’s First Congressional District, was the first major member of the Alabama GOP to react.

“Did Sleepy Joe forget that only months ago Kamala Harris attacked him for his racist policies? Now he is handing over the reins of the Presidency to her and the radical left,” Carl’s campaign account tweeted shortly after the news broke.

“I am ELATED that my friend, colleague, & Sorority Sister Kamala Harris was chosen as Joe Biden’s running mate! Joe Biden and Kamala Harris are ready to take on the big fights and she’s already shown the courage and success to win big fights,” U.S. Representative Terri Sewell (AL-07) posted to Twitter on Tuesday afternoon.

Former Auburn University head football coach Tommy Tuberville, the Republican nominee to take on Jones in November, commented on the news via Twitter.

“It’s no surprise that Joe Biden has selected a Socialist Democrat like Kamala Harris as his VP pick. Harris is as far left as it gets, and my opponent, Doug Jones, stands side-by-side with her on almost every critical issue,” Tuberville’s campaign posted. “They have voted time and again for late-term abortion, gun-grabbing laws, open borders legislation, and other far-left agenda items. We must not let Socialists like Doug Jones or Kamala Harris take over our country!”

Alabama Republican Party Chairman Terry Lathan released a statement, saying, “Joe Biden’s VP pick drags the Democrats’ ticket even further to the left.”

Lathan listed a number of liberal measures Harris has supported before adding, “We look forward to the clear contrast in policies in the Vice Presidential debate with Mike Pence and Senator Harris. It will be a true mirror of the obtuse plans the Democrats want for our nation.”

Montgomery Mayor Steven Reed, a Democrat, received Harris’ endorsement while he was campaigning for the office he now holds. He tweeted on Tuesday, “I like what I just heard” shortly after the news of Harris being chosen spread online.

“We are proud [Kamala Harris] has been selected to be Joe Biden’s VP. We look forward to helping her make history & make a difference over the next four years,” Reed added.

U.S. Representative Mike Rogers’ (AL-03) campaign account wrote, “Joe Biden’s radical lurch to the left just became even more extreme,” in response to the Harris news.

President Donald Trump was asked about Harris during a press conference at the White House on Tuesday afternoon.

“She’s a big tax raiser. She has a lot of things to explain,” he said in part.

Biden and Harris will take on President Trump and Vice President Mike Pence in the general election this November.

Pence and Harris will debate at 8:00 p.m. CT on October 7.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

13 hours ago

Alabama Senate majority leader to SEC: Let them play

Alabama Senate Majority Leader Greg Reed (R-Jasper) sent a letter on Tuesday to Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey, advocating for the SEC to allow its member institutions to proceed with the 2020 college football season this fall.

The letter came the day that the Big 10 and Pac-12 decided to cancel their fall seasons. Of the Power 5 conferences, the SEC, ACC and Big 12 have yet to announce if they will play football this year.

To try saving the season, a player-led #WeWantToPlay movement has popped up in the past few days, quickly gaining momentum nationally.

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University of Alabama head football coach Nick Saban and other prominent leaders in the world of college football have advised that most players want to play, and that players will very likely be safer following enhanced safety protocols developed by their teams rather than being back at home or left to their own devices on campuses all fall.

For example, University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) head coach Bill Clark on Monday tweeted that his team had tested all 176 people in the school’s football building for COVID-19, with all tests returning negative.

“In addition to the [SEC]’s Medical Advisory Group providing a medical clearance for gameplay this fall, I have faith in the various health and safety guidelines being adopted by the Conference’s member institutions, who have themselves relied on the vast expertise of the medical professionals on their campuses and within their respective university systems,” Reed wrote to Sankey.

He added that on top of “the heightened health and safety protocols in intercollegiate athletics, each member institution has created health and safety guidelines campus-wide.”

“I have a tremendous amount of trust in the decision making of institutions such as the University of Alabama and Auburn University and wholeheartedly believe that every decision made by their respective administrations will prioritize the health and welfare of their students, faculty, and staff over all other considerations,” Reed continued.

“Member institutions and student-athletes have worked tirelessly to get back on the field this fall,” the senator said. “Depriving opportunities for student-athletes to succeed on the field will long lasting and potentially devastating consequences for their futures, with many student-athletes aspiring to compete professionally.”

Reed concluded by asking the SEC to “hear the calling of their member institutions and student-athletes and commit to competition this fall.”

You can read the full letter here.

Shortly after Reed sent his letter, the SEC via Twitter released a statement from Sankey.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

14 hours ago

Lawsuit challenging statewide mask order dismissed by judge

A Montgomery County Circuit judge on Tuesday dismissed a lawsuit that sought to challenge the legality of Alabama’s statewide mask mandate.

The suit was brought by three Jackson County residents who thought the mask order, first ordered by Governor Kay Ivey in mid-July, was outside the bounds of what the government could put in place.

Seth Ashmore, the attorney handling the lawsuit, said on Tuesday his clients plan to appeal the ruling.

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Judge Greg Griffin handled the case at the circuit court level and made the decision to dismiss the suit shortly after a hearing conducted on Tuesday afternoon.

Both Ivey and State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris, in their official capacities, were named as defendants in the suit.

The persons suing Ivey and Harris argued the mask mandate was “illegally adopted” and a “deprivation of liberty.”

Lawyers from the Alabama Attorney General’s office argued in their motion to dismiss the suit that the Alabama Emergency Management Act of 1955 gave the Governor “ample authority” to require the wearing of masks by individuals when they are in public.

Both the lawsuit and motion to dismiss have been made available to the public by Mike Cason, a reporter for Alabama Media Group.

Henry Thornton is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News. You can contact him by email: henry@yellowhammernews.com or on Twitter @HenryThornton95

14 hours ago

Alabama HBCU students chosen for Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED internship program

Birmingham-based Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED has held the 2020 edition of its annual “Pay It Forward” program, which aims to provide black college students with opportunities to celebrate achievement and further their success.

Historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) students from 16 schools throughout Coca-Cola Bottling Company UNITED’s six-state footprint submitted applications earlier this year.

Now in its fifth year, the program was promoted actively across participating HBCU campuses. Coca-Cola reviewed the applications for the program, selecting 25 students total based on their impressive applications. This included seven students from Alabama HBCUs:

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Micah Hardge and Marion Brock IV, Alabama State University
Michael Howard, Miles College
Olivia Sarley, Stillman College
Jasimen Collins and Ayala Seaborn, Talladega College
Nia Reid, Tuskegee University

Normally, this program is a week-long, in-person experience; however, this year due to COVID 19, selected students participated virtually. These students engaged with Coca-Cola Company teams to learn more about the organization and how to conduct business most effectively during a two-day, informative development session held last week.

“Although we will not be able to meet these students in person this year, we are excited to get to know this remarkable group of ‘Pay It Forward’ interns,” stated John Sherman, president and CEO Coca-Cola Bottling Co. UNITED. “Our intent through the two-day program is to encourage these young adults and help enable them to further develop career goals as they plan for the next phase in life.”

During this internship, students reportedly gained experience in a wide range of roles at Coca-Cola, including sales, production, marketing, pricing, event planning, packaging, philanthropy and community relations. The program exposes participants to real-world work situations, including business practices and protocols, how to network and other important skills that will prepare them for the job market.

Over 100 students from Coca-Cola’s partner HBCUs have participated in the Pay it Forward internship to date.

Coca-Cola Bottling Company United, Inc., founded in 1902 and headquartered in the Magic City, is the second-largest privately held Coca-Cola bottler in North America and the third-largest bottler of Coca-Cola products in the United States. Now with its fifth generation of family working in the business, the Yellowhammer State company has approximately 10,000 associates located in more than 60 facilities across Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi and Tennessee.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

15 hours ago

Alabama project management firm ranked among nation’s top 25

Birmingham-based HPM was ranked number 22 on ENR’s Top 50 Program Management Firms, a list of the top U.S. construction management firms.

The ranking is based on agency fees for multi-project construction programs. HPM took the largest jump in the rankings of any firm during the last 12 months.

“This significant jump in ENR’s rankings is a true testament to our firm’s ability to take risks and insert ourselves into new markets,” said HPM president Mike Lanier in a release from the company. “We started as a small local firm in Birmingham and have grown to build a portfolio of successful projects in aerospace, sports, education and more across the country, establishing ourselves as leaders among some of the biggest names in construction and commercial real estate.”

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The firm’s footprint now expands across a wide swath of the Sun Belt and continues to grow as it takes on new projects and personnel. Some of HPM’s recent projects include the A320 and A220 assembly lines for the Airbus campus in Mobile, CoolToday Park (the official Atlanta Braves spring training facility) in North Port, FL, and Louis Pizitz Middle School (part of Vestavia Hills City Schools) in Birmingham.

Founded in 1997, HPM provides comprehensive guidance to clients on the construction and development process and offers “a one-stop approach to complete program management and owner’s representation.”