2 days ago

Alabama Power executive named CEO of Birmingham’s 2021 World Games

The World Games 2021 board of directors on Wednesday announced that Nick Sellers has been appointed the organization’s new chief executive officer, effective immediately. Sellers comes to The World Games 2021, to be held in Birmingham, on loan from Alabama Power Company.

“We are delighted to welcome Nick as our new CEO,” Jonathan Porter, chairman of The World Games 2021 board of directors, said in a statement.

“He is a highly-respected executive with demonstrated success in strategic leadership, operations, and implementation,” Porter continued. “He is well-positioned to lead The World Games 2021 over the next 19 months as we continue our positive momentum toward delivering a world-class event that showcases Birmingham to visitors from around the globe.”

For the last 16 years, Sellers has served in a variety of major leadership positions with Southern Company and its subsidiary, Alabama Power, most recently as vice president of the Mobile division at Alabama Power. His previous roles with the organization also include vice president of business origination, senior vice president of projection development and construction and vice president of external and regulatory affairs.

Sellers expressed his thoughts on the appointment in a statement.

“Honored and grateful are the two words that capture my feelings,” Sellers commented.

He outlined, “We have a unique opportunity to present Birmingham and the state of Alabama to the world; so, our mission will be to deliver the best and most innovative competitor, spectator, and sponsor experience in the history of The World Games. I’ve always believed in Birmingham and have confidence that we will come together in a way in which we’ve never done before. Through the collaboration and leadership of the Birmingham Organizing Committee, city of Birmingham and International World Games Association, I’m convinced that the stars are aligned for us. This is our time. I’m ready to get to work.”

Sellers, in addition to his corporate prowess, brings a background in sports and event operations through his prior work as director of operations for the Alabama Sports Foundation, where he was responsible for sponsorships, ticketing and operations plans for large-scale events such as the SEC Baseball Tournament, Arby’s Hardwood Classic Invitational and Regions Charity Classic.

A native of Birmingham, Sellers holds his Juris Doctor from the Birmingham School of Law. Currently, he is also the chairman of the Alabama Sports Council, where he works to oversee all ASC events including the Magic City Classic and the Davis Cup Tennis Invitational. Sellers additionally serves on the Bryant Jordan Scholarship Foundation, the Mobile Industrial Development Board, the Mobile Area Chamber of Commerce and Innovation Portal.

Sellers, a previous honoree on Yellowhammer Multimedia’s annual Power & Influence list, replaces DJ Mackovets, who recently resigned as CEO.

Porter stated, “The board and I also would like to express our gratitude to DJ Mackovets for his service to The World Games 2021 Birmingham during a critical time for this event. His vision, commitment and experience were instrumental in laying a strong foundation for the Birmingham organizing committee.”

The World Games 2021 will take place in the Magic City from July 15-25, 2021, and will generate an estimated $256 million in economic impact for the city.

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

23 mins ago

Darkness in sunny California

California is plagued by unreliable access to electric power, a situation that will persist for years to come. It’s happening as part of Public Safety Power Shutoffs (PSPS), one component of the wildfire prevention plans implemented by electric utilities and approved by regulatory commissioners appointed by the governor. During periods of significant wildfire threat, the utility with equipment in those high-risk areas shuts off the power to avoid starting a wildfire. The plan has been in place for years and implemented hundreds of times over the past decade. It is about as popular as you would imagine. If you’re wondering who or what to blame, California offers many targets.

Assignment of blame, of course, is divided along political lines. Liberals blame climate change, a failure to live sustainably, and unscrupulous corporations. Conservatives take aim at the California Public Utilities Commission, the governor and a housing crisis that resulted in home construction in high-risk fire areas. One-sided arguments fed by confirmation bias belie an important truth – there is no one political party or company to blame. The scariest part – we’ll actually all have to work together to solve a complex problem. And it’s going to take decades. Can we do it?

1280

Wildfire prevention has not been a priority. Activities that remove fuel, such as logging or animal grazing, help prevent wildfires. Logging was made more difficult in California. California law made it impossible to remove wood from state forests that was not already dead and on the ground. Air quality laws in California all but stopped prescribed burns and other treatment measures designed to remove fuel. Finally, several invasive species and diseases killed millions of trees and added to the fuel load. In many forest areas, grazing animals were banned and native species that graze have not recovered to levels that adequately manage grass and brush growth in the forests.

Other actions made management of fires more difficult and the damages they cause more severe. Road building clears vegetation and creates fire breaks while providing access to firefighters. President Clinton all but banned road building in U.S. forests in the 1990s, President Bush restored it 15 years later, and President Obama stopped it less than five years later. While fuel accumulated in the forest and road building ceased, a growing housing crisis drove new home construction in the wildfire-urban interface. Homes were constructed that did not follow state rules on building materials, fire breaks and other fire-related design criteria. And with that, the stage was set – forests full of fuel and private property nearby. All that’s needed is an ignition source.

In the tinderbox that is California, there are many possible ignition sources. Just ask Glenn Kile. In July 2018, Mr. Kile noticed a wasp nest underground in his backyard. He was allergic to wasps, so he hammered a metal stake into the ground to keep the wasps from surfacing. Sparks from his hammering ignited the largest wildfire in state history.

Sparks from power lines can also ignite a fire. Cal Fire (the state firefighting agency) investigators said the Camp Fire, the deadliest (86 killed) wildfire in California history and the costliest natural disaster in the world in 2018 ($16.5 billion in damages), was started by a Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) power line failure. While power lines cause a small amount (less than 5%) of the 50,000-plus wildfires started each year in the U.S., many severe fires are caused by power lines. The reason is that severe fires and damaged power lines often share a common cause – high wind speeds. High winds can damage power structures and can also rapidly spread wildfires, making them more difficult to manage.

Maintaining power infrastructure, and the vegetation around that infrastructure, is critical to preventing fire and is the responsibility of electric utilities. As was the case with other stakeholders, wildfire prevention was not a priority of utilities or the regulatory bodies that oversee them. The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) repeatedly cut funding to electrical distribution improvements and tree trimming budgets, in the name of keeping rates affordable, and higher priorities like decarbonization. The CPUC also failed to immediately ensure all electric utilities implemented a wildfire mitigation plan even after it became clear that power lines posed a threat to public safety.

At the same time that regulators chose to prioritize other activities, electric utilities like PG&E were mired in distractions created by others (state mandates for renewables, electric vehicles) and of their own volition (pipeline explosions, bankruptcy filings). Already hamstrung by reduced budgets for vegetation management, PG&E served a customer base which increasingly fought them on tree removal. Using California tree laws, customers could take PG&E to court over a single yard tree. While negotiations to trim/remove trees stalled, PG&E would simply skip the tree and move to another property.

With every stakeholder distracted by other priorities, wildfires raged on with an increasing frequency and intensity. From 1980-1999, wildfires burned an average of 3 million acres in the U.S. each year. Over the next 20 years, that burn rate more than doubled to 6.5 million acres per year. The damage from these fires can be severe, especially with more than 2 million homes built in areas with high or extreme fire risk, mostly in the last 20 years.
The delayed response from all stakeholders has now turned into an urgent, all-of-the-above approach to preventing wildfires. Utilities, facing financial destruction from wildfire liabilities, plan to accelerate replacement of aging equipment and adopt new technology, among other measures. Elements of the plan, already in progress, include, but are not limited to:

● Increased weather monitoring to improve the ability to forecast conditions that result in fires and manage equipment appropriately.

● Increased frequency of all inspections of distribution poles and transmission structures, including ground, drone, helicopter and climbing methods.

● Increased vegetation management, including quadrupling tree removal year over year with a priority placed on removal of dead, drying or otherwise high-risk trees in extreme risk areas.

● Hardening of the electrical system, including replacing wooden poles with more resilient, fire-resistant poles, replacing open conductors with covered conductors to minimize sparking and undergrounding power lines.

● An increase in switches in the system, so that fewer people will have to face a planned power outage, if the line starts in an area where fire probability is low.

Even with an all-out effort by utilities to prevent fires, power will be shut off as a last resort. How often should we expect utilities to resort to this measure? A lot. Since 2013, San Diego Gas & Electric shut off power 216 times for public safety reasons.

Power shutoffs aren’t the only measure under consideration. Virtually every stakeholder, from individual citizens to state government, are taking action – some of them dramatic:

● Governor Brown, on his last day in office, signed two forestry bills making it easier to log state forest lands and to build and maintain roads in those areas. The second bill removed requirements to follow California air quality rules when doing planned burns to remove fuel from forest floors and create areas with no fuel to stop fires.

● Governor Newsom issued an Emergency Proclamation that directs Cal Fireto increase vegetation management activity. Historically CAL FIRE planned to treat some 400,000 acres but only treated about 30,000 acres.

● Governor Newsom signed 18 bills to boost housing construction. It’s not just that there is a wildfire crisis in California, it’s that so many people live in wildfire zones. Construction is needed in order to provide housing choice.

● The California Public Utility Commission sped up work on General Order (GO) 95 that includes fire hardening the electric grid with 23 new recommendations finishing work that started years earlier with a final ruling in 2017. Further work is underway to improve GO-95.

● Facing a decade of intermittent darkness, individuals will take matters into their own hands and increasingly look to maintain their quality of life during power shutoffs. Already the leading state for rooftop solar, interest in self-generating power is soaring following the PSPS epidemic, as customer inquiries into rooftop solar and storage have reportedly doubled in recent months.

● With rooftop solar plus storage coming in at $40,000 per typical home, down from the 2016 NREL estimate of $51,000, we can also expect to see sales for diesel generators ($400-$1,100) or backup generators ($7,000-$16,000) soar. Local suppliers have reported customer inquiries increased more than 1,000% in recent months.

Those measures, some of them extreme, highlight the scope of the problem. Many of the measures require a decade or more for implementation. Sweeping changes are coming. Meanwhile, to save lives, it will be dark in California every time there is a high risk of wildfire.

Corey Tyree is a Senior Policy Advisor for the Energy Institute of Alabama. Tyree is also a Senior Director of Energy and Environment with Southern Research. He directs a team of engineers, scientists, and technicians focused on innovative technology solutions for clean energy, air and water.

1 hour ago

This weekend’s comprehensive college football TV schedule

For a printable version, click here. Pro tip: Save the image below to your phone for quick and easy access all weekend.

(Note: All times are Central)

1
2 hours ago

Rogers: Senators seeking the presidency should recuse themselves from impeachment trial

U.S. Rep Mike Rogers (AL-03) announced Friday that he was co-sponsoring Rep. Jason Smith’s (R-MO) legislation urging the Senate to alter its rules so sitting U.S. Senators would be forced to recuse themselves from the removal trials of impeached presidents.

Currently, four Democratic senators are vying for their party’s presidential nomination: Elizabeth Warren (MA), Cory Booker (NJ), Michael Bennett (CO) and Amy Klobuchar (MN), plus Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT).

“This is just common-sense and fair. Clearly, none of the Democrats running for president will be impartial during an impeachment trial and they will all use their involvement in the trial to ramp up their campaigns.  As unfair as the House witch hunt has been all along, I am hopeful the upper chamber will be just in their treatment of President Trump,” Rogers said.

129

The bill comes in response to the ongoing impeachment inquiry into President Trump. The inquiry will end with the U.S. House voting on the articles of impeachment that are currently being drafted. If a majority of the House, 216 members, vote to impeach, then a removal trial will be held in the U.S. Senate.

At present, there are 233 Democrats in the U.S. House.

Most observers expect the House vote in late December, followed by the Senate trial in January.

Smith’s legislation claims that a “United States Senator actively seeking to unseat the incumbent President of the United States cannot claim impartiality in his or her political opponent’s impeachment trial.”

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

3 hours ago

2019 Alabama Theatre holiday movie schedule

“White Christmas”
December 6, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 2:00 p.m. (sing-along);
December 17, at 2:00 p.m.; December 22, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
December 7, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 18, at 7:00 p.m.; December 21, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

261

“Miracle on 34th Street” 
December 8, at 2:00 p.m.; December 21, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Elf”
December 8, at 7:00 p.m.; December 12, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 17 at 7:00 p.m.; December 22 at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“It’s a Wonderful Life” 
December 9, at 7:00 p.m.; December 16, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Home Alone”
December 10, at 7:00 p.m.; December 15, at 7:00 p.m.;
December 20, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“The Polar Express” 
December 10; 10:00 a.m.
Tickets start at $12; for tickets click here

“A Christmas Story” 
December 13, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Cartoon Triple Feature
The movies to be shown include: “A Charlie Brown Christmas;” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer;” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”
December 14, at 2:00 p.m.; December 19, at 2:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” 
December 19, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

“Die Hard” 
December 20, at 7:00 p.m.
Tickets start at $9; for tickets click here

Erin Brown Hollis is Yellowhammer’s lifestyle contributor and host of Yellowhammer Podcast Network’s “Cheers to That” podcast. An author, speaker, lawyer, wife and mother of two, she invites you to grab a cup as she toasts the good in life, love and motherhood. Follow Erin on Instagram ErinBrownHollis or Twitter @ErinBrownHollis

4 hours ago

Finding Baghdadi: Why protecting space assets is vital to national security

On Oct. 27, the world learned of a raid that culminated in the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. U.S. special forces and intelligence officials were able to succeed in their mission to take down a brutal murderer — one of the world’s most dangerous terrorists — through the use of sophisticated satellites that the U.S. currently has in orbit.

Control of space and protected assets in orbit are vital to American security here on Earth. Space was once thought to be a peaceful environment for scientific advancement, but as national security objectives have evolved, space has transformed into a potential battlefield. With countries increasingly concerned about deterrence and conflict strategies, the importance of assured and reliable access through mission-specific launch services has become clear, and the Pentagon’s new combatant command, SPACECOM, must move quickly to secure U.S. assets.

Years ago, space changed from a place of discovery into a necessity for American life — and for military operations. From the Air Force-managed GPS satellites that run mapping programs with the touch of a button to billion-dollar National Reconnaissance Office spy satellites that keep our intelligence community informed on what our adversaries plan to do next, it is clear that space is a potential war-fighting domain.

War fighting, when it comes to both established adversaries and emerging terrorist threats, has changed along with technology. Now it is time for America to fundamentally change its approach to space.

542

In World War II, technology did not allow us to pinpoint the location of our enemy with the click of a button. In order to defeat the enemy, the U.S. knew that our imperative was to first locate the enemy in a vast region. For example, the Battle of Midway, which is considered a major turning point, occurred because U.S. Navy pilots were able to successfully locate the Japanese fleet before the American fleet was discovered. These types of naval engagements, where surprise and miscalculation dominated, are unimaginable today because of America’s assets in space. As technology has improved, so has situational awareness.

As our space assets play increasingly vital roles in keeping us safe, it is essential that we have the capability to launch these assets and protect them once they are in orbit. Our military’s access to space, with state-of-the-art rockets that are purpose-built for national security and have a legacy of precision, is a necessity as we work to protect ourselves. Since its creation, SPACECOM has both understood the threat of unprotected space assets and discussed this new war-fighting domain with industry partners.

Our assets in space have increasingly become a target for enemies and adversaries. Based on the history of space being an uncontested sphere, and due to the extreme difficulty operating there, our satellites and communications devices are relatively unprotected. Earlier this year, the U.S. intelligence community reported that Russia and China both have the capability to interfere with and destroy these critical assets.

China’s well-known aspirations in the Pacific Rim, as well as Russia’s objectives in Eastern Europe and Eurasia, are driving them to both innovate and expand their offensive capabilities in space. Their motivations to change the geopolitical status quo could be hastened by taking action against U.S. national security space assets. These actions could range from jamming a communications satellite to operations rendering assets inoperable.

The U.S. government currently has 78 satellites in orbit, which serve a variety of key functions. These assets give troops in the field the ability to communicate with each other, provide intelligence officials with information on North Korea’s missile launches, and even power the GPS on civilian devices. An interruption in these communications could have devastating consequences for the U.S.

As adversaries continue to more aggressively test these weapons, it is clear that U.S. national security space assets are necessary for our intelligence community to both see and understand the threat to U.S. military personnel and assets, civilians, and our allies. However, if an adversary has compromised our assets in space, the U.S. could be left in the dark when it comes to the threat and its impact.

What are now essential parts of our economy have been built around fragile national security space assets. It is well past time to assure that these assets, and the American operations behind them, are properly protected. As nations continue to invest in their national defense through war-fighting capabilities in space, it is imperative that the United States remain at the forefront of this new chapter in space.

Tory Bruno is the president and CEO of United Launch Alliance (ULA), which manufactures rockets at its world-class facility in Decatur, Alabama. He has a background in aerospace engineering and is a member of the U.S. president’s National Space Council.