Construction of a new oversized vehicle tunnel and premium RV infield parking section at Talladega Superspeedway is still on schedule to be completed in time for the April NASCAR race, despite large amounts of rainfall and unusual groundwater conditions underneath the track.
Track Chairman Grant Lynch, during a news conference Wednesday at the track, said he’s amazed the general contractor, Taylor Corporation of Oxford, has been able to keep the project on schedule.
“The amount of water they have pumped out of that and the extra engineering they did from the original design, basically to keep that tunnel from floating up out of the earth, was remarkable,” Lynch said.
Alabama’s auto workers built nearly 1.6 million engines last year, as the state industry continues to carve out a place in global markets with innovative, high-performance parts, systems and finished vehicles.
Last year also saw major new developments in engine manufacturing among the state’s key players, and more advanced infrastructure is on the way in the coming year.
Hyundai expects to complete a key addition to its engine operations in Montgomery during the first half of 2019, while Honda continues to reap the benefits of a cutting-edge Alabama engine line installed several years ago.
"Frontier Airlines will begin direct flights from Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport on April 11, the airline announced today. Frontier Airlines will start by offering direct service to Denver, Orlando and Philadelphia from Birmingham. Introductory prices will start at $39."
"At 87, Clint Eastwood is not only trying new things, he’s trying daring new things, and his new film 15:17 to Paris represents one of the most audacious gambits of his career. To dramatize the tale of three Americans who tackled and subdued a heavily armed Islamist terrorist on a train out of Amsterdam in 2015, Eastwood cast the young men, none of whom had professional acting experience, as themselves. It’s a decision with little precedent in the entire history of motion pictures."
Sweet Home Alabama — Alabamians come together to get through tragedy of deadly tornadoes
Certain horrific events occurring during the course of our lives seem to leave etchings in our memory as a result of the emotional impact on us. Whether acts of terrorism, natural disasters or accidents such as the Challenger explosion, we remember vivid details about each day.
While serving as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission, my first-hand observations of the devastation from tornadoes and the aftermath of major gas explosions have left permanent imprints on my memory. While paling in comparison to the feeling of loss felt by loved ones of the victims, I still found myself emotionally drained after seeing the immense destruction while I was in Lee County last week.
This tornado that blew through a large swath of east Alabama was an F4 that packed 170 mph winds. Many did all they could to survive, but it was simply not enough. Seeing the aftermath left behind was tough, and I was humbled by how small and how helpless we can be in a severe weather event.
I cannot emphasize enough how much we all need to take heed and take cover every time there are weather warnings issued. Know where your safe place is, go there and cover yourself with the right materials. Flying debris during a tornado becomes deadly shrapnel. Be prepared so you can protect your family.
The devastation in Lee County is real, it is heartbreaking, but as the governor said, Alabamians are resilient. However, we can never replace the 23 precious lives lost on March 3, 2019, so let us continue to pray for these grieving families.
Rebuilding the area’s hardest hit areas started almost immediately, and the dedication of the people involved deserves commendation.
Alabama’s first responders arrived on the scene quickly and prepared to do what they do best. First and foremost, they were tasked with the rescue and recovery of storm victims and caring for those that needed medical attention. At the same time, men and women worked tirelessly to clear debris to allow for safe travel. Utility teams completely rebuilt power lines and cell towers to allow for communication and reconstruction of demolished homes and buildings.
Lee County Sheriff Jay Jones and his department, working with ALEA, are doing an outstanding job. I am always in awe of law enforcement’s commitment to our state and our citizens.
These first responders have daunting tasks in the most difficult environment, and yet it is amazing to see these teams work. They are focused, determined and get their jobs done quickly. Within 36 hours, the roads were passable, cell phones were working and power had been restored to all that could receive power. I have been assured that Alabama Power will continue to have a presence in the area as cleanup work continues and homes are able to take power. That is their job, and my job is to ensure Alabamians have reliable utilities. Count me as impressed with the speed and efficiency with which they worked.
To understand the severity of the damage, let me share with you what this meant in terms of power outage and damaged structures: 11,700 homes in Lee County lost power, 140 power poles were snapped in half and 226 spans of power wire were on the ground. A large transmission structure in the middle of the small community of Marvyn was severely damaged. There were 669 Alabama Power personnel and contract crews on the ground in the county helping wherever they were needed.
The negative visuals after a catastrophe stay with you. However, there are also beautiful moments in the chaos that I like to remember. In Alabama, we can argue about politics, football and even religion, but there is one thing we all agree on: Alabamians are a close-knit family that helps one another get through the tough times. It has been heartening to watch the stories of kindness develop throughout this tragedy. It was touching to see the folks in Tuscaloosa reach out to those hurting in Lee County, the home of the Auburn Tigers.
Alabama is beautiful for many reasons, not just our mountains and beaches, it’s our caring people.
May God bless Lee County, Alabama.
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh currently serves as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission. The opinions expressed in this article are those of Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh and are not intended to convey the official position of the Alabama Public Service Commission.
“Sarah, can you get me Floyd at the barbershop?” Such a request was typical of phone service in the 1950’s and prior, not only for “The Andy Griffith Show” mythical town of Mayberry, but in communities throughout America. That was when operators used to manually connect callers with wires and a switchboard.
Now, technology allows phone service over the internet, and cell phones have, in many cases, become the device of choice for consumers.
The evolution of telephone technology has benefitted society, but unfortunately, it has given rise to the unscrupulous who misuse digital technology to invade the privacy of telephone customers. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission established the National Do Not Call list in 2003, and most states, including Alabama, merged their own Do Not Call lists into the national list.
The Do Not Call list continually changes with new registrants added daily. Its effectiveness relies upon telemarketers frequently updating their lists. The Do Not Call list may limit some telemarketer calls, but it is not the solution most hoped it would be.
Initially, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) handed down fines to telemarketers when they identified abusers through caller ID information. These fines encouraged companies to comply.
However, we now have an ever-increasing number of unwanted telemarketing calls, and it is apparent that many are blatantly ignoring the National Do Not Call list.
The violators often employ a technology called spoofing. This is the common name ascribed to the practice of electronically replacing a caller’s true identification and number with a name and number of the caller’s choosing. Unscrupulous telemarketers have seized upon spoofing technology to mask their identity and to deceive unsuspecting consumers. Spoofing makes it extremely difficult for regulators and enforcement entities to identify abusive telemarketers and fine them.
Call blocking appears to be the path the FCC and state attorneys general are pursuing for limiting telemarketing calls. In November 2017, the FCC released an order authorizing telecommunication carriers to adopt advanced call blocking technology for combating unwanted telemarketing calls. The FCC order makes adoption of advanced call blocking technology voluntary for telecommunications providers.
Hopefully, Congress and the Alabama Legislature will consider legislation that ensures all telephone carriers adopt advanced call blocking technology for their customers. Federal and or state legislation should also include a component to educate consumers on the call blocking technology available from their telecommunications provider.
Another issue that should be addressed is the limited collaboration between federal authorities, state authorities and the private sector for targeting abusive telemarketing practices. Future action at the federal level would ideally prioritize collaboration and cooperation between federal and state regulators, law enforcement and telecommunications providers to collectively identify and penalize unscrupulous telemarketers.
The FCC should also revisit the Do Not Call list. The list, as it now exists, is ineffective. The FCC needs to either strengthen the Do Not Call list compliance or develop an entirely new approach to solve the problem.
My pledge as president of your Alabama Public Service Commission is that I will exhaust every effort in pursuit of such measures at the state and federal levels.
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is the president of the Alabama Public Service Commission. Opinions expressed do not represent the position of the Public Service Commission or its other commissioners.
President Trump’s Affordable Clean Energy rule is a win for Alabama
(T. Cavanaugh Campaign)
Protecting ratepayers and ensuring that we have a reliable, secure and affordable supply of electricity in Alabama is the lens through which I view energy policy. It was through this lens that I saw the Obama administration’s so-called Clean Power Plan (CPP) as a significant threat to our state and that I now see President Trump’s replacement plan, the Affordable Clean Energy (ACE) rule, as a welcome step in the right direction.
The Trump administration’s ACE rule provides a path forward for us to achieve environmental progress but still provide a balanced, affordable electricity mix that doesn’t impose crushing costs on consumers. The CPP, while never fully implemented thanks to a stay from the U.S. Supreme Court, aimed to transform the nation’s energy grid with an enormous price tag.
When the CPP was proposed, I worried about the impact of rising electricity prices on Alabamians and what it would mean for Washington to dictate to us the right way to meet our energy needs. At its core, the CPP was a plan designed to punish the American coal industry and drive the nation’s fleet of coal plants into early retirement. Those plants – which play such a critical role in so many states, including ours – have long been a foundation for secure, reliable and affordable power.
The ACE rule, in comparison, no longer aims to dismantle the coal fleet and instead allows individual states to craft emissions reduction strategies that work best for their unique needs. Instead of forcing utilities and power plant operators to close plants, the ACE rule provides a path forward for them to improve them. By improving the efficiency of existing power plants, we can generate more power using less fuel. It’s a reasonable approach that provides states the flexibility to keep well-operating, essential power plants running.
The Obama administration’s plan was just one more example of onerous federal overreach. President Trump’s pro-jobs approach applies welcome restraint, and that restraint is going to pay dividends for ratepayers. The Trump administration expects the ACE rule’s compliance cost to be $400 million per year less in comparison to the CPP, and that estimate may well be conservative.
Before the Supreme Court halted Obama’s rule, one analysis projected that the CPP could cost consumers an additional $214 billion for electricity between 2022 and 2030. According to the same analysis, Alabama would have been one of more than 40 states that faced double-digit increases in the cost of wholesale electricity.
Even marginal increases in the cost of energy can have profound impacts. They can erode the competitiveness of entire states or industries, and rising prices can be the straw that breaks the camel’s back for families barely able to pay the bills. The U.S. Department of Energy recently reported that one in three American households is already facing a challenge in meeting its energy needs and that one in five households, or 25 million households, has reduced or foregone necessities such as groceries or medicine to pay an energy bill. These sobering statistics are a critical reminder of the importance of making energy affordability a priority.
The ACE rule provides states the crucial flexibility they need to balance environmental goals with power grid reliability, security and affordability. It is for that reason I’m so supportive of President Trump’s approach. We narrowly escaped a total energy disaster with the Obama CPP. Let’s lend our voices to supporting a far better replacement.
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh currently serves as president of the Alabama Public Service Commission. The opinions expressed in this article are those of Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh and are not intended to convey the official position of the Alabama Public Service Commission.
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh: Putting Alabama Families First
When you run for public office, you think of family first – your spouse, your children, and your parents. Both of my parents were teachers. I grew up in a modest home where education was important, and where I was rooted in the kind of traditional family values which everyone can appreciate. The lessons I learned then are the lessons that I am trying to pass on to my children and my grandchildren today. Yet, we are constantly being told by, what Ronald Reagan called a “distant elite,” that we need to change. But what exactly are these people asking us to change?
In 1979, Margaret Thatcher said, “it’s passionately interesting for me that the things that I learned in a small town, in a very modest home, are just the things that I believe have won the election.”
Isn’t that what we want again in our government? We as Alabamians have seen too many people who come to Montgomery and bill themselves as the one who will change the system, only to find out that it is the system that has changed them. The moment change asks you to put your values aside, is the time when danger looms on the horizon. Values which are a mile wide and one inch deep will not be able to change the course of our great state. But values rooted in the soil of belief and the principles of our nations’ founding will be able to deliver on better infrastructure and a better education for our most precious resource – our children.
Hard work, honesty, faith in God, respect for life, and a rugged optimism which believes that tomorrow can always be better – have held many Alabamians through good times and dark times. Simple, yes. But it is in these same deeply-rooted, proven values, which lies the confidence we need to address the future. We are a people who look to God, while rolling up our sleeves to work harder in the jobs we do and for the families we raise.
This is precisely why I am running for Lt. Governor. I want to continue bringing our timeless Alabama values to Montgomery. I want to bring about jobs – good, high-paying jobs – for our state, so that families become stronger. I want to strengthen our high school, community college and higher education offerings, so that our children today will be the best and brightest. I want to be the Lt. Governor who puts our families and our values first – rejecting self-interest and special interests. These are the values which create the real leaders in Alabama, and this can be our future. Our brighter future.
The above is the opinion of Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, the President of the Alabama Public Service Commission. Twinkle is a small business owner and former Chairman of the Alabama Republican Party. Opinions expressed do not represent the position of the Public Service Commission or its other commissioners.
During this holiest of weeks, having just celebrated Palm Sunday and with the celebration of Easter just days away, a dark cloud looms above Alabama. Times are tough, but our state has seen its share of challenges in the past. I know that together, with hard work and faith, we will get through this.
The entire state has suffered from this scandal. It has scared away companies looking to build new factories or expand current operations. It has hurt the economy. It has damaged the moral fiber of Alabama.
Brighter days are ahead for Alabama, but obstacles must be honestly confronted and overcome with constructive solutions for us to move on. Governor Bentley has betrayed and abused his faith, his family and staff members, the powers of his office, and the trust of the people of our state. I am relieved to see that he finally did what is right and resigned so Alabama is not focused on his transgressions but instead can focus on getting this chapter behind us.
To anyone who has directly suffered the abuses of our out-of-control Governor, my heart and my prayers go out to you. It is unacceptable for someone in a position of trust and power to abuse it. As a citizen and a public servant, I am appalled at the type of behavior we have seen from the Governor. I appreciate the work of those in the legislature and on the ethics commission who chose to take on this very tough task; thank you for shedding light on this intolerable conduct. We saw officials band together in a bipartisan manner to stamp out this corruption and this should be strongly commended.
I wish Lieutenant Governor Ivey all the best and pray for her strength and success as she prepares to fill the Governor’s office. I am confident that she will ably steer the ship for the rest of this term.
These are dark days. Alabama deserves better. We deserve better. And most of all, our children deserve better. We need to restore ethical and honest leadership back to the Governor’s office. Faith and Alabama values must be restored to our Capitol. The path forward will not be easy, but it will be worth it. Brighter times are ahead. Let’s get to work and begin the healing of our state this week.
The above is the opinion of Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh, the President of the Alabama Public Service Commission. Opinions expressed do not represent the position of the Public Service Commission or its other commissioners.
EPA regulations threaten Alabamians’ jobs, quality of life and liberty (Opinion)
In 2008, Barack Obama stated that under his plan, “electricity prices would necessarily skyrocket.” Unless something is done about the plethora of mandates being instituted by his liberal EPA, we will see that become a reality in the very near future. In 2015 alone, there were six major rules that were published or that became effective. These burdensome mandates assure the death of coal-fired generation as we know it and threaten industrial growth in the South.
It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at these rules and find the true target of Obama’s EPA. It’s manufacturing. In Alabama and other Southern states, we are able to offer lower utility rates to support our large employers. Lowering the bottom line for our job-creators means more jobs for Alabama families. In contrast, Northern and Western states with more restrictive energy policies cannot compete with what we have to offer. It is for this reason that Obama has set out to drag us down tot the level of states that are bent on living under bad energy policy.
The means by which Obama has decided to impair our energy policy is by eliminating the use of coal. Even though our nation sits on enough coal to last us another 250 years, the Obama administration has forced us into a position where coal only comprises 40 percent of energy production, and this figure is dropping.
Power companies have spent billions of dollars to keep up with the onslaught of new regulations. Alabama Power Company will spend approximately $5 billion in the next two years in order to comply with these federal mandates, and not one kilowatt of power will be added to the mix from that enormous expense. These rules and regulations promulgated by executive agencies have the effect of being laws as if passed by the same Congress these agencies seek to bypass. This is because states and their utilities must begin expending the costs of compliance immediately, regardless of whether the rules are later struck down, in order to meet the imposed deadlines. An example of this happened in June of this year when the U.S. Supreme court overturned the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards (MATS) rule, stating that it did not take into account the cost of compliance when it was established. Unfortunately, the compliance date for this rule had passed, and utilities had already modified or shuttered a significant number of coal plants to meet the standard. And now it’s too late to reverse those decisions.
We are currently facing the implementation of one of the most costly regulations to come from the EPA, the Clean Power Plan. This plan places arbitrary limits on states for the emission of carbon dioxide from electric generation facilities and will cost consumers billions of dollars, weaken the integrity of our electrical grid, threaten the reliability of our power supply and provide little to no benefit.
This rule is predicated on so-called science that attempts to deceive the American people to believe in man-made climate change. Secretary of State John Kerry went as far as to say that if a politician does not buy in to their science, “it seems to me that they disqualify themselves fundamentally from high public office with those kinds of statements.” It’s a good thing that Secretary Kerry was not around when our founding fathers met, or we would still be paying taxes to the King and attending the National Church.
By the EPA’s own admission, these standards will only have a minimal effect on the climate. The reductions proposed by the EPA will prevent the lowering of sea levels by the thickness of three sheets of writing paper. Given these facts, this brings us back around to the question of why enact these ridiculous mandates? The answer is clearly that the Obama administration is using them to centrally plan our economy and shift industrial growth back to states that are otherwise unable to compete with the reliable, inexpensive energy we produce throughout the South.
There are some effects that we can be sure of from this plan. Reliable and cheap energy from coal and natural gas will be replaced by unreliable and expensive energy from wind and solar. One day, technology may exist that makes solar or wind competitive in the market place, but now they must rely on government subsidies, paid for with our tax dollars, to be competitive. And neither is capable of producing energy 24 hours a day, seven days a week. This is a terrible recipe for economic growth, and the Obama administration knows it.
As President of the Public Service Commission, I have fought these mandates every step of the way. I have testified at hearings before the EPA; I have publicly staked out what has been a lonely but principled position on behalf of Alabama at proceedings conducted by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners; I have even written a letter to President Obama with my fellow commissioners. The fact of the matter is that we all need to continue to fight these overly burdensome mandates because picking winners and losers in our economy is not the American way.
The rise of our nation is largely attributable to our ability to reliably produce low-cost energy. It is the foundation for our manufacturing and technological edge in the world marketplace. We cannot allow extremists in Washington to destroy the critical advantage we have in the world. Failure to maintain this critical advantage will move us toward third world status and leave us dependent on government to provide everything for us. Then again, maybe that’s what they are trying to achieve.
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is President of the Alabama Public Service Commission
OPINION: Consumers served well by historic hearings that reduced utility rates
The Alabama Public Service Commission recently concluded a series of historic rate reduction hearings that will soon result in lower utility bills and direct savings for customers of Alabama Power Company, Alabama Gas Corporation, and Mobile Gas.
Just as importantly, the hearings were held in a manner that saved taxpayer dollars, provided complete openness and transparency, and protected thousands of Alabama coal industry jobs that have been targeted for elimination by environmental extremists and other liberal special interest groups.
These same liberal activists and their allies pushed for the commission to utilize, instead, an overly expensive and drawn out process that operates much like courtroom proceedings and requires all parties involved, including consumers wishing to participate, to hire high-priced legal counsel to represent them.
They prefer the formal hearing process because it would allow them to delve into subjects that really have nothing to do with the rates that consumers pay, such as the effect that coal-fired energy production has on the theory they once called “global warming” but now refer to as “climate change” since studies show the planet is getting cooler, not hotter.
Their end game is not to serve consumers but, rather, to assist Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency in shutting down Alabama’s coal industry, which has historically been a major driving force of our state economy, and the 5,000 jobs it directly provides.
The truth that they don’t want you to know is that if coal is prohibited as a major source of energy production, other less proven and much more expensive methods will have to be substituted, which will cause your utility bills to skyrocket. It is apparent that those who subscribe to the ultra-liberal environmental movement are willing to sacrifice your family’s budget and economic well-being for their own misguided beliefs, issues, and left-wing initiatives.
Instead of falling prey to the trap set by the liberal activists, the majority of the commission voted to hold a series of rate hearings that, while more informal, were more open and infinitely more efficient and effective.
Instead of requiring participants to acquire legal counsel, our hearings invited all who wished to testify to participate and express their thoughts. We even held hearings outside Montgomery in cities like Mobile, Tuscaloosa, and Auburn so that consumers who wished to testify could more easily participate without traveling to the Capitol City. Overall, we heard from twenty-four different groups, with over fifty hours of testimony and hearings.
Executives from each utility also spoke and were put under rigorous questioning about their companies’ finances, production costs, profits earned, and similar subjects. Other groups as diverse as the Tea Party, labor unions, and public policy think tanks also participated. The commission even allowed the environmental activists supporting Obama’s War on Coal and other liberal groups like the AARP, one of the loudest and strongest supporters of the fiasco known as ObamaCare, to share their thoughts.
Because of the informal hearings we utilized, the commission was able to make informed decisions on all three utilities in a handful of months and at negligible cost to taxpayers. Had formal court proceedings been convened for each utility, the process would still be ongoing, and the cost meter would still be running at the taxpayers’ expense.
In the end, the commission determined that the utilities we reviewed should provide consumers a reduction in the rates they pay, and we ordered each to do so. The average savings, based upon the rates we implemented, will equate to approximately $20 to $50 a year depending upon which utility a consumer is utilizing and the amount of energy they consume.
Those changes will soon start becoming apparent in utility bills sometime after the new rate structures go into effect in 2014.
We also demanded more frequent and strict reporting requirements from the utilities we regulate, which will make it easier for the commission to track their financial performances and implement additional rate changes when circumstances demand.
Sadly, there are those who, for their own personal political motivations or dogmatic liberal beliefs, will try to belittle or deny the good that we have accomplished. I encourage you to take their criticisms with a grain of salt because the facts and evidence of our accomplishments are undeniable. Lower utility costs for consumers. Stricter oversight of utility profits. Open, transparent, and easily accessible public hearings. Substantial taxpayer savings. Protected jobs for coal workers and the families they support.
Alabamians have been served well by the work we have done, and I am proud to have been a part of this historic effort.
Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh is President of the Alabama Public Service Commission.