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11 months ago

Cathy Randall is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact

How do you know when you’ve made it? When your employer names a program after you.

That is what happened last year to Cathy Randall, the longtime director of the University of Alabama’s computer-based honors program. It now is called the Catherine J. Randall Research Scholars Program.

Randall isn’t just the director of the program. She was a member of its first class in 1968.

She also is a 2018 Yellowhammer Woman of Impact.

According to a University of Alabama news release, Randall has guided the computer program to a powerhouse that attracts elite students from around the world. Honors students take courses on complex problem solving, project management and research fundamentals. Students later select research projects and work closely with faculty members.

The Alabama Academy of Honor, which includes 100 outstanding living Alabamians, inducted her and then tapped her to chair the organization. She also has served as national president of the Mortar Board — a national honor society for college seniors — and headed the board of directors at the Alabama Women’s Hall of Fame.

Beyond her professional career, she’s participated in relief efforts following deadly tornadoes that ripped through Tuscaloosa in 2011. She has served as director of the American Legion’s Alabama Girls State. She won the Living Legend award in 2007 and Tuscaloosa’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Women of Distinction in 2005.

Perhaps closest to Randall’s heart has been the charitable work she has done at her church, Christ Episcopal. Among those endeavors has been the Lazarus Project, which helps poor people pay utility bills.

“The most important part of who I am is my faith,” she told the Tuscaloosa News in 2012.

The Birmingham native moved to Tuscaloosa to go to school and met her future husband, the late H. Pettus Randall, while he was a law school student.

“I came to Tuscaloosa as a freshman at the university, met Mr. Wonderful and never left,” she said in the Tuscaloosa News article.

Randall served as youth chairwoman for Albert Brewer’s gubernatorial campaign and got her future husband involved. The couple married a year later and went on to have three children.

The university named her one of the top 31 women graduates of the century, an honor she shared with “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee.

“She is one of the most kind, caring people I know,” Lee told the newspaper before her death in a rare interview. “She is one of my dearest friends, and I love her to death.”

Randall told the Tuscaloosa News that it is important to make time for faith and service.

“When we say we don’t need to pray, that’s when we need to pray twice,” she said. “In the same way, when we say we don’t have time for community service, that’s when we need to do more.

Randall will join Gov. Kay Ivey and special guests from across the state for a Birmingham awards event March 29 honoring the 20 Yellowhammer Women of Impact whose powerful contributions advance Alabama. Details and registration may be found here.

@BrendanKKirby is a senior political reporter at LifeZette and author of “Wicked Mobile.”

21 mins ago

Obama era environmental regulations strike again, force closure of APCO’s Gorgas Steam Plant

The Obama administration has ended, but job-killing environmental regulations from the 44th president’s time in office are still hurting Alabama.

Alabama Power Company announced Wednesday that the Gorgas Steam Plant in Walker County will be shuttered because of unrealistic and cost-prohibitive mandates put in place by President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The plant, which has been operational since 1917, will cease operating its three coal-fired generating units and close April 15.

The facility could not meet the stringent mandates related to coal combustion residuals (CCR, better known as coal ash) in time, and the cost to convert to gasification would have been monumentally high. In a press release, the company said it estimated a price tag of approximately $300 million just to comply with one set of mandates and continue operating the plant’s coal-fired units.

Alabama Power has worked to ensure that almost all Plant Gorgas employees will be transferred to new facilities and get to keep their jobs. Bevill State Community College has been working with the company to retrain affected employees. 

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Jim Heilbron, senior vice president and senior production officer for Alabama Power, said, “We recognize that Plant Gorgas and the men and women who have operated it have brought great value to Alabama Power, our customers and the local community.”

Patrick Cagle, president of the Alabama Coal Association, told Yellowhammer News that he commends Alabama Power’s efforts at minimizing the economic impact of the closure.

“President Obama’s administration declared war on the coal industry and unfortunately this is the latest example of that legacy,” he stated.

Cagle continued, “The Alabama Coal Association is keenly aware of the economic impact this closure will have on the local community, and we commend Alabama Power for working to relocate affected employees and minimize this economic impact as much as possible. Alabama Power has been a longtime partner to us and our members, and we appreciate their continued commitment to investing in our great state and local economies through the use of Alabama coal.”

In a statement to Yellowhammer News, Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) commented, “This is just another example of [Obama’s] ‘War on Coal.’”

“While I’m certainly glad to hear that most of the employees of the Gorgas plant will be able to keep their jobs, the loss of tax revenue to Walker County is astronomical,” he advised. “This is just another example of the ‘War on Coal’ that was prevalent during the Obama Administration and how it deeply impacts rural communities with little concern for those who are hurt.”

Aderholt also outlined how elections – and the policies of respective administrations – have consequences that cannot be undone overnight.

“President Trump has made progress in rolling back the Obama Administration executive orders that were trying to kill coal and coal jobs. And in Congress, I voted in 2015 on a bill that would roll back crippling EPA rules, but as has been the case for far too many bills, it went to the Senate where it was allowed to die,” he explained.

Aderholt concluded, “I, along with my conservative colleagues, are fighting alongside President Trump to stop these job choking, economic crushing and community killing regulations. But changing the chronic Washington lack of understanding when it comes to rural America, will take time to reverse.”

Alabama Public Service Commission — ‘The war on coal finally took its toll’

A press release from the Alabama Public Service Commission (PSC) stressed that due to “extreme Obama Era Federal regulations… there is just no choice regarding the future of Plant Gorgas.”

“In 2008, candidate Obama declared war on coal and promised to bankrupt anyone who built a coal fired electricity plant. President Obama immediately went to work signing one after another punitive, burdensome federal mandates on the coal industry. Now his promise has come to fruition at Plant Gorgas,” the release said.

It added, “[T]he responsibility of the Alabama Public Service Commission is to require Alabama Power to provide secure, reliable service at the lowest cost to their customers.  Given this charge, along with the astronomical rising cost to comply with Obama era mandates, there is just no choice regarding the future of Plant Gorgas.”

“The company has taken every possible step to keep the plant up and running, but the war on coal finally took its toll,”  Public Service Commission (PSC) President Twinkle Andress Cavanaugh said.

“Obama said he wanted to make it too expensive to run coal-fired plants, and he did. I commend President Trump for rolling back as many of the Obama mandates as he could. The problem for us here in Alabama was that Obama placed the biggest bullseye on us, and Trump’s valiant effort at finally implementing common sense came along a little too late,” she concluded.

Commissioner Jeremy Oden remarked, “I serve the State of Alabama as the Chairman of the Clean Coal Committee for the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners. One of my duties across the country is to make sure these plants continue to serve their mission in economical ways. With the mandated environmental retrofit required to continue to produce energy at Gorgas with coal, it is no longer feasible. I have spent years nationally trying to save these plants, and it saddens me deeply to see this happen in our state.”

Commissioner Chip Beeker commented, “Obama’s negligence and disregard for Alabama families and their jobs is one of the many destructive outcomes of his presidency. The liberals who helped drive Obama’s agenda continue to put Alabama’s economy at risk. Our task moving forward is to keep the ones affected by this and their families in our hearts and in our prayers. We will continue to fight for our state to achieve the most reliable and affordable energy.”

The PSC emphasized that it supports Alabama’s coal industry and the miners who “have supported their families and our state’s economy with their self-sacrifice, hard work and dedication.”

The commission is urging Alabama Power to continue working “to minimize the impact of this closure on the communities and on the numerous families affected.”

Just the latest example

Unfortunately, Plant Gorgas is just the most recent Alabama casualty of Obama era mandates.

On New Year’s Eve, PowerSouth CEO Gary Smith emailed employees that Lowman Plant on the Tombigbee River in Washington County will be forced to close.

He pointed to the coal ash regulations as prohibitive to keeping the facility in business, saying “we are left few choices other than to close the Lowman Plant and obtain additional generation resources to replace the coal-fired generation.”

Smith also outlined why having coal in a power generation portfolio is so important to this day, lamenting “extremist environmental ideologies.”

“With closure of the Lowman Plant, we lose the diversity of coal-fired generation as a natural hedge against higher natural gas prices, and we are more dependent upon natural gas as a generation fuel (The Lowman Plant has been economically dispatched ahead of our most efficient natural gas units for the past four weeks because of higher-priced natural gas),” he advised.

“It is sad and disheartening that environmental activists, politicians, bureaucrats and others have allowed environmental and climate change movements to close coal-fired units and cost good, hardworking people their jobs and livelihoods,” Smith added. “The real victims are the hopes and dreams of Lowman employees, people with families, lives and needs that were met with their employment at the Lowman Plant, not the abstract climate threats to public health. Maybe one day our leaders will understand the real damage they have done.”

Additionally, Plant Gorgas is far from the only example just when it comes to Alabama Power facilities being affected by Obama administration environmental mandates.

“Federally driven environmental mandates related to coal, and the costs to comply with those mandates, are changing the way Alabama Power provides electricity to customers,” the company’s press release Wednesday noted.

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

All roads lead to Alabama jobs

“940,353 full times jobs are completely dependent on Alabama’s transportation network. If we want to recruit new industry and create more jobs, we need a road and bridge system that supports economic growth in Alabama. It’s time to take this issue seriously and invest in Alabama’s future. Let’s take action and rebuild Alabama’s roads!” #FixALroads

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1 hour ago

Save the date: Yellowhammer News Shaper series kicks off with its 2019 legislative edition

Yellowhammer News will host its next “Yellowhammer News Shaper” event in Montgomery on March 19. The gathering will offer a networking opportunity as well as a live interview with Alabama Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) and Speaker of the House Mac McCutcheon (R-Monrovia).

The discussion will be moderated by Yellowhammer News editor and owner Tim Howe and will cover issues surrounding this year’s legislative session.

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The event will take place at the Alabama Association of Realtors, 522 Washington Avenue, and will begin at 5:00 p.m. with a cocktail reception followed by the moderated interview and questions from the audience.

Several more Yellowhammer News Shaper events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.

2 hours ago

7 Things: Byrne to announce he will challenge Doug Jones, Alabama politicians race to react to a publication with 3,000 subscribers, gas tax increase could be 12 cents a gallon and more …

7. The Democratic Party has a new front-runner — he’s a 77-year-old white male socialist

— Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is in the primary to be the next Democratic presidential nominee. He polls better than any other candidate currently in the race. The only suspected candidate that out-polls him is former VP Joe Biden. Sanders is the second choice for voters who choose Biden. He was able to raise $228 million in 2016 and brings that fundraising ability with him.

6. Secretary of State John Merrill has been sued by the Libertarian Party of Alabama

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— Libertarians are suing Merrill for charging the party roughly $34,000 for a list of registered voters. Alabama law provides these voters list to Republicans and Democrats at no charge, but that is because they are qualified major parties. Merrill believes he is unable to provide the list for free because the Libertarian Party is not a major party and can’t be without achieving ballot access.

5. President Donald Trump reportedly wanted a friendly district attorney involved in the Michael Cohen investigation in New York

— The New York Times is reporting that the president wanted then-acting Attorney General Matt Whitaker to appoint a Trump ally to oversee the investigation into former Trump attorney Michael Cohen. Whitaker told the president he could not, as the person Trump suggested had recused himself from the case. Trump denies pressuring Whitaker, Whitaker denies being pressured and there isn’t much new here. Cohen would eventually plead guilty and say that Trump ordered him to arrange the payments to the women. He will start serving three years in prison for campaign finance violations soon.

4. The U.S. Census Bureau believes hundreds of thousands of illegals will not fill out a census form if they are asked about citizenship

— The government entity told the White House that 630,000 households may not complete the census because a question asking about citizenship question. This only involves .5 percent of the population and a bureau document found “the Census Bureau has identified no credible quantitative evidence that the addition of a citizenship question would impact the net undercount of the 2020 Census.” There are multiple court cases over the matter, including one involving Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall and Congressman Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville).

3. We have our first look at what a gas tax increase could look like in the upcoming Alabama legislative session

— State Senator Sam Givhan (R-Huntsville) laid out the current state of play for the gas tax debate and signaled the current plan would have a hard time passing. The plan calls for a 12-cent increase in the current gas tax, with eight cents going to ALDOT, three cents to the counties and one cent to the cities. The division of the cities’ money would be based on population with the counties’ money being divided half by population and half split evenly among the 67 counties.

2. More Alabama politicians call for the editor/publisher/owner of a newspaper to step down from his own paper, which has published multiple offensive editorials

— An irrelevant small town paper is under-fire from all political players in Alabama with calls for an apology and a resignation coming from both parties. The Democrat-Reporter in Linden, Alabama, has run a number of offensive editorials in the past few years and its editorial referencing the KKK to its 3,000 readers drew national condemnation. House Minority Leader Anthony Daniels (D-Huntsville) called for readers to cancel subscriptions and advertisers to pull their advertising, which is the right call for a public official being critical of a media outlet.

1. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) could draw his first challenger today

— Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is expected to announce his decision to enter the race for U.S. Senate in 2020. Byrne has been criticizing Jones for months and this was widely expected. Byrne will be a formidable foe in a GOP primary, as he finished second in the 2010 GOP gubernatorial race and in the general election where Jones is expected to face an uphill climb for re-election.

5 hours ago

Byrne to make ‘special announcement’ Wednesday

Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) is set to officially announce his candidacy for the United States Senate seat currently held by Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL).

Byrne and his family are welcoming friends, supporters and interested members of the public to attend a “special announcement” 5:00 p.m. Wednesday at the Wintzell’s Oyster House in downtown Mobile.

The primary election will be held just over 12 months from now — March 3, 2020.

State Senate President Pro Tem Del Marsh (R-Anniston) is strongly considering entering the race. He and Byrne would start at the head of the pack of potential Republican contenders.

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Additionally, State Auditor Jim Zeigler (R-AL) has launched an informal exploratory campaign for the Senate seat, and Col. Lee Busby, a former military aide to General John Kelly, is weighing a Republican candidacy.

Busby, who has conducted 2020 primary polling, mounted a 2017 write-in campaign during Jones’ general election fight with Republican nominee Roy Moore.

The Alabama Republican Party will hold its annual winter meeting Saturday. Ongoing preparations to defeat Jones will be the center of focus for the attendees.

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