2 years ago

New EPA Will Restore Certainty and Confidence to Alabama’s Land and Business Owners

Yellowhammer’s Larry Huff (right) interviews new EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt

Scott Pruitt, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), was in Alabama yesterday and he took time to speak with Yellowhammer at Alabama Power’s Plant Gaston in Wilsonville—home to the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Carbon Capture Center.

On a southeast tour to further his Back-to-Basics plan to protect the environment, Pruitt said his focus for the EPA is that it will begin a new era of “regulatory certainty.”

When asked to elaborate on this idea, Pruitt said:

Achieving regulatory certainty on behalf of businesses simply means we’re going to act within the law. Over the past eight years, the EPA has been unpredictable, often going beyond its statutory limits. It has acted haphazardly with respect to its rulings, which paralyzes those we serve.

In other words, in the previous administration, farmers, ranchers, and businesses rarely knew how the EPA might interpret their actions, and Pruitt said he’s determined to reverse that trend.  “The last administration re-imagined the law,” Pruitt said. Under the Clean Water Act, for example, they completely redefined Waters of the U.S. to include everything from dry creek beds to drainage ditches.”

We asked Administrator Pruitt why he thought the EPA became an activist organization more than a legal one. “They wanted to make land use decisions,” he said. “They wanted to come into states like Alabama and tell farmers who’ve responsibly gone about their business for generations how to run their farm. This is not right; it’s not fair, and it’s going to stop.”

Mr. Pruitt expounded on this theme, pointing out that these farmers have a vested interest in conservation and environmental integrity. He said landowners obviously understand that it doesn’t serve them well to destroy the very thing that provides for their families—their land, air, and water. For this reason, he believes it was presumptuous of the previous EPA to assume that they knew how best use a person’s private land.

They wanted to come in and say, before you use your land to build a subdivision, drill a well, or run a ranch, you’ve got to check with us if it includes the Waters of the United States. And then they made the Water of the United States include a every puddle on a person’s land. We’re rescinding that and getting back to basics to ensure that as we do our job, we’re doing it withing the confines of what Congress has said the EPA should be doing: attaining clean air, water quality, superfund cleanup and all those things.

Pruitt provided a poignant example of the EPA’s past overreach, noting that under the three presidents that preceded Obama—Bush (41), Clinton (42), and Bush (43)—the agency issued a total of five federal implementation plans under the Clean Air Act over twenty years. Under the Obama administration, by contrast, the EPA issued more than 50 federal implementation plans in just eight years—ten times the number issued by three previous administrations combined.

“What that represents,” Pruitt said, “is an administration that said we are going to coerce the states and their citizens to do what we think is best, irrespective of how the statutes read. That era is over. We’re going to lead with clarity, under the lawful direction that the Congress prescribes.”

Pruitt, who filed multiple lawsuits against the EPA when he was Oklahoma’s Attorney General, also pointed out the fact that the EPA hardly has a stellar record in actual environmental achievements. “I sometimes ask this question rhetorically: what did the previous administration do that’s so great for the environment? The truth is 40 percent of the country—some 120 million people—still live in areas that don’t meet environmental standards. That’s the irony. President Obama was seen as the savior of the environment but, in truth, his EPA was focused on actions that usurped authority, while remaining passive where they should have implemented meaningful change. The Flint Michigan water crisis, which we are now fixing, is another example, and the list goes on. In other words, we’re going to focus on outcomes, not rhetoric,” Pruitt said.

Senator Luther Strange, who accompanied Pruitt on his tour of Alabama, noted that he wants to do all he can to support Pruitt in these efforts. “Legislatively, we’re trying to support Scott in areas where we can roll back over-burdensome regulations as rapidly as possible, and we’re also trying to confirm the team Scott needs around him to get this job done.”

Strange added, “You can see why I’m so enthusiastic about our new EPA chief. He’s the right man at the right time. I could not be prouder of my friend Scott Pruitt in the job he is doing to rein in the EPA and refocus this agency on following the rule of law as they seek to protect our beautiful environment….It’s a new day at the EPA. No longer will they work against the American people by introducing unnecessary, job-killing regulations that do nothing to achieve cleaner air or water, but simply act as a wet blanket on our economy.”

In closing, we asked Pruitt how life is going to be different for the Alabama farmer, landowner, and business owner. Following is his answer:

Under the previous administration a farmer had to get permission to sneeze. As I said earlier, in 2015 the EPA  declared puddles, dry creek beds, and drainage ditches to be ‘Waters of United States.’ This provoked a fear of being fined because a farmer had to stop and ask, ‘what about this puddle of water here? Is that under the control of the federal government?’ This was very effective in creating paralysis among landowners and business owners because there was always uncertainty. That’s why I started out by saying our overarching objective is to create certainty among those we regulate and serve. To them we now say, ‘here’s where the law gives us jurisdiction and we’re going to make sure that our actions are consistent with that law.’ Does this mean we’re going to fail to preserve our environment? Not at all. It simply means we’ll act within the confines of our authority, respecting the legal rights of private citizens and the states in which they live.

 

 

 

 

 

29 mins ago

Boeing donates over $500k to Alabama STEM education in 2019

In a Monday press release, Boeing confirmed that the company is making a $100,000 contribution to make Learning Blade available to every Alabama student in the fifth through ninth grades. Learning Blade challenges students to take on game-based projects that expose them to different aspects of science, technology, engineering and math education – commonly referred to as STEM.

With this contribution, Boeing — through its 2019 global engagement grants — has awarded $525,000 to Alabama communities in support of educational STEM programs for students and workforce development programs for transitioning military, veterans and their families.

The latest venture also exemplifies the importance of public-private partnerships in modern workforce development, as Boeing is partnering with the Alabama Department of Commerce and Governor Kay Ivey’s office to make Learning Blade available.

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This is one of four Boeing community grants that was initially announced October 17 in Huntsville. At that time, the company outlined its joint initiative with the Alabama Department of Commerce to offer Learning Blade, a validated STEM career awareness system, to WIOA youth serving organizations and schools throughout the state. Besides the company’s crucial contribution, the project is funded in part with federal monies made available to the Alabama Department of Commerce by the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Trainings Administration.

In a statement, Ivey professed her support for Learning Blade — which continues her historic focus on workforce development, including the Success Plus initiative to add 500,000 more skilled workers to the state by 2025.

“Providing access to college and career exploration is key to developing career pathways for all Alabamians,” the governor remarked. “It is difficult to know what you want to be when you grow up if you have never been exposed to the various options that are out there.”

“Furthermore, it’s extremely difficult for Alabamians in many rural areas, and even some of our largest cities, to strive towards the career pathway the best suits their interest and aptitudes because they do not know what is available to them,” she continued. “That’s why I am so proud of the public – private partnership between the State of Alabama and Boeing to provide access to high-quality career exploration through the Learning Blade platform. Through Learning Blade, students of a variety of ages, interests, and aptitudes will be able to explore career clusters and high demand career pathways. This exposure will help individuals persist in academic coursework and workforce training programs.”

The public-private partnership will result in Learning Blade being offered at no charge to students in all Alabama schools with grades five through nine. Learning Blade’s proven tool kit exposes students to the high demand STEM and computer science careers in an entertaining manner in an effort to increase student interest in these fields.

Educators can unlock more than 200 hours of interactive, online activities and teacher lesson plans that engage students in human-centered problems that illustrate more than 100 careers and technologies in industries such as IT, Cybersecurity, Advanced Manufacturing, Bioengineering, Energy, Robotics, Entrepreneurship, Agriculture and more.

“Boeing has been in Alabama for more than a half a century, with its engineers and researchers playing key roles in developing the innovative aerospace technologies of tomorrow,” stated Tina Watts, community investor for Boeing global engagement. “It is essential to expose students in the state to the critical skills that will make them successful in STEM — unlocking their futures to opportunities through emerging technologies.”

Additionally, schools can work toward winning a 3D printer if students complete 5,000 online lessons in a single school year. Learning Blade’s 3D-printer sponsor, FlashForgeUSA, is providing a free 3D printer (Adventure 3) to such successful schools.

“We are grateful that so many leaders including the Governor’s office, Department of Commerce and others who came together with The Boeing Company to provide resources that will inspire students to envision their future,” concluded Sheila Boyington, president and CEO of Learning Blade. “It is really exciting to be a part of the process to enhance career awareness in the state, and to provide tools to teachers who will show students the many opportunities in STEM and computer science fields.”

Yellowhammer State schools and organizations serving the fifth-ninth grades can sign up for the program here.

RELATED: ‘Alabama’s Roadmap to STEM Success’ presented to Gov. Ivey

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

1 hour ago

Montgomery Chamber appoints retired Air Force general as senior vice president

The Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce has named Brigadier Gen. Trent H. Edwards (USAF, Ret.) as senior vice president of military and community development.

The announcement was made Monday in a press release. Edwards will focus on the viability and growth of Montgomery’s military missions while leading new community-wide initiatives that fuel the regional economy and stimulate quality of life for all.

In a statement, Montgomery Area Chamber of Commerce president and CEO Anna Buckalew said, “Trent is an incredibly skilled and experienced leader, and we are so fortunate to have recruited him and his family back to Montgomery.”

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In addition to building on the River Region’s extensive military footprint, Edwards will work to build new strategies to fuel economic and entrepreneurial growth around Montgomery’s thriving Air Force innovation hubs.

“We want Montgomery to be recognized as a destination where military families want to locate, where public/private partnerships fuel innovation and where small businesses and start-ups find fertile ground. Trent Edwards is the perfect leader to capitalize on these opportunities,” Buckalew advised.

The general comes to the Montgomery Chamber with a distinguished military career, most recently as the Air Force director of budget operations and personnel, responsible for an $80 billion budget.

Prior to that assignment, he was the comptroller and programmer for Air Force Space Command in Colorado Springs, CO. He has commanded two Air Force wings including the largest training wing in the Air Force at Lackland Air Force Base and the 42nd Air Base Wing at Maxwell Air Force Base from 2012-2014. He also has extensive intergovernmental experience, previously serving as the Air Force chief of congressional affairs. His extensive leadership experience and familiarity with the River Region community makes him uniquely qualified for his new role at the Montgomery Chamber of Commerce, the release emphasized.

“I have spent 30 years serving my country and am proud to return to Montgomery and serve the community we adopted as home,” Edwards commented. “One of my primary goals will be changing the perception of Montgomery and spreading the word that Montgomery really is the best hometown in the Air Force.”

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

2 hours ago

Bradley Byrne: Donald Trump ‘absolutely does not want’ Jeff Sessions to be U.S. Senator

Jeff Sessions’ entry into the U.S. Senate race last week has shown something Alabamians have not seen in decades: blunt criticisms, sometimes hostile, aimed at Sessions, who before serving in the Trump administration served Alabama for two decades in the U.S. Senate.

Prior to getting in the contest for U.S. Senate, Sessions was also a target of President Donald Trump, who has repeatedly indicated his disappointment and frustration with Sessions’ service as U.S. Attorney General.

During an appearance on Huntsville radio’s WVNN, U.S. Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Fairhope) discussed his former Alabama congressional delegation colleague and his decision to run against him in the March 3, 2020 GOP primary. According to Byrne, he has not seen any wavering of support.

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“We’re not noticing any difference. Obviously, in the last couple of weeks, we’ve talked to a large number of people. I, in particular, have talked to a large number of people. You know, I’ve got former Vice President Cheney and his daughter Liz, who is in the House, coming to a fundraiser for me in Birmingham this Thursday. So, I’ve been on the phone with quite a few people about that. We’re just not hearing any difference.”

Earlier this month, Byrne was in attendance with Trump at the Alabama-LSU game in Tuscaloosa. Byrne claimed Trump did not want Sessions to be the victor in next year’s contest.

“The president was pretty clear that he’s still pretty angry with Jeff,” Byrne said. “He absolutely does not want him to be U.S. Senator from Alabama. But you know, he recognizes Jeff has a right to run. Jeff is running. I just don’t think it is going to go anywhere. A lot of the American people are either angry with him, or they’re bewildered why he is running in the first place. And these ads that he is running aren’t helping him any. I can tell you that.”

Later in the interview, when asked about his personal reaction to Sessions’ eleventh-hour decision to run, Byrne acknowledged he was surprised. Byrne also said he and Sessions had been talking over the past year and that Sessions had even encouraged him to run.

The Baldwin County Republican added he saw this as a characteristic of Sessions.

“I just got to say this, Jeff vacillates like that,” Byrne added. “That’s kind of his M.O. He has a hard time making up his mind about things. And then he’ll make a decision like that — that kind of surprises you at the last minute. It doesn’t distress me, but a lot of my supporters are pretty darn angry with him, and a lot of my supporters used to be his supporters. So, I think that makes it more difficult for him.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University, the editor of Breitbart TV and host of “The Jeff Poor Show” from 2-5 p.m. on WVNN in Huntsville.

3 hours ago

7 Things: Impeachment slog continues, officers involved in Madison shooting still off the street, Chick-fil-A caves to their enemies and more …

7. Iron Bowl details announced 

  • The SEC announced that the Iron Bowl will be played at Jordan-Hare Stadium in Auburn this year on November 30 at 2:30 p.m.
  • The game is set to be broadcasted on CBS. The weekend before the Iron Bowl, Auburn and Alabama are matched up against Samford and Western Carolina, respectively, but Alabama will be playing its first game without quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.

6. Ohio wants to ban all abortions

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  • Lawmakers in Ohio have proposed a bill that would ban abortions and bring murder charges against doctors who perform abortions, except for in a situation where a doctor saves the life of the mother but has to terminate the pregnancy.
  • State Representative Candice Keller (R-Ohio) said, “The time has come to abolish abortion in its entirety and recognize that each individual has the inviolable and inalienable Right to Life.” Ohio already has a “heartbeat” abortion law, and this would just take it one step further.

5. President Trump’s doctor: There are no concerns with Trump’s health

  • Speculation ran rampant, as was expected after the president made an unexpected stop at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, but in a memo released by Dr. Sean Conley, physician to the president, he explained that the visit was part of a routine checkup but was kept off the record because of “scheduling uncertainties.”
  • This will placate absolutely no one, but Trump’s physician said his total cholesterol is 165, with HDL of 70, LDL of 84 and non-HDL of 95, all within recommended ranges for the 73-year-old President of the United States.

4. Buttigieg isn’t fighting racial inequality very well

  • South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s 2020 Democratic presidential campaign has somewhat focused on a plan to fight racial inequality, but on the portion of his campaign website designated to such efforts, his campaign used a stock photo of a Kenyan woman playing with her son.
  • The issue is with more than just one picture, though, as it’s been found that Buttigieg’s campaign has a habit of using stock photos of black individuals on their website that have no affiliation with the campaign. People have especially taken issue with this since some of the stock photos were used to promote “the Douglass plan.”

3. The mob will never be satiated

  • After years of support by a die-hard fanbase that liked the fact that a chicken restaurant was willing to stand by their principles of its owners, Chick-fil-A announced that they would no longer be donating money to “controversial” Christian charities such as Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Salvation Army.
  • This decision was met with derision by their supporters and attacked by the people they were trying to appease. GLAAD released a statement declaring this move was not good enough, stating, “In addition to refraining from financially supporting anti-LGBTQ organizations, Chick-fil-A still lacks policies to ensure safe workplaces for LGBTQ employees and should unequivocally speak out against the anti-LGBTQ reputation that their brand represents.”

2. An internal investigation has started in Madison shooting

  • The five police officers involved in the shooting of Dana Fletcher at the Planet Fitness in Madison are to remain on leave as the internal investigation takes place, but Madison County District Attorney Rob Broussard has already said that the shooting was legally justified.
  • Despite Broussard’s observation, the Madison police review board still has to go through the case, which includes a commander, lieutenant, sergeant and officer. Chief David Jernigan said, “Our officers are constantly and consistently receiving training in all areas of 21st century policing, including de-escalation techniques, officer safety, non-lethal options, and response to resistance.”

1. Impeachment testimonies start and maybe these are the ones that really matter

  • Week one’s impeachment proceedings were relatively uneventful. America seems generally less than interested and unwilling to be persuaded one way or the other, but the American media has still sold every testimony like it was a bombshell and keeps telling us that the next one will bring it all together.
  • Tuesday’s events will broadcast on all the networks as critics of President Trump’s foreign policy are praised for their service and they proceed to tell us that they don’t like how he does his job. Some will even relay a phone call they overheard in a restaurant.

6 hours ago

Amazon selects book on ‘Mockingbird’ author Harper Lee as best nonfiction work of 2019

The book editors at Amazon.com identified “Furious Hours: Murder, Fraud, and the Last Trial of Harper Lee” as the best nonfiction book published in 2019.

The book is from first-time author Casey Cep. The first seven stops on Cep’s book tour were in various Alabama locations.

Goodreads.com describes “Furious Hours” as: “The stunning story of an Alabama serial killer, and the true-crime book that Harper Lee worked on obsessively in the years after To Kill a Mockingbird.”

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The book details the story of Alabama Rev. Willie Maxwell, who was accused of five murders before he was shot by a vigilante during the funeral of his last victim. Harper Lee was interested in the case at the time and reported on it with the intent to eventually publish a book.

Lee never published her work on the case, which “Furious Hours” investigates thoroughly.

The Amazon selection continues a good run of publicity for the Knopf published book. Terrance Finley, CEO of Alabama-based bookseller Books-A-Million, made “Furious Hours” his President’s Pick earlier this year.

The book spent a month on the New York Times Bestsellers List.

Additionally, Furious Hours is a finalist for the Southern Book Prize, and was listed by Time as one of the must-read books of 2019.

You can buy a signed first edition from Alabama Booksmith here, or a regular edition here.

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