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.

 

 

 

 

 

11 hours ago

Ivey visits hometown Camden to commemorate bicentennial — ‘Y’all, Alabama has come a long way’

CAMDEN — On Friday, on the eve of the culmination of Alabama’s Bicentennial celebration set to take place in Montgomery, Gov. Kay Ivey paid a visit to her hometown to take part in an event marking the milestone in her home county of Wilcox.

Not far from where Ivey attended high school as part of Wilcox County High School’s class of 1963, the governor participated in a ceremony that also included Camden Mayor Bill Creswell and Wilcox County Commissioner Bill Albritton.

After offering a list of the state’s achievements, Ivey remarked on how far Alabama had come.

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“During these 200 years, Alabama has celebrated some pretty incredible people and milestones,” she said. “Building a rocket that took a man to the moon, our rich Native American history and culture, becoming the birthplace for civil rights, and becoming an international market for goods and products. Y’all, Alabama has come a long way.”

She also noted that the events leading up to the bicentennial celebration kicked almost immediately after she assumed the role governor in 2017 and led her to make at least one visit in all of Alabama’s 67 counties.

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

While speaking to the press at the return to her hometown, Ivey expressed how great she felt about being back in her hometown and what her goals were as the state heads into its third century.

“We’re proud to be here in Wilcox County and in my hometown of Camden to celebrate the bicentennial of Wilcox County, and tomorrow we’ll celebrate the bicentennial of Alabama. It is sure great to be home,” Ivey stated.

“Certainly, we want to keep the economy going, keep the everybody working, get more people that are not working to work,” she continued. “We just want to make the quality of life in our state really good, so everybody has an opportunity to be and do what they want to do.”

(Jeff Poor/YHN)

Ivey also offered some words of advice for her hometown and county in the pursuit of a better quality of life.

“Y’all just make this place an attractive place to live and do business, have a strong education system so people can put their children in schools, then in touch with the Department of Commerce to get prospects to look us over,” she said.

@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.

11 hours ago

Three Crimson Tide players, Auburn’s Derrick Brown named Walter Camp All-Americans

University of Alabama football players Xavier McKinney, Jaylen Waddle and Jedrick Wills, Jr. have been named to the Walter Camp All-America second-team, while Auburn University’s Derrick Brown made the first-team.

McKinney is a safety, Waddle is a wide receiver selected to the team as a returner on special teams, Wills is an offensive tackle and Brown is a defensive tackle.

The Walter Camp Foundation announced the honors Thursday evening at the ESPN Home Depot College Football Awards Show.

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McKinney, a junior, ranked 12th in the SEC in tackles with 85 through 12 games. He was also the Crimson Tide leader in tackles this season, including 4.5 for loss and two sacks. He forced four fumbles and added three interceptions to go with five pass breakups and four quarterback hurries. The star defensive back also returned one of his interceptions for an 81-yard touchdown.

Waddle led the nation in punt return average at 24.9 yards per return with 19 for 474 yards and a touchdown, including a long of 77. The sophomore also returned four kickoffs for 152 yards and one score and added more than 53 yards and six touchdowns on 32 catches at wideout this season. Earlier this week, he was selected as a first team All-American at returner by Pro Football Focus and named SEC Special Teams Player of the Year.

Wills anchored an offensive line that has surrendered only 12 sacks in 381 pass attempts this season. He graded out at over 91% for the Tide along the front allowing only one sack all season and only 3.5 quarterback hurries while missing only seven assignments in 714 snaps for a success rate of 99.9%.

Brown had a monster season on the defensive side of the ball and landed as a finalist for just about every national award possible. He was named the SEC Defensive Player of the Year by both the conference coaches and The Associated Press.

This is the 130th edition of the Walter Camp All-America team, the nation’s oldest such team.

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

11 hours ago

Marshall applauds federal court ruling that plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s minimum wage law lack standing

The 11th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the State of Alabama on Friday, saying that the plaintiffs challenging Alabama’s 2016 minimum wage law lacked standing to file their racial discrimination claim against the Alabama Attorney General.

The law being challenged holds that no Alabama municipality can raise its minimum wage higher than the state of Alabama’s minimum wage. The law was enacted by the state legislature after Birmingham attempted to raise the minimum wage paid by businesses in the city to $10.1o per hour. The minimum wage in Alabama is $7.25 an hour. Twenty-two states have similar laws to the one on Alabama’s books.

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In response to Alabama’s new law, the plaintiffs in question from Friday’s ruling filed a civil rights action in federal court arguing the law perpetuated white supremacy and violated the equal protection clause of the 14th amendment.

Notably, the court did not rule on whether the equal protection claim had merit, but rather ruled that the suit was wrongfully being brought because their alleged damages were not “fairly traceable” to conduct by the AG.

“I am pleased with the 11th Circuit’s ruling today, which agreed with the State of Alabama that the plaintiffs had no standing to sue the Attorney General over their complaints about Alabama’s minimum wage law,” said Attorney General Steve Marshall.  “I also think the substance of the plaintiffs’ challenge lacked merit, but the court withheld judgment on that question because the plaintiffs failed to show that the Attorney General ever harmed them.”

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

13 hours ago

Black Belt Workforce Center opens in Demopolis

Private and public officials gathered in Demopolis Friday to announce the opening of the Black Belt Workforce Center.

The center will provide training for job seekers and employers, job application assistance, resume help and a computer lab. The center will also provide retraining and retooling for job seekers who were previously in the workforce but need help competing for the jobs available today.

“We knew that we needed to serve some of our most critical areas in Alabama by creating a center in the Black Belt. This is a place for both job hunters and employers to find resources to help them succeed,” said West Alabama Works Executive Director Donny Jones.

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The center is a collaboration between West Alabama Works, the Southwest Alabama Workforce Development Council (SAWDC), Central Alabama Works, and numerous governmental and nonprofit stakeholders in the area. It will be helmed by Tammi Holley.

The center is very close to the Alabama Department of Labor’s facility in the area, a department with which the training center plans to work in concert.

Jim Page is the CEO of the West Alabama Chamber of Commerce, which houses West Alabama Works.

He told Yellowhammer, “Even though Alabama has got a very strong economy right now and we’ve got record low unemployment, there are still far too many people who are unemployed or underemployed.”

“A major reason for that is the lack of education, lack of training, and lack of certain skill sets needed to compete for jobs, or to get a better job. We’ve long felt it important to go into our more rural areas, particularly the black belt, to make the resources more readily available closer to the people, and meet them where they are,” Page added.

Unique among workforce development initiatives in Alabama is the partnership with a local drug prevention organization: The Parents Resource Institute for Drug Education (PRIDE). The Tuscaloosa-based PRIDE plans to work with the center to help increase drug prevention efforts in the surrounding community.

“One of the biggest problems that workforce development has is keeping kids where they can pass a drug screening,” Derrick Osborne, the Executive Director of PRIDE told Yellowhammer on the phone.

According to Osborne, PRIDE is “trying to help people understand addiction before they become addicted.”

He added, “We want to say, you don’t have to use a drug because you feel like there isn’t anywhere for you to go. There is hope, there are things to look forward to in your life.”

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

14 hours ago

Watch: Alabamians line up with American flags to welcome slain Naval ensign home

As seen in a video posted on Twitter, people lined the streets of Enterprise on Friday to welcome home Navy Ensign Joshua Kaleb Watson.

Watson, a 23-year-old Coffee County native who also spent many of his formative years in Blount County, was killed in last week’s shooting at Naval Air Station Pensacola.

The hero’s body arrived at Dothan Regional Airport on Friday and then a procession took him to Searcy Funeral Home in Enterprise.

Considering Fort Rucker’s presence, the area has a high percentage of military families, making Watson’s murder that much harder on the Wiregrass community. People lined the procession route with American flags, honoring his service, sacrifice and life.

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A public memorial service for Watson will take place at the Enterprise High School Performing Arts Center at 11:00 a.m. next Saturday, December 21.

Burial will be the following day at the Alabama National Cemetery in Montevallo. Governor Kay Ivey has ordered flags to half-staff on that day of internment: Sunday, December 22.

RELATED: How the hometown of a NAS Pensacola shooting hero is paying tribute to one of their own

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