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6 years ago

Power points, prayer controversy & protestors: just another day at the PSC


(Above: Environmentalists protest at the Alabama Public Service Commission)

The Alabama Public Service Commission on Wednesday hosted the third and final public hearing of their open rate review of the Alabama Power Company.

The purpose of the meeting was to conduct an in-depth examination of the financial aspects of Alabama Power’s business. That certainly happened, but finances were hardly the only topic of discussion during the 12+ hour hearing.

Tea Party leader and local minister John Jordan opened the meeting in prayer, which immediately set off a firestorm on Twitter as members of the Alabama media and an environmental group representative expressed their outrage that prayer was allowed in a public meeting.

Michael Hansen, a communications specialist for GASP, a Birmingham-based environmental group, repeatedly called Jordan’s prayer “batsh** crazy” on Twitter. “I hope to have the clip of that dumb prayer rant ASAP,” Hansen said.

While that was taking place inside the PSC chambers, environmental protestors lined the street outside exercising their first amendment rights.

“Alabama wildflie isn’t a business to buy out,” one sign said. “Coming to a faucet near you,” said another sign, with pictures of dirty water below painted below.

But while most of the signs contained negative messages about the ills of fossil fuels and warnings of impending doom, the one sign with a positive message may have been the most noticeable of them all.

“WE [heart sign] Dunn” the sign said, referencing Public Service Commissioner Terry Dunn who has been the only Commissioner on the panel to actively support the environmentalists’ agenda.

While none of the activist would agree to be interviewed on camera, and many of them simply said their signs “speak for themselves,” several of them expressed appreciation for Commissioner Dunn’s support of their efforts.

“Terry Dunn is the only commissioner who realizes none of us are going to be alive ten years from now if things don’t change,” one of the activists said.

Yellowhammer asked if they were concerned with electricity rates spiking if fossil fuels were no longer used as part of Alabama’s energy mix, several of them conceded that was a steep, but necessary, price to pay.

“You don’t care about your energy bill when you have emphysema or the earth is ruined,” the activist quipped. “And you can’t pay an energy bill if you’re dead.”

Back inside, a robust exchange of information was taking place, including over five hours of testimony and Power Point presentations from Alabama Power experts on the company’s financial operations. A diverse array of interest groups and private citizens were given another 5-6 hours to cross-examine Alabama Power representatives and each other.

Advocacy groups and research organizations represented at the hearing included AARP, Southern Environmental Law Center, League of Women Voters, JobKeeper Alliance, PACE, the Alabama Policy Institute, GASP, Alabama Environmental Council, and others.

But although a review of Alabama Power’s finances was the purpose of the public hearing, advocacy groups from both ends of the political spectrum continued to debate during the meeting over the process being used for the review.

Environmental groups and Commissioner Dunn have repeatedly called for closed legal proceedings, while conservative groups and Commissioners Cavanaugh and Oden preferred the open format achieved through the public hearings.

The Commission recently concluded the open review process with Mobile Gas Company, which resulted in a rate reduction for Mobile Gas customers and a decrease in the company’s profits.

That result hurt the narrative of some environmental groups, not to mention Commissioner Dunn, who have attempted to hide behind consumer-friendly rhetoric.

Cameron Smith of the conservative think tank Alabama Policy Institute called for the environmental groups to come clean about their true intentions. Moments later that’s basically what happened as Michael Churchman of the Alabama Environmental Council gave his closing remarks.

Churchman openly proclaimed that AEC wants to be part of the decision making process. In other words, being able to participate in the public debate is not enough for them. They don’t just want to have their voice heard, they wan’t control over the final decision.

But isn’t that why Alabama voters elect their officials? The open review process keeps the decision in the hands of the elected officials who were voted into office by the people of Alabama. The closed legal proceedings being advocated for by Commissioner Dunn would suddenly put lawyers and advocacy groups in a position to be decision makers.

Other members of the Alabama media have called this debate a “side show.” Alabama Head Football Coach Nick Saban disagrees. No, Coach Saban didn’t comment on what’s going on at the PSC. However, Saban is famous for his focus on “the process.” Even this week at SEC media days, Saban wasn’t talking about a three-peat, he was talking about his focus on the process Alabama will use as they prepare to compete. The correct process yields the correct results.

The process the PSC used on Mobile Gas resulted in rates being dropped for consumers and Mobile Gas remaining a strong utility able to adequately serve their customers. Win-win.

The same process is being used to review Alabama Power. We’ve watched it closely over the last couple of months. Everyone has had a chance to speak in public. All the information was presented in the light of day. As the Commission proved after the Mobile Gas hearings, if action needs to be taken, it will be done.

With that in mind, it is hard to see how anyone could have a legitimate issue with how this has all played out. As a matter of fact, Commissioner Oden stated in his concluding remarks that this process could end up being a model for other states around the country based on its efficiency and openness and the extent to which info is exchanged publicly.

PSC President Twinkle Cavanaugh said the commission staff will now begin coming up with a proposal and a decision will likely come some time in August.

None of the activists from either side of the political spectrum were elected. They are given a voice as citizens and are allowed to participate in the open public meetings. But the freely elected representatives of the people should control the decision. We’ll find out next month what their decision is.


Related:
1. Clear contrast continues at PSC hearings
2. The War on Coal Hits Home
3. AARP environmental push part of increasingly liberal agenda

What else is going on?
1. The Byrne Identity: The front-runner with the target on his back
2. Enviro representative: It is ‘batsh** crazy’ to pray at public meetings
3. Mo Brooks: Senate ‘Gang of 8’ immigration reform would lower US standard of living
4. Roby seeks reforms to ‘No Child Left Behind’
5. Freshman Rep. Bill Poole to Chair Powerful Ways & Means Committee

A Story Worth Sharing: Alabama’s Red Tail Scholarship Foundation takes flight to help African-American students soar to new heights

If anyone knows hard work, it’s Torius Moore. A self-professed “small-town kid” from Attalla, Alabama, Moore is an undergraduate student and pilot triple-majoring in Aerospace Science Engineering, Physics and Mathematics at the historic Tuskegee University.

Moore is the first person to receive a scholarship from the Alabama based non-profit, The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation, and now, the program’s chief pilot.

The Red Tail Scholarship Foundation’s mission is to honor the legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African Americans trained by the U.S military to participate in combat situations. Funded solely by private donations and operating with no administrative costs, the foundation honors their mission by providing scholarships, mentors and flight training resources to African American students pursuing careers in aviation.

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According to Moore, “The scholarship foundation is revitalizing the historic, successful and gritty flight program from the 1940s. ”

He added, “For me, it is a change that is worth not just witnessing – but actually implementing.”

Not only does the foundation give back to their community, but they encourage their students to do so as well. In his role as the foundation’s chief pilot, Moore will teach members of the scholarship program to fly.

“I am always adamant about getting scholars in the airplane and in the skies where the Tuskegee Airmen used to fly. Let’s continue this tradition and uphold this legacy of the Tuskegee Airmen by creating more black pilots and transforming them into the new Tuskegee Airmen,” Moore said.

According to the foundation, only two percent of pilots in both commercial and military aviation are minorities, a statistic they are hoping to change, one student at a time.

Rich Peace, an accomplished military and commercial pilot, is a co-founder of the foundation and a mentor to many of the program’s students.

Peace says their organization is more than a traditional scholarship program.

“We’re going to teach you how to fly, we’re also going to provide guidance and mentorship beyond that,” Peace said.

Along with Torius, many other scholarship recipients have gone on to achieve success in the world of aviation. Since 2017, the non-profit has already awarded thousands of dollars in scholarships and training resources to 16 deserving students pursuing careers in aviation.

Peace says the foundation has had incredible growth over the last few years and is now facing a high demand from students hoping to become part of their program, which they hope to continue expanding.

“As leaders, not only do you have to lead the guys in this program, you have to develop them to do your job better than you can. That’s leadership,” Peace said.

To learn more or donate to the Red Tail Scholarship Foundation visit their website or email info@RedTailScholarshipFoundation.org

1 hour ago

Dothan City Schools to eliminate up to 70 jobs

An Alabama school system says it may eliminate nearly 70 jobs after decisions to close some schools in an effort to save money.

The Dothan Eagle reported Dothan City Schools expects to cut at least 47 staff members as part of the efforts.

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Superintendent Phyllis Edwards said the decision to close four schools means there are fewer support positions needed.

The types of positions being eliminated include clerical assistants, secretaries, nurses, education aides and the child nutrition program staff.

Several other staffers may be switched to teaching positions. There are no plans to lay off current teachers.

Edwards says she will make a formal recommendation on the layoffs and transfers next month or in April.

She said the school system could save about $3 million with the cuts.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

Alabama prep star Maori Davenport drops suit against AHSAA

An Alabama high school basketball star who had been ruled ineligible dropped a lawsuit against the Alabama High School Athletic Association shortly after her senior season ended.

Pike County Circuit Judge Sonny Reagan dismissed the suit Wednesday at the request of Maori Davenport’s mother, Tara.

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The Charles Henderson star had sued the AHSAA and director Steve Savarese after she was ruled ineligible for accepting a payment from USA Basketball.

She played for Team USA last summer and received an $857.20 stipend, which was repaid.

The judge ordered Davenport’s temporary reinstatement and the case was twice delayed, meaning the Rutgers signee was able to play the season’s final five weeks.

Charles Henderson was eliminated Wednesday at the Class 5A state regional.

Jim Williams, an attorney representing the AHSAA, says his side did not have a chance to file an objection and “we did not consent to the dismissal.”
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

 

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3 hours ago

7 Things: Mueller probe could be over, Byrne officially the first Republican in 2020 U.S. Senate race, Alabama law forces government to give newspapers money and more …

7. Hate crime hoaxer has been arrested and charged with “filing a false police report

— Reports out of Chicago don’t look good for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett as a grand jury has returned a felony indictment for what the Cook County district attorney believes was a fabricated hate crime to garner publicity. This is not the first time Smollett lied to the police. He pleaded no contest to providing false information to law enforcement after giving police a fake name in a 2017 DUI arrest.

6. Obama era regulations close a power plant; Alabama Power says employees will get new jobs

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— Alabama Power Company announced the Gorgas Steam Plant in Walker County will shut down, because of mandates put in place by President Barack Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), on April 15. Alabama Power has said all Plant Gorgas employees will keep their jobs and be transferred to other facilities. Congressman Robert Aderholt (AL-4) called this an obvious outcome of the “War on Coal.” He stated, “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.”

5. The State Department says ISIS bride can’t come home to Alabama

— A former Hoover resident and thrice married ISIS bride has been informed that the United States would not welcome her back to the United States. President Donald Trump pushed for that decision and tweeted, “I have instructed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and he fully agrees, not to allow Hoda Muthana back into the Country!” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear she won’t be welcomed. “Ms. [Muthana] is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the U.S. She does not have any legal basis, no valid passport, no right to a passport, nor any visa to travel to the U.S.,” Pompeo said.

4. White nationalist arrested with an arsenal and a hit list of Democrat politicians and journalists

— Christopher Paul Hasson, a U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant, called for “focused violence” and was planning a mass terrorist attack to kill “almost every last person on earth” and “establish a white homeland.” His targets included MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, Sen. Dick Blumenthal (D-CT) and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY). He also had 15 firearms and 1,000 rounds of ammunition. In court filings, the government said bluntly, “The defendant is a domestic terrorist.”

3. Alabama state law requires advertising in the local newspaper for various state and local entities, this means revenue for papers like the Democrat-Reporter

— A local newspaper embroiled in a racism controversy has benefitted for years from an Alabama law that predates the Internet and guarantees revenue for local newspapers. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) alone spent over $4,000 last year alone. This is only one agency of the state government and one small-town newspaper. It doesn’t factor in other government entities in the area that are required to do business with the newspaper. These laws represent millions of dollars for newspapers guaranteed by archaic state law.

2. It’s official: Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-Mobile) is running for United State Senate

— Byrne announced his run at a Wintzell’s seafood restaurant in Mobile. Byrne referred to his potential future opponent U.S. Senator Doug Jones (D-AL) by criticizing his “radical policies.” Byrne also laid out the fight ahead, saying, “The fight for America’s future is too important to sit on the sidelines. I am running for the United States Senate to defend the values important to Alabama.” Jones responded to the news by hammering Byrne. “Given the results of his losing bid for Governor in 2010, in which he did not even win the Republican nomination, it’s hard to see why they would nominate a career politician like Bradley Byrne now,” Jones stated.

1. After almost two years, the Robert Mueller probe is coming to an end

— Attorney General Bill Barr could be ready to announce the end of FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation and could submit a final report to Congress soon as well. These are the most obvious indications that the investigation is almost over. While it is unclear how much of the report will be made public, Barr has made it clear he plans to be “transparent” with Congress and the American people.

16 hours ago

Byrne first to officially declare run vs. Doug Jones – ‘Future is too important to sit on the sidelines’

Just down the street from where he grew up, Congressman Bradley Byrne (R-AL) announced Wednesday evening his candidacy for the United States Senate while surrounded by family, friends and supporters gathered at Wintzell’s Oyster House in beautiful downtown Mobile.

Byrne became the first candidate to officially announce a run against the incumbent from Mountain Brook, Sen. Doug Jones (D-AL). In doing so, Byrne made clear his campaign will focus on his record as a fighter for Alabama’s values, drawing a clear and direct contrast between his traditional Yellowhammer State roots and the “radical policies” being pushed by Jones’ Democratic Party.

In his announcement speech, Byrne emphasized, “The fight for America’s future is too important to sit on the sidelines. I am running for the United States Senate to defend the values important to Alabama.”

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The congressman spoke about the “disconnect” between hardworking, everyday Alabamians and people stuck in the bubble of Washington, D.C.

Byrne urged attendees, “Look in Washington and tell me you don’t see people that have a vision that’s fundamentally at odds with what America is.”

“We need a Senator who will fight with President Trump to defend the Constitution, build the wall, stand up for the unborn, push for lower taxes, make health care more affordable and protect the Second Amendment,” he outlined. “I will fight every day to bring Alabama’s conservative values to Washington.”

Answering questions from reporters following the announcement, Byrne decried the Democratic Party’s embrace of socialism and “[killing] babies as they’re delivered.”

He also warned voters that Democrats should be expected to try and interfere in the Republican primary through “fake news” and  manipulative social media efforts. This comes in the wake of revelations that “Project Birmingham” was orchestrated to aid Jones’ general election candidacy in 2017.

Byrne, a labor-employment attorney by trade, is the former chancellor of the state’s community college system and one-term member of the state senate. He has served southwest Alabama in Congress since January 2014.

The Republican primary for the U.S. Senate in Alabama will be held March 3, 2020, with the general election to follow in November.

You can watch Byrne’s announcement speech and hear him answer questions from reporters afterwards here.

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