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6 months ago

Rep Mo Brooks on Bellefonte: Trump admin inaction holding back effort to make long-dormant north Alabama nuclear plant operational

(Jeff Poor / Yellowhammer News)

 

For more than four decades, the Tennessee Valley Authority’s inactive Bellefonte Nuclear Power Plant has been a part of the Jackson County skyline. Situated in Hollywood, just to the northeast of Scottsboro off U.S. Highway 72, the plant’s cooling towers can be seen for miles away in all directions.

Initially, construction began on the plant in the mid-1970s and has been on-and-off again through the years.

“Every time I pass Bellefonte, that’s been a carrot hanging out there my entire life here,” Scottsboro City Council President Tony Wallingsford said in an interview with Yellowhammer News. “I mean, it’s been over 40 years. So as long as I can remember, there’s been a Bellefonte project sitting out there. Every time I pass by it, whether it’s by water or by road, those towers to me are just a monument to government waste and failure.”

In 2016, Chattanooga, Tenn. developer Franklin L. Haney breathed new life into the project when he had the winning bid of $111 million at an auction for the plant. Haney now is seeking to make Bellefonte operational, and if the federal government greenlights the project, Haney has said it would create 8,000 to 10,000 construction jobs and more than 2,000 permanent jobs once online.

He has until November to complete the purchase of Bellefonte from TVA.

At a town hall event in Scottsboro last week, Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Huntsville) told Yellowhammer News the only thing that is keeping that from happening is the Trump administration.

“The objective is to get the federal government, on the one hand, to get out of the way of Mr. Haney’s starting up Bellefonte,” Brooks said. “And on the other hand, making sure that Mr. Haney is allowed to take care of the different federal government programs that are available to help ensure that there is an actual start-up of the Bellefonte nuclear power plant. Right now, it’s an executive branch problem that we’re trying to work our way through. Congress has done what it needs to do. Now we’ve got to get the executive branch to make the appropriate rulings.”

Brooks explained that if the plant were to be made into an electricity production facility, the executive branch would need to grant the TVA clearance to purchase Bellefonte power.

“Right now, that’s a barrier at the federal government level, at the executive branch level,” he said. “And it seems to me if TVA needs the power and they’re able to reach a satisfactory rate arrangement with Bellefonte that they ought to have the freedom to do so. But apparently, there are concerns that that freedom is not currently available.”

Brooks added that Bellefonte would have to be given the same tax breaks that the federal government provides to other electricity producers.

“There are also federal tax credit issues,” he said. “The federal government incentivizes the production of electricity for our power grid because it’s a critical element of the United States of America. We need to make sure that Bellefonte is treated the same as some of these other entities that also want to tap into the use of those energy tax credits. So, those are some of the hurdles that we’re trying to clear, but they’re all executive branch issues right now.”

The residents of that part of Jackson County have been wary of investing too much hope in Bellefonte’s success. One likened Haney’s latest effort to the famous Peanuts comic strip scene of Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown as he tries to kick a field goal.

With Haney’s option to buy ending later this year and the tax credits that he is qualified to receive set to expire in 2021, Bellefonte is on the clock. If time expires and the project doesn’t proceed, Wallingsford, who is also currently a candidate for Jackson County Circuit Clerk, says he would like for the county to have its skyline back.

“If we’re not going to make it a nuclear plant — I know that it’s a massive expense, but we need to tear those towers down,” Wallingsford said.

Jeff Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and works as the editor of Breitbart TV. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeff_poor.

1 hour ago

What is it with Alabama Democrats’ dumb obsession with debates, town halls?

So you’re a Democrat in Alabama, and you want to be elected to high office? You approached your run for office thinking that Doug Jones showed what’s possible for a Democrat in Alabama. Therefore, you determined the time is right to run.

And here you are. You put up your qualifying fee and made it through the primary. It’s you versus a well-funded Republican incumbent in a state outside the Seventh Congressional District, and a handful of other urban minority precincts elects very few Democrats.

It’s a David versus Goliath story. It’s going to require a solid ground game, a fair amount of travel and a campaign message that will sway some Republicans to overlook party labels and mark the ballot for a Democrat.

What’s Walt Maddox’s first significant push? Perhaps it could be the success story of Tuscaloosa and all the things he has accomplished as mayor. Tuscaloosa is still a place people might want to visit – several nice restaurants, an up and coming riverfront, an affluent and diverse population, or yeah – and the University of Alabama and all it has to offer.

It’s a simple message: Do you want Alabama to be more like Tuscaloosa? Vote for me.

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Instead, the one big thing – the thing that he has tirelessly played up to the media, the topic about which he made internet videos and the one upon which his off-the-rails, left-of-center allies in the media seem to agree is Gov. Kay Ivey’s refusal to debate him.

In Alabama’s Second Congressional District, there’s a similarly mystifying event taking place in the race between Rep. Martha Roby (R-Montgomery) and her Democratic opponent Tabitha Isner.

Unlike Maddox, Isner doesn’t have a public service resume on which to run. She has to make the case in what is now arguably the most conservative congressional district in Alabama that she is a better alternative to the incumbent Roby.

She has to find vulnerabilities in this heavily agricultural congressional district. Whereas Roby’s Republican opponents ran against her for not being Trump-y enough, she might be served by saying Roby is way too much Trump – supporting tariffs and restrictions on labor. Her best shot would be to build a coalition of Democrat-voting Black Belt Democrats in Butler, Conecuh, Bullock and Barbour Counties and win over the handful of pockets of Republican-leaning swing voters in Montgomery, Elmore and Autauga Counties.

The math is very tough. But what does she do instead? She makes Roby’s lack of town hall meetings an issue with bizarre performance art in front of the Bird Dog Monument in Union Springs and posting it on YouTube.

A few of Alabama’s media celebrities have taken the bait. Alabama News Network’s senior political reporter Tim Lenox confronted Roby with the video, who shrugged it off.

“I have a packed August where I’ll be spending a lot of time with my constituents both in public meetings and in private meetings,” Roby said at an appearance earlier this week in Montgomery. “[P]rivate meeting scheduled previously scheduled one-on-one meetings — there’s lots of different ways to communicate with your constituents.”

Doug Jones didn’t win a U.S. Senate seat in 2017 because he hammered Roy Moore for not debating him. He had a big assist from the Democratic Party’s opposition research wing known as the mainstream media. He also did a few other things the Democratic Party of Alabama’s past and present won’t do, and that’s work beyond preserving the status quo – but that’s a subject for another time.

Is it noteworthy that a Republican opponent is reluctant to debate or hold town halls? Sure. Is it something to harp on as if it is the magic ticket to higher office? No, it’s just a dumb obsession.

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and is the editor of Breitbart TV.

1 hour ago

Officials investigating Brewer High School hazing report

A sheriff’s department in Alabama is investigating a report of hazing at a high school earlier this year.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Office is working with the county school system on an incident involving students at Brewer High School in February.

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Schools Superintendent Bill Hopkins Jr. told WHNT in Huntsville the incident involved the junior varsity baseball team.

Hopkins said the incident happened in a locker room and involved middle school students who played for the junior varsity team.

The students involved were suspended from all summer programs and started the new school year in in-school suspension.

Hopkins says school officials will work with the coaches and team members to provide extra training on bullying.

Sheriff Ana Franklin says investigators are working to determine whether charges should be filed.
(Associated Press, copyright 2018)

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2 hours ago

Rep. Robert Aderholt remembers Aretha Franklin, her time recording in Muscle Shoals

Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-Haleyville) is paying tribute to Aretha Franklin, the “Queen of Soul,” who died on Thursday.

Aderholt posted a video on his Facebook page documenting Franklin’s time recording at the renowned FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, along with these words:

“The music world has lost a legend in Aretha Franklin. While I was just a young child in Haleyville, I had no idea that just a few miles up the road in Muscle Shoals, she was recording some of the world’s most famous songs. She recorded RESPECT in Muscle Shoals on February 14, 1967. And what a Valentine gift it was. Her voice was one of the many that gave richly to the Muscle Shoals Music, and it will never go silent.”

“We consider it an honor that many of her songs were recorded in the 4th District and here in Alabama,” Aderholt’s office said in a statement obtained by Yellowhammer News. “Besides being an honor, it’s just plain cool.”

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3 hours ago

You’re not alone, Alabama: South Carolina also has a billion-dollar defunct nuclear site — but it’s worse

The Yellowhammer State and the Palmetto State share many things: heat, southern culture, a love for football.

A more unfortunate commonality between the two, and one receiving lots of attention in both states, is that each has an unfinished nuclear power plant just sitting there, continually making news but not power.

Alabama’s Bellefonte Nuclear Generating Station, which has never generated a single watt of power, has become over the years a (literally) concrete representation of the federal government’s vast ambition coupled with its occasional  – or frequent, depending who you ask – inability to follow through.

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Recent developments indicate that the massive power plant could eventually be put to use, but that is still a long way off.

Still, Bellefonte is a case study of taxpayer investment in a dead-end project

In a way, though, Alabamians can be grateful that they themselves weren’t required to fund the dead-end project through increased monthly energy rates, as consumers in South Carolina were.

Back in March 2008, South Carolina Electric & Gas (SCE&G) – the South Carolina equivalent of Alabama Power – began the process of applying for authorization to built two new nuclear reactors at its VC Summer site just north of Columbia. The company already operated one reactor at the site.

SCE&G was approved and established contracts for construction. The project was estimated to cost $9.8 billion.

To help with the project’s funding, SCE&G proposed a rate increase, got it approved by the Public Service Commission in May 2008, and construction began later that fall.

Over the years, there were numerous project delays and extra project costs which have, up to the current day, resulted in nine rate increases.

Last July, the project was abandoned after Westinghouse, the company building the reactors, filed for bankruptcy.

As the legislative session winded down this year, the legislature passed a temporary 15 percent rate cut for energy consumers who have paid an estimated $2 billion into the nuclear project fund.

A disaster of nuclear proportions, you could say.

The failure of both Bellefonte and the expansions at VC Summer are disconcerting generally, and downright infuriating for those who were forced to pay into them. Both projects have the potential to succeed, but that will require some kind of co-aligned effort between ambitious big business and government, both of which delivered the failed projects in the first place.

Read about developments on the Bellefonte front here.

Marion Mayor uses tools to prep residents for AlabamaWorks Success Plus Initiative

By: Dexter Hinton, Mayor of Marion, Alabama

When I was elected in late 2016 as Mayor of Marion, I knew there were certain areas in which our town needed to improve. One was education and work preparedness for those who did not want to attend a four-year college. We had gaps that needed to be filled.

As an Industrial Maintenance and Robotics Instructor at the Career Center in Greene County, I know what resources are available to assist those seeking a job or a skills education. When people come to the center, our team has a plethora of tests, assessments, job listings, resume-building sessions and other items at our disposal to help folks get the right position or training that matches their needs or abilities.

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As Mayor, I realized we needed to get educational tools to Marion residents, especially after Moller Tech announced that it would be locating in Bibb County, adjacent to Perry County, and bringing 222 jobs with it. But with a small town like Marion (population 3,432) not having a dedicated resource center, we didn’t quite know how to unite the two. Then one day, I attended a Central AlabamaWorks meeting and saw AIDT’s mobile unit, which is the Department of Commerce’s skills education center on wheels.

I spoke with Mikki Ruttan, director of Central AlabamaWorks, after the meeting and asked her about the possibility of getting the unit to our area. I learned it could be customized for the needs of its audience. After numerous discussions with other local leaders, we selected basic resume building and a Ready-to-Work course as the initial offerings. I knew the mobile unit would be key in obtaining career readiness for the citizens of Marion. I also felt that our citizens would welcome the chance to improve their skills and knowledge base.

After dozens of conversations, we got the mobile unit scheduled this past April. We posted and delivered flyers all over the city, announcing when and where the unit would be located, and we created a Facebook page. We had no idea what kind of response we would have for this type of educational opportunity. But, our citizens realized how such training could give them a leg up in the job market. As a result, they turned out in droves to learn more and better position themselves for entry into the job market, or to simply upgrade their skill set.

With Gov. Kay Ivey’s Success Plus initiative rollout a few months ago, I knew we had to get our citizens more training to help them, and our state, reach the goal of 500,000 people with post-high-school credentials by 2025. The mobile training unit seemed like the perfect way to deliver those opportunities to our residents.

After some discussion, we were able to get the unit at The Lincoln School. We focused the training on Ready-to-Work. The classes filled immediately, and a waiting list soon formed. Our people were eager to gain knowledge to improve their lives and that of their families. Once they completed the course, they received credentials as an Alabama Certified Worker; a Career Readiness certificate; a free three-credit-hour course at Wallace Community College Selma (if they had a high school diploma); three credits toward a high school diploma (if they didn’t have one); and a referral to the Selma Career Center for free certificates or degree information from WCC in welding, industrial maintenance, electrical technology or nursing.

The unit has been so popular with our citizens that two classrooms are now being refurbished at The Lincoln School specifically for AIDT courses. This means we will have a permanent place for our people to get not only Ready-to-Work training, but also training in other much-needed professions offered by Wallace, such as cosmetology, carpentry, welding, automotive technician and others.

The excitement continues to build for our city. In fact, AIDT has already completed one Ready-to-Work training with several graduates who have received employment.

With the extra effort by Central AlabamaWorks, AIDT, the Career Centers and the Alabama Community College System – combined with the excitement and work ethic of our citizens – I know Marionites can and will be a valued part of the Success Plus endeavor. I look forward to seeing what our citizens can achieve for themselves, their families and our community.