Report cites environmental progress in state

Published 7:51 pm Monday, December 29, 2008

BIRMINGHAM — An advocacy group said Alabama made significant strides in protecting the environment in 2008, with greater use of alternative energy and tougher standards aimed at more than 50 cancer-causing pollutants.

The Birmingham-based Green Resource Center for Alabama, a nonprofit organization formed in 2007, released its Green Gauge report on Monday.

The report lists about two dozen instances of progress in advancing environmental causes in Alabama, which has struggled with urban air pollution, coal-fired power plants and other environmental threats.

GRCA president Scott Walton said possibly the single greatest accomplishment of the year has been raising awareness about environmental protection.

The report commended the state for its tougher standards for more than 50 cancer-causing pollutants, among other improvements.

The new standard approved by the Alabama Environmental Management Commission changes the risk level used to calculate human health impacts from one cancer per 100,000 residents to one cancer per 1 million residents. The rule brings Alabama in line with neighboring states.

State lawmakers also approved a $1-per-ton fee on waste disposed in landfills. The fee is expected to raise at least $7 million a year to fund the cleanup of illegal dumps and expand recycling.

The report also lists Daphne as one of seven cities that uses biodiesel to power its fleets. Wind turbines that pump electricity for a Gulf Shores restaurant and the environmentally friendly headquarters of a Mobile construction company were two other projects highlighted in the report.

GRCA volunteer Pat Byington, senior associate with the Wilderness Society and a longtime environmentalist, said the key to continuing such “green” progress will be finding a way to carry the momentum into 2009.

“There’s still a tremendous amount of work in front of us,” he said by telephone Monday. He said most of the building and development going on in the state is not green development. “It’s important for folks to step forward to make it a priority.”