Environmental groups and homeowners have filed a federal lawsuit against state regulators for approving Alabama Power’s fees on customers with rooftop or on-site solarBy KIM CHANDLER Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 10:36 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMONTGOMERY, Ala. — The fees imposed by the Alabama Power company on customers who generate their own electricity with rooftop or on-site solar panels are now the subject of a federal lawsuit against the state’s regulators.Environmental groups argue that punishing fees are purposely discouraging the adoption of solar power in the sun-rich state.Alabama Power maintains that the fees are needed to maintain the infrastructure that provides backup power to customers when their solar panels don’t provide enough energy.The Southern Environmental Law Center and Ragsdale LLC filed the lawsuit on Monday against the Alabama Public Service Commission on behalf of four Alabama Power customers who installed solar panels on their properties and the Greater-Birmingham Alliance to Stop Pollution, or GASP.“We’re asking the court to require the Commission to follow the law so that Alabama Power will stop unfairly taxing private solar investments,” said Keith Johnston, director of SELC’s Alabama office.“Alabama is being left behind by other Southern states when it comes to solar generation, and the jobs, bill savings and other benefits that come with it,” SELC’s statement said. “These charges are a significant roadblock to our state’s success.”A spokesperson for the Public Service Commission wrote in an email that, “it would not be appropriate for the Alabama Public Service Commission to comment on pending litigation.”Alabama Power charges a $5.41-per-kilowatt fee, based on the capacity of the home system, on people who use solar panels or other means to generate part of their own electricity. That amounts to a $27 monthly fee on a typical 5-kilowatt system. The average solar panel setup for a home costs about $10,000, according to the law center, and the fees add another $9,000 or so over a system’s 30-year lifespan, dramatically increasing costs and reducing any financial benefit for the homeowner.Alabama Power maintains that the fees are needed to maintain the infrastructure that provides backup power. A spokesperson for Alabama Power said, “we believe Alabama law and sound ratemaking principles were followed in reaching a fair determination of the cost for this service.”“It is important to us that all of our 1.5 million customers are treated fairly. There is nothing about the lawsuit that changes our position – we believe the lawsuit is without merit. Customers who want to rely on the company to back up their own generation should pay their share of associated costs,” Alabama Power spokesperson Alyson Tucker wrote in an email.The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rejected the environmental groups’ request to take enforcement action last month against the Public Service Commission.However, two members of the five-member panel issued a separate statement expressing concern that Alabama regulators may be violating federal policies designed to encourage the development of cogeneration and small power production facilities and to reduce the demand for fossil fuels.
A federal judge has dismissed Roy Moore’s $95 million lawsuit against comedian Sacha Baron CohenBy KIM CHANDLER Associated PressJuly 13, 2021, 9:51 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMONTGOMERY, Ala. — A federal judge on Tuesday dismissed failed U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore’s $95 million lawsuit targeting comedian Sacha Baron Cohen filed after Moore complained he was tricked into an interview that lampooned sexual misconduct accusations against him.Judge John Cronan wrote that Moore signed a clear disclosure agreement that prohibited any legal claims over the appearance. He added that the absurd segment — in which the comic demonstrated a so-called pedophile detector that beeped when it got near Moore — was “clearly a joke” and no viewer would think the comedian was making factual allegations against Moore.“The court agrees that Judge Moore’s claims are barred by the unambiguous contractual language, which precludes the very causes of action he now brings,” Cronan wrote.The lawsuit centered on Moore’s unwitting appearance on the comic’s “Who is America?” show. The segment ran after Moore faced misconduct accusations that he had pursued sexual and romantic relationships with teens when he was a man in his 30s. He has denied the allegations.Moore, a Republican sometimes known as the Ten Commandments judge known for hardline stances opposing same-sex marriage and supporting the public display of Ten Commandments, faced the accusations during his 2017 race for U.S. Senate. The accusations contributed to his loss to Democrat Doug Jones, the first Democrat to represent Alabama in the Senate in a quarter-century.Moore had been told he was receiving an award for supporting Israel. But in the segment, Baron Cohen appeared as a faux counterterrorism instructor “Col. Erran Morad,” discussing bogus military technology, including a supposed pedophile detector. In the segment, the device beeped repeatedly as it got near Moore, who sat stone-faced.The judge noted the absurdity of the segment in dismissing Moore’s lawsuit, which sought $95 million in damages.“In light of the context of Judge Moore’s interview, the segment was clearly a joke and no reasonable viewer would have seen it otherwise,” the judge wrote.Court records indicate Moore and his wife, who also was a plaintiff in the suit, are appealing.“Of course we will appeal — this Court used words like “tricked and Joke” in describing Cohens behavior but will still do nothing to rein in his fraudulent misconduct,” Moore said in a statement texted to The Associated Press.Baron Cohen has for years lured unwitting politicians into awkward interviews. He has faced past lawsuits over similar pranks, but those were tossed out because the individuals had signed releases.
The organization that created the nation’s first memorial to lynching victims has announced a major expansion of a museum designed to trace the impact of slavery and racism through the centuriesBy KIM CHANDLER Associated PressJuly 7, 2021, 7:41 PM• 3 min readShare to FacebookShare to TwitterEmail this articleMONTGOMERY, Ala. — The organization that created the nation’s first memorial to lynching victims has announced a major expansion of a museum designed to trace the impact of slavery and racism through the centuries.The Equal Justice Initiative announced Tuesday that it is moving and expanding its Legacy Museum: From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration, which explores the consequences of enslavement, mob violence, and Jim Crow laws.EJI’s Executive Director Bryan Stevenson said an understanding and appreciation of that history is needed “if we are going to evaluate contemporary issues in a thoughtful way.”“A bold aspiration of the museum is to help create a world where our children’s children are not burdened by the legacy of slavery, where racial bias and discrimination are not factors how people can live and grow, to get to a place that feels more like equality and justice and freedom,” Stevenson said.“To achieve those lofty goals, we have to understand the nature of the problem with much more clarity and much more specificity than I think most of us understand those problems.”The nonprofit Equal Justice Initiative is a legal advocacy group in Montgomery. In 2018, it opened the museum and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice which remembers lynching victims. The museum and memorial was the nation’s first site to document racial inequality in America from slavery through Jim Crow to the issues of today, the organization said.The existing museum had become crowded at times, sometime limiting visitors’ ability to interact with exhibits including a slave pen exhibit. There viewers see haunting holographic projections of enslaved people describing their lives.The new space will expand that exhibit and include new exhibits about the Transatlantic Slave Trade, Reconstruction, the civil rights era, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, resistance to racial integration and the history of voter disenfranchisement. Contemporary issues including policing, immigration and incarceration, will be explored.The Transatlantic slave trade is not discussed in detail in the current museum. Stevenson said the new space will explore the role of northern U.S. cities in slavery, the impact of both American continents as well as the horrors of the Middle Passage.The museum will be relocated to another part of downtown Montgomery in the same building that currently holds EJI’s Legacy Pavilion.“The museum is really designed help people to learn things, understand things that they weren’t taught in school. Most people come out of our site and the first thing they say is,’ I just didn’t know all of that,’” Stevenson said.