SGA votes to oppose the Shepherd Bend Mine

The University of Alabama Student Government Association Senate passed a resolution to oppose the University of Alabama’s potential release of land and mineral rights for the Shepherd Bend Mine that would discharge potentially dangerous wastewater into the Black Warrior River.

“It’s a resolution that states that the SGA and the students urge the University of Alabama Board of Trustees and the Board of Trustees of the Alabama System to not release the land and the mineral rights . . . We are asking them and imploring them not to lease that land to Shepherd Bend, LLC,” said Elliot Bell, a sophomore in his first year as an SGA senator and the resolution’s author.

The mine, which has been a cause of protest at UA since 2007, was proposed by Shepherd Bend, LLC, and would be 800 feet from a major intake of the Birmingham Water Works Board that filters water for 200,000 Birmingham residents. The University of Alabama System owns much of the land on which the 1,773-acre coal mine would be located.

The resolution, which was co-sponsored by SGA Senators Ryan Flamerich and Sydney Page, follows a similar one passed by the undergraduate SGA at University of Alabama at Birmingham last week and requests that the University of Alabama System not release the University-owned land or mineral rights. According to the Black Warrior Riverkeeper, the Shepherd Bend Mine likely would no longer be economically feasible if the UA System abstains from selling or leasing the Walker County land.

“What’s happening with the request is that it’s on appeal right now. It has been, I believe, for the last year or two,” Bell said. “At the end of the day, it comes down to the University of Alabama Board of Trustees to say that they’re not going to lease the land because if they don’t release the land and mineral rights, then there is no benefit, financially, to the company. In the end, most supporters look not towards the benefit, but the amount of people being affected.”

Those who are affected, according to Nelson Brooke of Black Warrior Riverkeeper, are at the heart of the debate over strip mining. Moreover, Brooke said that the organization is very excited by the resolutions passed by the SGAs at both UA and UAB.

“We are happy to see the operation growing and proud of the student support at both schools,” Brooke said. “We think it sends a strong message to the University [of Alabama] System that this is very important across the state: We value drinking water very highly. It’s more important than the amount of money this mine could raise.”

While the resolution by the Senate was important for the cause, Bell said that the unanimous vote signaled to the Alabama student body that the SGA is aware of what students are saying.

“If there is one thing I can leave you with, I think that this is a sign that the SGA is listening to the students of the University, and one thing that I am adamant about is that individuals need to know they are being impacted by the SGA,” Bell said. “This is one of the more vocal impacts by the SGA to stand with the students of the University and residents of Birmingham in opposition to the Shepherd Bend Mine.”


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