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This Hour: Latest Alabama news, sports, business and entertainment

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Alabama Power reducing coal use at 3 plants

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) - Alabama Power says it is cutting back on coal use at three generating plants because of federal environmental rules.

The utility said Friday it will close two coal-fired generating units at Plant Gorgas in Walker County. It's also eliminating coal as a fuel at Plant Barry near Mobile and its Greene County plant west of Tuscaloosa.

About 60 jobs are reportedly being affected, but the utility says cuts will come from transfers and attrition, not layoffs.

The changes are supposed to be finished by 2016.

The announcement comes just days after hearings on the Obama administration's plan to reduce carbon emissions.

Alabama Power says it spent about $3 billion to meet federal environmental rules over the last decade, and it's spending another $1 billion to meet new air emission standards.


Tuscaloosa authorities ID victim in train death

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Authorities have identified the pedestrian who was killed by an Amtrak passenger train near Tuscaloosa.

The Tuscaloosa News reports that Cecil Ross was killed as he walked along railroad track near his home in Cottondale on Thursday.

Investigators with the Tuscaloosa County Metro Homicide Unit say Ross was wearing headphones and probably didn't hear the train.

Ross was the half-brother of a girl whose death made news a few years ago.

Heaven Shae Ross was 11 when she disappeared from her home in August 2003. Her body was found in an abandoned house more than three years later.

Investigators haven't revealed how the girl died. No arrests have been made.


Ala lawmaker supports return to electric chair

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A state legislator wants Alabama to resume executions using the electric chair.

State Rep. Lynn Greer tells The Decatur Daily he favors electrocutions because of continuing delays with lethal injection drugs.

The Rogersville Republican says he plans to have talks next week the prison officials and the state prosecutors association about a possible return to the chair.

A shortage of execution drugs means the state can't execute inmates for now. Leaders say the state probably won't be able to resume executions before spring 2015 at the earliest.

Gov. Robert Bentley has said he opposes switching back to electrocution, which was Alabama's sole execution method until 2002.

Changing execution methods would require new legislation and provide defense lawyers with new avenues for appeals.

Alabama's death row now holds 195 inmates.


Tenn family survives Ala plane crash

HELENA, Ala. (AP) - Authorities say four people from middle Tennessee are hospitalized after a small airplane crashed in Alabama.

Pilot Dan Smith, wife Sharon Smith, their son Andy Smith and his 17-year-old girlfriend Katie Hargrove survived the fiery crash near Birmingham on Thursday afternoon.

The four were traveling home to Dickson, Tennessee, following a beach trip to Panama City, Florida. The small aircraft went down near the Bessemer airport, where it was attempting to land because of engine trouble.

Dan Smith and his son's girlfriend are listed in good condition. The other two people are listed in serious condition.

Authorities credit two people who heard the crash with pulling the passengers from the wreckage before the plane caught fire.

The Federal Aviation Administration identifies the airplane as a Piper PA-32.


1st piece in place for zip line over Chattahoochee

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) - Work has begun on a zip line that will carry people across the Chattahoochee River at the Georgia-Alabama state line.

The Columbus Ledger-Enquirer reports that the first piece of the new zip line -- a 60-foot pole -- was put into place Thursday in downtown Columbus. There will be two poles on the Georgia side and two on the Alabama side.

The zip line will start on the Georgia side of the river near Bay Avenue and 11th Street in Columbus. The 1,200-foot line in which people will reach speeds in excess of 40 mph ends on the Alabama side in Phenix City.

Whitewater Express Inc. owner Dan Gilbert says he hopes the zip line can open in September. It's part of a larger project involving a whitewater rafting course.


Bentley picks McFarland as Ala rep on rail panel

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) - A Judson College official will again serve as Alabama's representative on the Southern Rail Commission.

Gov. Robert Bentley has appointed Billy McFarland Jr. has his designee to the three-state panel.

McFarland is a special assistant to the president at the Baptist-affiliated Judson women's college in Marion.

McFarland was first appointed to the commission in 2009. His late father held the same position for years.

The commission works to improve passenger rail service in Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi.


Alabama opens with QB battle, 3 suspended players

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (AP) - Alabama opened preseason camp with a quarterback competition and several suspended players.

Coach Nick Saban said Friday after the initial practice that starting nose guard Brandon Ivory, fellow defensive lineman Jarran Reed and linebacker Tim Williams are suspended for violating team rules. He says he doesn't have a timetable for their return.

Saban also says he's in no rush to pick a starting quarterback. Florida State transfer Jacob Coker got to practice for the first time after arriving this summer.

He's competing with last year's backup Blake Sims to replace AJ McCarron. Saban says no matter how impatient people are to have a starter named, "we can't make something happen before we get an opportunity to evaluate it fairly for everybody."

Alabama opens Aug. 30 against West Virginia.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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