President Barack Obama, in what could be his final commencement address as the sitting president, will speak at Howard University. The 2016 commencement ceremony will be held May 7 on the Washington, D.C. campus. President Obama is the sixth sitting U.S. President to deliver the keynote address at a Howard University commencement.
Photo: Brant Sanderlin
Photo: Brant Sanderlin

The scoop on Wednesday, March 30: 5 things to know this morning

President Barack Obama said more must be done to combat prescription painkiller addictions and the stigma surrounding them, using a summit in Atlanta on Tuesday to announce new measures against a drug overdose epidemic raging across Georgia and the nation. Speaking at a panel discussion with Dr. Sanjay Gupta of CNN and two people recovering from drug problems, Obama said more people now die every day from drug overdoses than from traffic crashes. Politics followed the president into Atlanta. Aboard Air Force One on the way from Washington to Georgia, reporters asked White House press secretary Josh Earnest about the “religious liberty” legislation Gov. Nathan Deal vetoed this week, as well as a new North Carolina statute that eliminates anti-discrimination protections for gays. Read more. 

2. Georgia Power sets plan for coal ash closings. 

Georgia Power said it plans to close a dozen coal ash ponds at six power plants in the state within two years, but that it may take up to 10 years to close 16 other waste storage ponds. One pond may not be closed for up to 14 years, the utility said. After questioning last year by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the safety of its coal ash lagoons, Georgia Power pledged last fall to eventually close all of its coal ash ponds and to release a schedule within several months. Tuesday’s timetable from the electric utility, owned by Atlanta-based Southern Co., was part of that pledge. Read more. 

3. Blasting starts for Atlanta's 5-mile tunnel project to protect water. 

The project that will provide Atlanta with an insurance policy against contamination of its drinking water source gets started next week with a bang. Make that a blast — about 160 of them over the next four months. Crews on April 6 will begin blasting through granite at a city quarry that will eventually hold 2.4 billion gallons of raw drinking water. That reserve is enough to provide 1.2 million people with water for a minimum of 30 days, should the Chattahoochee River ever be off limits due to contamination or drought. Right now, the city has only about three days of raw water in reserve for all of Atlanta, which includes about 475,000 residents, the busiest airport in the world and corporate giants such as Coke, UPS, Delta and The Southern Company. A recent study estimated the cost of running out of drinking water at $100 million per day. Read more. 

4. Conservative groups blast 'religious liberty' veto in Georgia. 

A coalition of conservative and religious groups in Georgia on Tuesday blasted Gov. Nathan Deal’s veto of a “religious liberty” bill this week, saying he had turned his back on the state’s faith community and sold out to Hollywood. The show of unity among some of the most ardent defenders of House Bill 757 only guarantees the issue will remain in the spotlight through this year’s state election season and into January, when the groups vow to again push legislation they said would protect religious viewpoints and prevent discrimination against faith-based groups. The governor’s veto also continued to generate response nationally on Tuesday. Read more. 

5. Metro Atlanta's population grows as residents seek jobs, amenities. 

Drawn by job opportunities, a reasonable cost of living and warm weather, hundreds of thousands of people moved to metro Atlanta in the last five years,increasing the region’s population to 5.7 million, according to U.S. Census estimates. Of the 424,000 residents added since 2010, more than half moved here, while the rest of the 8 percent population boom was driven by births greatly outpacing deaths. The region remained the nation’s ninth-largest metropolitan area. Last year, the region’s growth was third highest of any area in the country, trailing only Houston and Dallas. Metro Atlanta, which the Census defines as stretching from the Alabama border to the outskirts of Athens, expanded by more than 95,000 people from 2014 to 2015. Read more. 

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