Alabama Department of Environmental Management

Alabama Governor Robert Bentley came out to defend the state’s closure of dozens of driver’s license offices after Congresswoman Terri Sewell said she was pursuing a Department of Justice investigation.

Bentley sent a letter to U.S Representative Terri Sewell yesterday responding to Sewell's criticisms. She has asked the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate since Alabama requires a photo ID to vote. She says the closures disproportionately impact poor and African-American populations.

The Alabama Weather Blog / ABC 33/40

The has issued an air quality alert for Jefferson and Shelby counties.

The Code Orange alert issued Thursday means air pollution levels in the affected areas could irritate sensitive groups, such as children, the elderly and people with asthma.

11 similar alerts were issued in 2012 and a Jessica Chace, a National Weather Service meteorologist says heavy rain has likely helped keep Alabama's air quality at acceptable levels this summer.

State environmental officials are investigating the recent release of industrial sludge into two Opelika waterways.

Alabama Department of Environmental Management spokesman Scott Hughes says the agency received a call Friday from the city of Opelika regarding some material that had been found in the Pepperell Branch and Saugahatchee Creek.

Hughes tells the Opelika-Auburn News ( that the release likely started sometime Thursday afternoon.

Officials say the Birmingham area's air-pollution rating is the best it has been in more than three decades.

The Alabama Department of Environmental Management says the region including Jefferson, Shelby and Walker counties has met a set of federal pollution standards for the first time in more than 30 years.

The state asked federal officials to certify that the area was in compliance, and the Environmental Protection Agency agreed.

Environmental officials say the improvements in air quality result from reductions in emissions mandated by government regulators.