– August 24, 2022 –

Abrams turns up heat on climate issue

It’s 13 letters long, but “climate change” is often treated like a four-letter word in Georgia. Not so in Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams’ environmental policy, which she released to The Current ahead of other media outlets. Abrams centers much of her plan on getting the state, and especially vulnerable coastal areas, ready for the effects of climate change, as she described in a half-hour interview with The Current’s Mary Landers. The seven-page plan also lays out ways to leverage federal dollars to produce at least 25,000 green jobs in Georgia and to reduce energy costs for consumers.

Though not addressed in the plan, Abrams also offered her positions on Spaceport Camden and mining near the Okefenokee, a project that will now be moving forward faster than Abrams knew when she was interviewed. Read her responses in a summary of “Abrams on 10 key coastal environmental issues” included with the article.

Stacey Abrams enjoys an eco-marsh boat tour with Kathryn and Captain Fran Lapolla in Savannah on Monday. Kevin Lowery/One Georgia Credit: Kevin Lowery/One Georgia

Okefenokee mining back in state’s hands

Twin Pines Minerals, the Alabama company that wants to mine for titanium dioxide near the Okefenokee, announced a settlement with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers earlier this week that resurrects the mining project.

The mine proposal has taken a few detours since the company first proposed it more than three years ago, as Stanley Dunlap of the Georgia Recorder reports. Twin Pines’ plans were initially fast tracked after the Trump administration rolled back Obama-era water protection rules. But in June, a Biden administration memo that commanded federal agencies to have “robust” consultation with Native American tribes while a new definition was in the works sent the project back to square one. Twin Pines sued the Corps, but dropped the suit with this settlement. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division has picked up the permitting process where it left off in June.

Rena Peck of the Georgia River Network paddles a canoe in the Okefenokee Swamp, which she fears would be harmed by a proposed mine nearby. File/GPB News

Ballot bingo

It took action from the U.S. Supreme Court to do it, but the revolving door that the PSC race has been this election season is finally locked. The high court on Friday ordered the two Public Service Commission races off the November ballot. Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger announced his office would not pursue the matter further, despite the order offering an avenue to do so.

The news was especially frustrating for Democratic candidate for District 2 Patty Durand. Just the day before, a judge concluded that her rights had been violated by redistricting lines that made her ineligible to run, and reinstated her candidacy.

With the races off, a special election post-November is inevitable. Whether it happens on a statewide basis or a district-wide basis depends on the outcome of Raffensperger’s appeal of the Voting Rights case in which a federal judge ruled that the unusual at-large system the state uses to elect these utility regulators illegally dilutes the Black vote.

BEACH ADVISORIES: As of this writing, there’s a beach water bacteria advisory in effect for Jekyll Island’s Oceanview Beach from Brice Lane to the Beach Pavilion. Coincidentally, Jekyll is also the site of the annual Georgia Environmental Conference through noon Friday.

Permanent advisories for beach water bacteria remain in effect for Clam Creek Beach and St. Andrews Beach on Jekyll Island and King’s Ferry County Park on the Ogeechee River at the Chatham/Bryan County line.

Before you head to the beach, check the link to see current notices.
Trail’s end at the beach on Blackbeard Island National Wildlife Refuge. Credit: Dan Chapman/FWS

Turtle-y cute

It’s been a great year for Georgia’s sea turtles, with a record-breaking 4,032 loggerhead nests recorded on beaches from Cumberland to Tybee. But they’re not the only turtles on the Georgia coast. At The Landings on Skidaway Island last week the Skidaway Audubon showcased its diamondback marsh terrapin project. These are smaller turtles, the size of a saucer, that live in the brackish water of the marsh. Audubon volunteers relocate the eggs of mama terrapins who nest in sand traps on a golf course there. They shelter them from predators until they hatch then release these little jewel-like babies into the marsh. Last week they invited their neighbors to help with a release party for several dozen quarter-sized hatchlings. Neither kids nor grown-ups were immune to the babies’ cuteness.

“This year our grand total of eggs rescued is 4,088 (eggs), ” said Volunteer Dawn Cordo. “That’s up 10% from last year. And with a 90% survival rate we feel really confident we’re helping.”

A volunteer ferries a hatchling diamondback terrapin to the marsh for release. Mary Landers/The Current Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

Abrams’ environmental focus: resilience, green jobs, lower energy costs

Stacey Abrams’ environmental platform focuses on how resiliency, other priorities could underpin state’s growth, while Kemp looks to sustainability ratings to attract business.

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Settlement leaves fate of mine at Okefenokee’s edge with Georgia EPD

This development puts the project back on track to continue going through the state Environmental Protection Division’s final stages following an administrative setback applauded by Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff, Muscogee Creek Nation and environmentalists for protecting the Okefenokee, its water table and its threatened wildlife.

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U.S. Supreme Court removes 2 PSC races from November ballot

A usually low-key, down-ballot race for utility regulators has been the focus of several court challenges because of its unique statewide vote for district representatives.

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Superior court judge puts Democratic PSC challenger back on November ballot

Durand was living in Gwinnett County but moved to Rockdale County so she could challenge the political maneuvering in court. Her lawsuit yielded correspondence between Chairwoman Tricia Pridemore and Echols showing Pridemore asking for Durand’s home address in Gwinnett as the maps were being drawn.

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Okefenokee mine project: What is titanium used for?

Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals wants to mine heavy mineral sands from 8,000 acres near the Okefenokee for titanium, a metal that’s both common and extraordinary.

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Mary Landers is a reporter for The Current in Coastal Georgia with more than two decades of experience focusing on the environment. Contact her at mary.landers@thecurrentga.org She covered climate and...