March 30, 2022

Changes often come fitfully, as some recent events demonstrate. Spaceport Camden was voted down but hopes for it hang on. Many Georgians are eager to address climate change, but the PSC resists “giant steps.” And coastal homebuyers haven’t quite gotten the message about the increasing risk of flooding.

Spaceport limps along

An effort to nullify the recently activated Camden County Spaceport Authority stalled Thursday when State Sen. Sheila McNeill posted a letter to Facebook opposing the repeal effort.

“Sunsetting the Spaceport Authority would hamstring the County’s ability to attract private investment and sends the wrong message about economic development in our community,” the Republican from Brunswick wrote.

It looks like the county is still trying to attract that private investment, despite a landslide victory for the anti-spaceport side in the March 8 referendum. The Camden County Commission announced it will meet April 7 with a Florida-based Spearhead Capital Advisers to discuss “Realizing the Spaceport Vision through private investment.”

Georgia Sen. Sheila McNeill

Town hall tense at times

The Georgia Public Service Commission, whose five members are elected statewide, says its mission is “to exercise its authority and influence to ensure that consumers receive safe, reliable and reasonably priced telecommunications, electric and natural gas services from financially viable and technically competent companies.”

Dozens of those consumers turned up at a town hall last week to let the PSC know how it could be doing better, as WABE’s Molly Samuel reported. Ratepayers at the Atlanta town hall repeatedly asked for more and better opportunities to weigh in on the upcoming energy planning process for Georgia Power. Many demanded a faster response to climate change. Others advocated for rooftop solar. A few comments elicited defensive responses from the commission. After a math teacher pleaded for “giant steps” in Georgia to address climate change, Chairman Tricia Pridemore told her other countries were more at fault for greenhouse gas emissions and, “Considering your fears over your daughter’s future, maybe some activism in India and China wouldn’t be such a bad idea.” (The exchange comes at the 1:31 hour mark in the linked video.)

Flood insurance and climate change

Coastal homebuyers don’t seem too concerned about the chances of their property flooding, a study by Georgia State University researchers reveals. Flooding risk is easy to access at web sites like FloodFactor, which incorporates climate change into its calculations. But buyers don’t seem to care, report Georgia State Geographer Risa Palm and Political Scientist Toby Bolsen after surveying nearly 700 Realtors in Florida.

“Part of the problem may be that mortgage lenders and appraisers aren’t accounting for properties’ vulnerability to sea level rise, so homebuyers aren’t immediately feeling the risk in their pocketbooks,” they write in The Conversation. Wealthier buyers who don’t need a mortgage aren’t required to purchase flood insurance, and Congress has a history of rolling back flood insurance rate increases.”

The National Flood Insurance Plan finishes its phase-in of its new risk rating methodology Friday. That same day, at 8:30 a.m. April 1, the Chatham County – Savannah Metropolitan Planning Commission hosts its Coastal Empire Resilience Network Coffee Hour: How Property Insurance Rates Along the Coast are Being Impacted by Climate Change. The program is free and open to the public.

Tidal flooding on Riverside Drive in Glynn County Credit: Josh Bain/Glynn County Emergency Management Agency

Plant swap

Spring makes lots of us into gardeners. If you’re looking for some inspiration or just some like-minded dirt diggers in the Savannah area, consider stopping by Jane Fishman’s semi-annual plant swap from 8-11 a.m. on Saturday, April 2.

Jane, a friend of The Current, is a longtime Savannah Morning News columnist, a book author and an unpretentious gardener. She hosts her plant swaps on the first Saturday of April and October at her garden, which sits next to Chatham Steel, 501 W. Boundary Street. The swap is free and fun, with gardeners of all stripes bringing whatever surplus perennials, seeds, roots, rhizomes, bulbs, or supplies they have. Call 912-484-3045 for more information.

And if you’re in a planting mood, consider some butterfly-friendly plants like a native milkweed. An article in Stateline, an initiative of The Pew Charitable Trusts, indicates the monarch butterfly population has shrunk by nearly 90% in the past two decades. Georgia is one of the states that has public private partnerships in place to protect these iconic insects.

A purple passionflower

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State senator opposes repeal of spaceport authority

State lawmakers created the authority in 2019 at the request of the Camden County Commission. But no members were named to the body until four days before the referendum. The authority has no funding and has not yet held a meeting.

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At town hall, Georgia Power customers ask for faster response to climate change

Georgia Power customers demand clean energy better rates at PSC town hall.

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State Senate OKs PSC map that blocks Democrat’s challenge to GOP incumbent

The Georgia Senate passed a redistricting plan Thursday for state regulators who oversee the cost of electricity and other utilities over objections that the plan is designed to protect a sitting commissioner and that the election system has largely kept Black people from winning a seat.

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Coastal home buyers ignore rising flood risks, despite clear warnings, rising insurance premiums

To understand why people are ignoring a risk that could lead to expensive damage and eventually lower their property value, Georgia State researchers talked to hundreds of Florida real estate agents about their clients’ motivations and concerns.

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Mary Landers is a reporter in Coastal Georgia focusing on the environment for The Current. It's a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time...