– April 26, 2023 –
Spaceport juror speaks
When Camden resident Christopher Walker found himself on a grand jury late last year he discovered the panel could investigate county activities, including Spaceport Camden. Walker, who worked in IT, considers himself civic minded but he’d not taken a stand either way on the county’s $12 million effort to launch rockets. It did rub him the wrong way, though, that county officials zealously guarded documents he thought should be public.
“It was literally like having two giant haystacks and we didn’t even know if there were any needles in there,” Walker said. “But we were digging anyway.”
In its April 3 presentment wrapping up its work, the outgoing grand jury recommended the incoming grand jury continue the spaceport inquiry, but it’s unclear yet if they will.
Higher electric bills
Georgia Power customers in the Savannah and Brunswick areas are bracing for a $17-23/month increase in their bills, reports Stanley Dunlap of the Georgia Recorder. The utility recently asked the Georgia Public Service Commission to allow an increase in the fuel cost recovery portion of customer bills to recoup an additional $2.1 billion it had to pay — mainly for natural gas — to run its power plants over the last few years. Georgia law gives power companies the legal right to recover these costs.
The regulations that allow utilities to pass 100% of fuel costs on to customers have been in place since the 1970s, as the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy discusses in a recent blog. SACE argues it doesn’t have to stay way. Experts hired by SACE and the Sierra Club suggest increasing renewable energy and energy efficiency could limit the impact of volatile fuel prices. Changing the regulation to allow a small portion, 10% or so, of increased fuel cost to be borne by the utility would give it incentive to be efficient, they argue. A hearing on this issue in front of the PSC will begin May 2, and a decision by the PSC is expected by the end of May.
Gas and oil were the largest portion of Georgia Power’s fuel mix in 2021, accounting for 47% of its power plant production. Along with an unstable price, natural gas also exacts a high cost on the planet. Mostly methane, it’s relatively clean burning, but when it leaks from wells, pipelines, power plants and homes it’s a potent greenhouse gas that exacerbates climate change.
Horses file suit
It’s not every day you see horses suing the federal government and the state of Georgia. But the “Horses of Cumberland Island” are the first plaintiffs named in a complaint filed earlier this month in U.S. District Court in Atlanta. With assistance from two nonprofit equine advocacy groups plus Cumberland resident Carol Ruckdeschel and author Will Harlan, who once lived on Cumberland and wrote a best seller about Ruckdeschel, the horses are suing for humane treatment. Currently the 140-170 horses at the Cumberland Island National Seashore live short, difficult lives scraping a living from an island for which they’re ill-suited. They don’t do the native species any favors, either. Horses trample the marshes, threaten nesting sea turtles and shorebirds, and foul wetlands with their waste.
Despite Americans’ affinity for horses and their iconic role in the American West, horses are native to Central Asia, not North America. “The present population descended from a train carload of mustangs from Arizona brought over by the Carnegies in the 1920s,” Ruckdeschel wrote in an email to The Current.
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The grand juror who spearheaded an investigation of Spaceport Camden explains what he faced looking into the failed $12 million project
Clean energy advocates and consumer watchdogs are worried about the financial blow to Georgia Power ratepayers who continue to spend significantly more on utilities as part of a three-year electricity rate hike, for toxic coal ash cleanup and for the Plant Vogtle nuclear plant expansion that will take decades to pay off.
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