Goodbye hurricane season
Today marks the last day of the 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season. As the map below indicates, it’s going out with a welcome whimper. Coastal Georgia didn’t escape entirely unscathed this year, however. Hurricane Ian threatened then missed Georgia but Tropical Storm Nicole flooded some vulnerable buildings in St. Marys and closed coastal roads from Camden to Chatham earlier this month.
Unless December brings unusual out-of-season tropical activity, the year will end with 14 named storms, eight of them hurricanes, two of those major. Hurricanes Fiona and Ian were both Category 4 storms. That’s pretty close to NOAA’s late May prediction of 14 to 21 named storms, 6 to 10 of them hurricanes, 3 to 6 of them major hurricanes.
Public Service Commissions explained
A new report from the Chisholm Legacy Project aims to demystify Public Service Commissions around the country, including Georgia’s. The PSC, called the Public Utility Commission in some states, makes key decisions about energy resources including how much consumers pay in electricity bills, how energy is produced, and whether new energy production facilities are approved. The report finds that nationally two out of three commissioners are men, 82% of commissioners identify as white, and 24 states have PSCs that are all white. Georgia’s five-member panel includes one woman, three white men and one Black man. That representation, or lack of it, matters, the report authors argue.
“This persistent lack of representation of historically underrepresented populations on the Georgia PSC remains a significant problem for energy equity,” they write. Earlier this year the U.S. Supreme Court upheld a federal court ruling that Georgia’s PSC elections constituted illegal discrimination against Black people and violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act by diluting the votes of Black voters. State lawmakers are expected to address the issue in the upcoming session. In the meantime, the PSC continues to operate, including an upcoming Dec. 20 vote that could raise Georgia Power bills up to 12%, as Stanley Dunlap of The Georgia Recorder reports.
Clean Water Act gets results on a dirty dozen
The Georgia Water Coalition released an unusually upbeat version of its annual “Dirty Dozen” report Tuesday. In honor of the 50th anniversary of the federal Clean Water Act, this year’s report focuses not on what’s wrong with Georgia’s waterways, but on the legal successes that have improved them. Three of the highlighted legal challenges focus on the Ogeechee and its largest tributary, the Canoochee, blackwater rivers that merge and flow into Ossabaw Sound. The lawsuits include the 2000 Burkhalter v. Claxton Poultry Farms case in which citizens downstream of a Claxton chicken processing plant forced the facility to deslime the waterway by upgrading its waste management. In 2006 the Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers suit helped save a stand of 100-year-old cypress trees on a Bulloch County lake. In 2011, Ogeechee-Canoochee Riverkeeper v. King America Finishing resulted in nearly $6 million in investments to protect the river after a major fish kill.
Whales on the way
December is typically when endangered North Atlantic right whales return from Canada and New England to the waters off Georgia to give birth. The southernmost location of right whales recorded so far this season is near the North Carolina/Virginia line, as shown in the map. NOAA advises all vessel operators, even recreational ones, to be on the lookout for these animals, which now number fewer than 350. Vessels 65 feet and longer are required to abide by seasonal speed restrictions from as early as Nov. 1 to April 15 in areas important to the whales in the Southeast. Proposed changes would expand mandatory speed restrictions to include vessels 35 to 65 feet long and broaden the zones, but both the Georgia Ports Authority and some recreational boaters oppose the change. NOAA is currently analyzing comments made on its proposed rule.
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