– January 24th, 2023 –
Okefenokee at a crossroads
Georgia regulators are moving forward with the permitting of a controversial strip mine near the Okefenokee even as they’re looking into a problem with how the mining company collected its data. (See the full story here.)
Twin Pines Minerals drilled 385 boreholes to help figure out how water will flow as the area is strip mined for titanium dioxide. But the company failed to get the required state licensing for its geologist before drilling began. Documents obtained by The Current indicate the Georgia Environmental Protection Division is considering a fine. In the meantime, however, the clock is ticking on a 60-day public comment period for the mine’s land use plan, issued last week.
The boreholes aren’t Twin Pines’ first regulatory hiccup. The Alabama-based company previously applied for federal and state permits to mine on land it didn’t own, and it didn’t back off until the true property owner spoke up. While Twin Pines hasn’t previously mined in Georgia, it’s been cited for breaking mining rules in Florida. Company executives have ties to Georgia Renewable Power and Drummond Coal, both companies with stained environmental records.
Legislation to protect the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge from future mining efforts is again making its way through the Georgia General Assembly. House Bill 71, “The Okefenokee Protection Act,” was filed Tuesday with a bipartisan mix of 33 sponsors. Compared to last year’s failed version of the bill, this one shrinks the geographic region where mining is prohibited. The bill would not affect Twin Pines’ current permit applications.
Spring has sprung
Climate change is shifting the timing of the growth and behavior of plants and animals each season. Scientists call the study of this natural calendar “phenology.” And the folks at the Arizona-based USA-National Phenology Network keep track of when spring arrives by looking for the leaf out of lilacs and honeysuckles, which are among the first plants to show their new leaves. In Coastal Georgia this year, spring leaf out is running about a week ahead of the most recent 30-year average, Director Theresa Crimmins said in a phone interview with The Current.
Spring is up to three weeks earlier than average (the period of 1991-2020) in parts of Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina. Check out the USA-National Phenology Network here.
Georgia fights bees’ disease
Pollinators are having a tough time lately. But Georgia beekeepers are helping to test out a new vaccine — the first ever vaccine for honeybees — that promises to protect them against a serious bacterial disease called American Foulbrood, as WABE/Grist’ Emily Jones reports. If you’re picturing a teeny syringe, stop. It doesn’t work that way. It’s an oral vaccine that beekeepers feed to the queen bees, which they then pass along to their eggs. The University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) and Dalan Animal Health have teamed up to do field tests.
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Despite ongoing investigation and scientific disputes, a plan for strip mine near Okefenokee advances
While weighing fines for the mining company, state regulators open a comment period on its controversial plan to strip mine near the Okefenokee.
Georgia beekeepers field test a honeybee vaccine.
A South Georgia lawmaker is preparing again to stop an Alabama-based company from mining titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp.
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