Editor’s note: The Climate Reality Project’s rally will be held on Friday, March 3 in Daffin Park in Savannah. The original notice gave the wrong day of the week.
March 1, 2023
Georgia regulators held two online meetings last week to give the public a chance to comment on Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals’ plans to strip mine near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge. More than 1,000 people attended virtually and hundreds of them pleaded with state officials to stop the mining. Only one commenter, a representative of the Georgia Mining Association, spoke in favor of the mine.
“The idea that the EPD is even considering such an application boggles my mind,” Gibson said. “It is a betrayal of their very existence to consider such an ecological disaster. . . . Mining in any way that would endanger the Okefenokee swamp, in my mind, is a mistake that cannot be fixed.”
An essay in the New York Times Monday amplified the anti-mine drumbeat, urging readers to add their comments to the swell of support for the swamp, noting that commenters need not be Georgia residents. The comment period closes March 20.
In the Georgia General Assembly, the proposed Okefenokee Protection Act has garnered more than 50 bipartisan co-sponsors. If enacted the legislation would prevent future mining on Trail Ridge, the ancient dune system that forms a natural dam for the swamp. It exempts Twin Pines’ first stage of mining, for which the permitting is already underway. The bill appears stalled in the Natural Resources Committee, but WABE’s Emily Jones reported that an assistant for the committee’s chair, Republican Rep. Lynn Smith, assured her last week the bill would receive a hearing.
Meanwhile, HB436 would raise the fine for violations of the Surface Mining Act from $1,000 to $10,000. Fines could be levied on anyone who “willfully gives false information in any application or report.”
Twin Pines’ initial mining application to the Georgia EPD incorrectly stated that the company owned or controlled land that it did not. EPD allowed a do-over with no penalty. Okefenokee advocates view the bill as too little too late, though it also had not made it out of committee as of Tuesday.
Chatham pursues Green Island
Chatham County could soon be adding an island to its list of county parks.
The Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program awarded the county a $3 million grant toward the purchase of Green Island, state Rep. Jesse Petrea (R-Savannah) announced last week.
The 400-plus acres of high ground plus salt marsh sits just south of The Landings, a gated community on Skidaway Island. Although it’s accessible only by boat, Petrea envisions Green Island as a place for Chatham residents to picnic, hike and enjoy nature. Chatham County still has to come up with matching funds and an agreement on the price from the longtime owners, Savannah’s Lewis family, as The Current’s Mary Landers reports.
The Georgia Public Service Commission will be tapped to regulate rooftop solar installers if House Bill 73 is approved, reports Stanley Dunlap of the Georgia Recorder. The bill stems from complaints made to lawmakers and PSC commissioners about unscrupulous solar installers who overpromise on the benefits of the technology and downplay its limits.
It would require solar companies to demonstrate their financial soundness to the PSC and provide customers details in writing of the costs of the panels and the associated labor, as well as a clear picture of the estimated savings on their electric bill.
While many solar installers welcome the help in policing the rogue players in their ranks, they’re not convinced the PSC is the best fit for the job. The commission’s policies have promoted utility scale solar but held back the expansion of rooftop solar. Its online “Consumer Solar Information Portal” isn’t kept current or Georgia-specific, with at least one link to a pamphlet funded by a trade group for investor-owned utilities and another link from a commissioner who quit his elected position in 2018.
Mark Woodall, conservation chair of Sierra Club Georgia, suggested the attorney general’s consumer protection division is better suited to take action.
“Georgia is one of the worst states in the United States for rooftop solar. That’s because of Georgia Power and the PSC,” Woodall said.
The Climate Reality Project of Coastal Georgia is hosting a Climate Protection Rally from noon-1:30 p.m. Friday, March 3 in Savannah’s Daffin Park.
The goal is to urge the state government to adopt a climate action plan so that Georgia can more readily access Inflation Reduction Act funds and other federal monies to address energy and climate issues in the Peach State.
Scan the QR code below to answer a short quiz from the nonprofit Climate Reality Project, which educates and advocates about climate change caused by the burning of fossil fuels.
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‘Stop this incursion’: Proposed mine near Okefenokee Swamp draws fierce opposition in public hearing
The virtual public meeting was held by the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, as the agency considers a plan from the Alabama-based company to mine titanium dioxide close to the Okefenokee Swamp and National Wildlife Refuge.
As part of the application process, businesses will have to provide financial disclosures, conduct background checks on employees and contractors who will be going out to homes and businesses and ensure that information about the companies is easily accessible to the public.
Environment and energy advocates expressed disappointment Thursday that commissioners didn’t press Georgia Power to act more urgently to mitigate climate change.
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