– April 19, 2023 –

Pinova’s fines

The Pinova plant in Brunswick caught fire on Saturday, forcing some residents to evacuate and others to shelter in place. While investigators are still looking into the cause of the blaze, records show the company has a poor track record in complying with environmental regulations. In particular, Pinova has paid several hefty fines in recent years for Clean Air Act violations, as The Current’s Mary Landers reports.

 “With respect to the facility’s air compliance, the cause of the fire has not yet been identified as noncompliance with their air permit or regulations, although the investigation is ongoing,” EPD spokeswoman Sara Lips told The Current.

Glynn Environmental Coalition Executive Director Rachael Thompson said fines aren’t always effective. “That’s one of the huge problems when it comes to Clean Water Act violations, Clean Air Act violations is companies are more likely to just violate the laws and pay the fines, because it’s cheaper than fixing whatever the problem is.”

Pinova fire smoke spreading just before dark on Saturday. Credit: Ed GaNun

Super trees in Tattnall

Trees have long been eyed as a tool in the fight against climate change. That’s because they remove carbon dioxide from the air and store it as wood. So-called “carbon offsets” take advantage of this natural carbon storage and allow, for example, frequent air travelers to pay for trees to be planted to make up for their share of the carbon emitted into the atmosphere during a flight.

Now, poplar trees that scientists have tinkered with so that they store more carbon than normal are being planted in Tattnall County, GPB’s Grant Blankenship reports. Created by California-based Living Carbon, the poplar saplings are among the first genetically modified forest trees to be commercially planted in the U.S. Tree farmer Vince Stanley expects to be paid both for carbon credits and for the hardwood timber, which should be ready for harvest twice as fast as the normal 50-60 years.

Critics contend the trees could harm the climate by “interfering with efforts to protect and regenerate forests,” The New York Times reports.

As a hedge against the unintended consequences of trees “escaping” into the Tattnall County countryside, the company sells only clonally propagated trees that don’t produce pollen.

This sapling in Georgia’s Tattnall County is one of the first commercially planted genetically modified forest trees in the United States. Credit: Grant Blankenship/GPB News


The Ceylon Wildlife Management Area in Camden County exemplifies the win/win that can result when conservation advocates partner with military installations to protect land, Emily Jones of WABE/Grist reports.

At 27,000 acres, Ceylon is about the size of Ossabaw Island. It’s prized for its longleaf pine, stands of which the Georgia Department of Natural Resources is seeking to nurture and expand. Department of Defense funds helped the state purchase Ceylon, which provides an added buffer for Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay to its south.

Jason Lee of the Georgia Department of Natural Resources looks out on one of the state’s oldest stands of longleaf pine, in the Ceylon Wildlife Management Area near Woodbine. Credit: Emily Jones/WABE, Grist

Swamp makes the list

Citing the threat the threat proposed mining poses to the Okefenokee Swamp, American Rivers included the iconic wetlands on its 2023 list of Most Endangered Rivers, announced Tuesday. Georgia River Network, which nominated the Okefenokee, cites inclusion on the list as more evidence Americans want to protect the swamp. Georgia regulators continue to review the more than 100,000 public comments the state received on Alabama-based Twin Pines Minerals’ plan to strip mine for titanium dioxide just east of the swamp on Trail Ridge.

An alligator rests on a peat blow up in the Okefenokee Credit: Justin Taylor

Also noted:

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency last week announced tougher pollution standards on vehicles, targeting greenhouse gas emissions as well as as smog- and soot-forming pollutants. If finalized, EPA officials say the proposed standards for light, medium and heavy-duty vehicles will fight climate change and improve air quality. They’ll also proposed likely speed the adoption of all-electric cars. Fewer than 6% of vehicles sold nationwide last year were electric. In Georgia, less than 1% of all registered vehicles are EVs. But under the new emissions rules, those numbers could soar to 67 percent of new passenger vehicles sold in the country by 2032, The New York Times reports.

The Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Monday released eight sea turtles they had rehabbed. The six Kemp’s Ridley and two loggerhead sea turtles arrived on Jekyll in November after being rescued in New England where they suffered from cold-stunning. Three more cold-stunned turtles with additional injuries are still recovering on Jekyll.

A rehabbed loggerhead is carried to the water Credit: Jekyll Island Authority

Ogeechee Riverkeeper and the City of Savannah Water Resources Department are partnering to protect the Vernon River. As part of that effort, they are giving away rain barrels from 5-7 p.m. May 4 at Savannah’s Daffin Park in the sandy parking lot behind the stadium. Barrels are limited and will be given away on a first-come, first-served basis. 

If you have feedback, questions, concerns, or just like what you see, let us know at thecurrentga@gmail.com.

Records show Pinova stumbles in complying with regulations

Issues with air quality regulations have resulted over $200,000 in fines for Pinova over the last 12 months.

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Genetically engineered trees in a Georgia forest mark a first in the nation

There’s a new tree in this Tattnall County bottomland forest and it’s no ordinary poplar.

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Military, conservation groups join to transform Ceylon tract

By partnering, the bases here have helped protect more than 150,000 acres in the state and could help Georgia get its first national park. Conservation advocates and military base officials say their counterparts in other states could do more of the same.

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Georgia Power, PSC staff agree on fuel costs rate hike

The commission approved a $1.8 billion rate increase for Georgia Power in December, which raised the average residential customer’s monthly bill by $3.60 effective last Jan. 1. The utility then filed for the fuel costs recovery in February.

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Mary Landers is a reporter for The Current in Coastal Georgia with more than two decades of experience focusing on the environment. Contact her at mary.landers@thecurrentga.org She covered climate and...