Clarification added Jan. 11: U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff sponsored the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock was a co-sponsor.

$12 million and counting

In a landslide referendum result in March, Camden County voters rejected the idea of building a commercial spaceport. Despite that big thumbs down from voters, and in part because of it, the tax money keeps flowing for the spaceport. That’s because the county is embroiled in four spaceport-related lawsuits, with outside attorneys representing Camden in each. A new commissioner who ran on an anti-spaceport platform is now leading the charge to cut off spaceport spending, which already tops $12 million. Commissioner Jim Goodman’s first two failed attempts at shutting off the funding came within hours of his swearing in, The Current’s Mary Landers reports. Goodman, a 75-year-old retired hospital administrator and former St. Mary’s council member, says he relishes a good political fight and vowed to bring up the spending issue every commission meeting.

Spaceport site
Potential site of Spaceport Camden Credit: Spaceport Camden

Stories to expect in 2023

It’s a pretty safe bet that the completion of two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle this year will make headlines in Georgia, both for their positive effect on the state’s carbon footprint and for their negative effect on customers’ pocketbooks. WABE’s Molly Samuel and Emily Jones name Vogtle as one of the top five environmental stories to watch this year. Others include the fate of mining near the Okefenokee, the expansion of the state’s electric vehicle charging network, the emergence of Georgia-focused climate solutions, and the distribution of green funds from the bipartisan infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Those federal funds are already coming to fruition in Georgia with the announcement this morning of solar manufacturer Qcells bringing 2,500 green jobs to Georgia with a $2.5 billion facility in Bartow County north of Atlanta.

“This announcement comes after months of close collaboration with Qcells, Senate Leadership, and the Administration to make the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act a reality,” U.S. Senator Raphael Warnock said in a press release. Warnock co-sponsored the solar bill introduced by fellow Georgia U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff. It was shepherded it into law as part of the Inflation Reduction Act

The new plant is unlikely to increase rooftop solar adoption in Georgia. The company focuses on utility-scale solar developments and storage.

The behemoth economic development projects that are Rivian and Hyundai could make lawmakers more EV friendly, though, as Capitol Beat’s Dave Williams reports. Georgia lawmakers have already signaled their interest in EV charging stations with a legislative study committee that wrapped up in November. But Georgia’s economic wins in EV manufacturing haven’t yet translated to other consumer-friendly EV policy. The state’s $5000 tax credit for an EV purchase was eliminated in 2015 at the same time lawmakers imposed a yearly road tax on electric vehicles. Currently $214/year, it’s among the highest such taxes nationwide.

A solar farm. Credit: Zbynek Burival/Unsplash

Whale calf dies

One of the nine or more north Atlantic right whale calves born so far in the Southeast this calving season has died. Researchers reported finding the male calf dead under the Morehead, N.C., city port pier on Saturday after seeing it swimming alone for several days. The calf’s mother has not been located.

“Based on images and video, experts estimated the male calf to be no more than a couple of weeks old,” NOAA Fisheries reported online. “They suggested the animal appeared to be underweight and in relatively poor health. Newborn calves cannot survive long without their mothers. There are very few intervention options available to the stranding network given the size of the animals and their specialized needs.”

The math for these highly endangered animals is unforgiving. About 350 individuals make up the population. NOAA researchers consider 20 newborns to be a relatively relatively good year given the number of adult females. But 50 or more calves are needed annually to stop the population’s decline and allow it to recover.

dead right whale calf
The lone right whale calf swims underneath the Morehead City port pier. In this photo, the calf is trapped between two oyster-covered pillars under the pier. The tip of its head is visible above the water line and the rest of its body is submerged. Credit: Jay W. Boone

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Spaceport project in limbo but spending continues

Despite new leadership in Camden County spending continues on spaceport’s legal battles.

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5 Georgia environmental storylines to watch in 2023

What to expect in green news in Georgia this year.

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Expect delays: Slow start expected for Georgia legislature

The General Assembly will take up an agenda likely to include mental health, public safety, tax policy, education funding, electric vehicles, and the perennial debate over legalizing gambling.

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Right whales calving off to good start

A whale named Derecha adds to a early season baby boom.

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General Assembly to renew debate over mining near the Okefenokee

A South Georgia lawmaker is preparing again to stop an Alabama-based company from mining titanium near the Okefenokee Swamp.

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Support non-partisan, solutions-based investigative journalism without bias, fear or favor on issues affecting Savannah and Coastal Georgia.


Mary Landers covers Coastal Georgia’s environment for The Current, a topic she covered for nearly 24 years at the Savannah Morning News, where she began and ended her time there writing about health,...