– Jan. 18, 2023 –

Clarification: An item in last week’s newsletter about the QCells solar factory failed to note that U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff sponsored the Solar Energy Manufacturing for America Act. U.S. Sen. Raphael Warnock was a co-sponsor.

Vogtle misses another goal

The infamously delayed and over budget nuclear expansion at Plant Vogtle got more delayed and more costly with a recent failed test on one of its two new units. Add about two months to the timeline and $30 million to the $30-billion-plus tab.

Georgia Power reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission on Jan. 11 that “during the start-up and pre-operational testing for Plant Vogtle Unit 3, Southern Nuclear Operating Company, Inc. identified, and is in the process of remediating, vibrations associated with certain piping within the cooling system.” Georgia Power now predicts Unit 3 will be placed in service in April. Unit 4 is expected to be completed later this year.

The company expects this delay to add up to $15 million a month to the project’s capital cost.

Vogtle 3 containment Credit: Georgia Power

Unblocked on social media

Speaking of the Public Service Commission, Commissioner Tim Echols unblocked his political rival Democrat Patty Durand on Twitter and Facebook after she filed suit against him in District Court in North Georgia for violating her right to free speech.

Echols also committed to not delete any comments on his social media pages based on the viewpoint expressed. With these concessions, Durand dropped her request for a preliminary injunction. Durand is still seeking damages and legal fees.

In a similar case involving a former state legislator, a federal judge ordered Vernon Jones to pay $45,652 in damages and $37,652 in costs and legal fees after he blocked a constituent on his Facebook page, the AJC reported Tuesday. 

Durand was vying for Echols’ seat on the PSC before the election was postponed by an unrelated voting rights lawsuit. The vote has yet to be rescheduled, so Echols is beginning the seventh year of his six-year term.

composite echols durand

Cooking with gas

New skirmishes broke out in the culture wars last week after the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission indicated it was looking into the regulations around gas stoves. The commission chair issued a statement clarifying the plans: “Research indicates that emissions from gas stoves can be hazardous, and the CPSC is looking for ways to reduce related indoor air quality hazards.  But to be clear, I am not looking to ban gas stoves and the CPSC has no proceeding to do so.”

Georgia is among 21 states that have adopted preemption laws that ban the banning of natural gas service to homes or businesses. The preemption law could make it harder for cities like Savannah to achieve their ambitious 100% clean energy goals.

Natural gas, also called fossil gas, is mostly methane. It’s relatively clean burning but is a potent greenhouse gas when it leaks from pipes and gas plants. While Chatham’s Elba Island liquefied natural gas import/export terminal is one of only five such facilities in the U.S., relatively few Coastal Georgia homes rely on natural gas for heating and cooking.

Nationwide 38% of homes rely on utility gas for cooking according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. That number is about the same for Georgia, but lower in coastal counties. The EIA doesn’t break down gas cooking at the county level but the U.S. Census Bureau shows gas heating varies from just 2.5% of homes in McIntosh to a high of 27.5% in Chatham.

Photo by KWON JUNHO on Unsplash

Briefly noted:

A right whale named  “Spindle,” who’s at least 41 years old, was spotted Jan. 7 off St. Catherines with her 10th known calf. That makes her the most prolific mom known among the critically endangered species. But in a sad reminder of the threats to right whales, researchers also recently spotted Spindle’s four-year-old unnamed daughter badly entangled in fishing gear off North Carolina. The juvenile isn’t expected to survive.  

Spindle and newborn. Clearwater Marine Aquarium Research Institute, taken under NOAA permit 20556.

Savannah city officials gathered at the Bacon Park Transfer Center Wednesday to celebrate a new dumpster. With “You Stay Glassy Savannah” painted on the side, the collection bin heralds the long-awaited restart of municipal glass recycling in the city. It’s drop-off only, with 12-15 dumpsters planned for locations around the city. The Upcycling Company in Beaufort will recycle the glass into a pumice-like material that can be used for water filtration or as an aggregate for lighter weight concrete. Current drop-off spots include Bacon Park Transfer Station, 6400 Skidaway Road; and the Dean Forest Landfill, 1327 Dean Forest Road.

glass recycling
Glass recycling collection container at Bacon Park Transfer Station in Savannah. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Rest in peace, Okefenokee Joe, aka Dick Flood. The singer-songwriter who educated thousands of Georgia schoolchildren about the Okefenokee Swamp died in early January at age 90. His Emmy Award winning GPB-TV documentary Swampwise is available on Youtube.

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

Georgia Power completes key testing milestone at Plant Vogtle

The two reactors were originally expected to go into service in 2016 and 2017, respectively. But the work was delayed by the bankruptcy of Westinghouse Electric, the original prime contractor on the project, as well as pandemic-related disruptions to the construction workforce.

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An elected Georgia energy regulator blocked her; now she’s suing

A complaint filed Tuesday in federal district court idetails how PDC member Tim Echols blocked candidate for his post from his Twitter, Facebook feeds after she tweeted criticism of Echols’ failed attempt to pass any of about a dozen changes to Georgia Power’s long-term plan.

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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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Company helps Coastal Georgia upcycle old bottles, jars to new uses

Glass is again being diverted from landfills in coastal Georgia after a hiatus in curbside glass recycling

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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...