– Sept. 7, 2022 –

Savannah digs into climate bill

More than two years ago the Savannah City Council resolved to make the city run on 100% clean energy by mid-century, one of six Georgia municipalities to make such a pledge. The task got a boost last month with the passage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes incentives for cities and counties to install solar panels, make buildings more energy efficient and make communities more resilient in the face of climate change. Mayor Van Johnson is headed to the White House next week to celebrate the bill’s passage but in the meantime he and Alderman Nick Palumbo along with Chatham County Commissioner Aaron “Adot” Whitely discussed what they’re looking forward to accomplishing with the bill’s help, as The Current’s Mary Landers reports.

Solar panel covers the roof of this home near Savannah High School. Credit: Mary Landers/The Current

Worth a look

It’s not only municipalities that are looking into the Inflation Reduction Act to see what’s in it for them. The legislation offers many rebates and tax credits for individuals. How many? Glad you asked. Rewiring America created a calculator that tells you how much your household can save with measures in the IRA. For example, a four-person household in Savannah making $70,000 a year and renting their home is eligible for more than $15,000 in tax credits and upfront discounts. Savings on items including rooftop solar, heat pumps and battery storage mean homeowners stand to reap even greater rewards. Check it out.

Help for small forests

Georgia boasts the greatest land area of any state east of the Mississippi. About two-thirds of that land is forested and more than 91 percent of the forested acres are privately-owned, mostly by family landowners, according to the Georgia Forestry Association. With those stats in mind, a story in “Reasons to be Cheerful” caught our eye. It chronicles how a program run by the American Forest Foundation keeps trees in place by paying small forest owners to leave them alone. The Family Forest Carbon Program is currently enrolling eligible landowners in Maryland, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont and West Virginia.

Programs like this one are likely to expand. Funding available in the Inflation Reduction Act aims to reduce the upfront costs of entering private carbon and environmental markets for forest owners of 2,500 or fewer acres and underserved forest owners, which includes military veterans, beginning forest owners and minority landowners, reports Roll Call.

A longleaf pine forest at Fort Stewart. Credit: Laura Corley/The Current

Palmetto berry poachers

Speaking of forests, the Georgia Forestry Association sent out an update last week about the theft of palmetto berries.

Saw palmetto berries are the fruit of the plant Serenoa repens, which commonly grows in the forests of South Georgia and Florida, including most of Georgia’s coastal counties. The berries, a $150 million global market, are used in supplements that claim to improve prostate health, balance hormone levels, and prevent hair loss in men.

Landowners in 14 southeast Georgia counties have sought help from law enforcement as the berry theft continues, Georgia Forestry Commission reports. Both the Commission and local law enforcement made arrests last month and more are expected as berry season progresses. With most saw palmettos growing naturally, landowners often don’t notice the theft until the forest has been picked clean.

In Georgia during high yield crop season, berry theft has been estimated to cost landowners about $500,000. The berries may be sold in Georgia only when proper documentation procedures are followed.

Saw palmetto berries

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

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