Category Archives: Politics

Notice of SRWMD appeal of Nestle decision, purchase one tract, conservation easement another, Suwannee River, SRWMD Board 2021-04-13

The SRWMD board will decide next Tuesday on a land acquisition and a conservation easement amendment on two different parcels on the Suwannee River.

Plus SRWMD legal counsel was prodded by citizen petitions into filing a notice of appeal of SRWMD’s own Nestlé decision to approve that permit, and the Board now has to agree or do something else.

You can attend in person if you get there early enough to get one of the limited seats, or remotely via the usual GoToWebinar https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/1866408207680852239 and dialin 1-888-585-9008, Conference Room Number: 704-019-452 #. If you want to speak, don’t forget to fill out the public comment form: www.MySuwanneeRiver.com/Comments The board packet is on the WWALS website.

[SRWMD appeals its own Nestle order, acquisition, easement, steps]
SRWMD appeals its own Nestle order, acquisition, easement, steps

Agenda Item No. 14 – Lasky Tract Acquisition, Gilchrist County starts on page 29.

Agenda Item No. 15 – Warner-Harrell Conservation Easement starts on page 35. It’s all so somebody can build at their own expense some steps down to a sinkhole.

In more evidence the attorneys really run SRWMD, legal counsel George T. Reeves filed a notice of appeal of the SRWMD Board’s own decision in the Nestle case, and did it after the last SRWMD Board meeting. This only happened because persons un-named by counsel petitioned the SRWMD board at that last meeting that &ldqou;since Seven Springs did not own or control the Facility, the Renewal Permit should not have been issued.” That is the same reason the SRWMD issued its decision “under protest”. Since the SRWMD Board did not go ahead and file its own notice of appeal, the petitioners plan to appeal to the Division of Administrative Hearings. So SRWMD counsel filed a notice of appeal on behalf of SRWMD so SRWMD could be a party. The Board can agree with that at this meeting, or do what exactly instead is not clear.

On pages 14 and 15 of the board packet: Continue reading

GA-EPD permit process for Twin Pines strip mine too near Okefenokee Swamp 2021-02-08

This fact sheet from a month ago says the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (GA-EPD) will hold “a public meeting” and “Comments will also be accepted at TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov. It’s not clear what they will do with comments if you go ahead and send them to that address. Since any such correspondence would be public record, retrievable via open records request, it would be odd if GA-EPD did not consider those comments in their permit review process.

[GA-EPD Fact Sheet, TPM Mine, and Okefenokee NWR]
GA-EPD Fact Sheet, TPM Mine, and Okefenokee NWR

Checking with GA-EPD this morning, the public hearing is not expected to be scheduled for several months yet, because they’re still waiting for documents that the miners did not previously supply. Plus they are communicating with the Army Corps about documents the Corps received before abdicating responsibility. Apparently the GA-EPD Land Division is taking the lead, perhaps because this is a mining project, near the Okefenokee Swamp, which is the headwaters of the Suwannee River.

It’s good GA-EPD is being thorough, although this last paragraph casts some doubt on that: “ Any additional mining operations not included in the demonstration area will be considered new and unique and will require a new set of permits and a full permitting process.”

[Map: Twin Pines Minerals land and Okefenokee NWR]
Map: Twin Pines Minerals land and Okefenokee NWR
in the WWALS map of the Suwannee River Wilderness Trail and the Okefenokee NWR Canoe Trails.

Sure and if that happens the miners will claim they have sunk costs and they’ll sue if they don’t get further permits. So expansion should be considered along with the original permit applications. And it’s much better to nip this whole thing in the bud.

Here are four of the five permit applications to GA-EPD from Twin Pines Minerals, LLC:
https://wwals.net/2020/11/05/twin-pines-minerals-permit-applications-to-ga-epd/

Since GA-EPD has confirmed they did actually receive an Air Quality permit application, I guess it’s time for me to request that one again.

GA-EPD has a Twin Pines Minerals, LLC web page, whic currently has a link to this one one-page PDF fact sheet.

[Twin Pines Minerals LLC Permitting Fact Sheet]
Twin Pines Minerals LLC Permitting Fact Sheet
PDF


GEORGIA
DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES   
Environmental Protection Division

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC
Permitting Fact Sheet
 

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC has submitted environmental permit applications to the Environmental Protection Division (Division) proposing a demonstration project for mining heavy minerals sands near St. George, Charlton County, Georgia. The northern boundary of the site is located approximately 2.9 miles southeast from the nearest boundary of the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.

How many permit applications have been submitted?

Twin Pines Minerals, LLC has applied for environmental permits from all branches of the Environmental Protection Division (Division). These permits are the same as those that may be required for any surface mine: NPDES Industrial Stormwater, NPDES Industrial Wastewater, Groundwater Withdrawal, Air Quality, and Surface Mining Permit. The Division is early in the process of conducting a thorough review of each of the applications received.

How will the Division ensure the Okefenokee is being protected?

The Surface Mining Land Use Plan (MLUP) will require an addendum detailing the environmental provisions for protection of the environment and resources of the State. Once this environmental provision addendum is received, the Division will conduct an initial review and ensure it is complete and adequate, with a focus on how the project’s proximity to the National Wildlife Refuge may impact the area’s groundwater hydrology.

Will public be able to provide comments?

Yes. After the Division has reviewed the MLUP and the environmental provisions addendum, a public meeting will be held to receive comments on these documents and to provide an update on the permitting process. Comments will also be accepted at TwinPines.Comment@dnr.ga.gov. We will then consider all public comments and request the applicant make any necessary changes to address those comments. Please note, the Division may be unable to respond individually to each comment received. However, we will post a collective response to comments on our website after the official comment period closes.

Once the MLUP and the environmental provisions addendum are finalized, the Division will proceed with the draft permit process, including a public notice and comment period on the Surface Mining permit as well as any additional public comment periods required for the other permits. These permits are for the proposed 740-acre demonstration mining area.

Will the mine be able to expand after it is permitted?

Any additional mining operations not included in the demonstration area will be considered new and unique and will require a new set of permits and a full permitting process.

February 8, 2021


 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Florida needs water quality testing and sign posting

Florida needs to test our rivers all the way to the Gulf, several times every week, instead of depending on Madison County and the city of Valdosta and WWALS.

Jim Tatum caught me and Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson collaborating, probably about getting FDEP to do the DNA marker and chemical tracer tests that have been instrumental in showing most of the recent Withlacoochee River contamination has come from ruminants, of which the most numerous are cattle.

Photo: Jim Tatum, Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman and OSFR Founder Merillee Malwitz-Jipson
Photo: Jim Tatum

Calusa Riverkeeper John Cassani knows I bring up the need for statewide Florida testing at almost every weekly Waterkeepers Florida meeting, after he mentions testing where he is.

Jim Tatum, Our Santa Fe River, Guest opinion: Floridians have the right to know if our waters are safe, Continue reading

Fossil fuel forever bills in Georgia and Florida legislatures

Do these bills sound just as bad? You can help stop them, including in a committee meeting this morning.

A BILL to be entitled an Act to amend Title 46 of the Official Code of Georgia Annotated, relating to public utilities and public transportation, so as to prohibit governmental entities from adopting any policy that prohibits the connection or reconnection of any utility service based upon the type or source of energy or fuel; to provide for related matters; to provide for an effective date; to repeal conflicting laws; and for other purposes. —GA SB 102

Mirrored across the GA-FL line:

Preemption on Restriction of Utility Services; Prohibiting municipalities, counties, special districts, or other political subdivisions from enacting or enforcing provisions or taking actions that restrict or prohibit the types or fuel sources of energy production which may be used, delivered, converted, or supplied to customers by specified entities; providing for preemption; providing for retroactive application, etc. —FL SB 1128

The words have been stirred, but the bills are essentially the same. Except the Florida bill goes for full unconstitutional ex post facto law with “providing for retroactive application”.

This stuff stinks of ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange, the private shadow government in which industry representatives and state legislators vote together on model bills that the state reps take back and try to pass. If they succeed, they become ALEC alumnae. ALEC or not, they’re bad bills that should not pass.

GA SB 102 has already been voted out of committee in the Georgia Senate, and its equivalent already passed the Georgia House.

FL SB 1128 is scheduled this morning at 9AM, March 16, 2021, for its second committee, Community Affairs, 03/16/21, 9:00 am, 37 Senate Building.

In the same committee meeting this morning is another of these:

State Preemption of Transportation Energy Infrastructure Regulations; Preempting the regulation of transportation energy infrastructure to the state; prohibiting a local government from taking specified actions relating to the regulation of transportation energy infrastructure, etc. —SB 856: State Preemption of Transportation Energy Infrastructure Regulations

Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, Sabal Trail pipeline drilling at night 2016-12-02
Photo: Gretchen Quarterman, Sabal Trail pipeline drill site near Withlacoochee River in Georgia 2016-12-02.

The Florida bills seems to have inadvertently missed listing Liquified Natural Gas (LNG), possibly because their authors thought “petroleum products” covered that (it doesn’t). Not to worry: “but is not limited to.”

Also, this is not just about directly passing an ordinance against fossil fuels, which most local governments already knew wouldn’t work. SB 856 would create Florida Statutes Section 377.707, with (1)(b):

Amending its comprehensive plan, Continue reading

Capitol Conservation Day 2021-03-03

No need to trek to Atlanta this year to show Georgia state legislators that many people and organizations throughout the state care about water. Capitol Conservation Day is online, this Wednesday, March 3, 2021.

When: 12-1:30 PM, Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Where: Online: register here
https://nwf-org.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJAodumqpzgsHtNgHr3nLG6rX7m4gw_7fY_f

Event: facebook
Don’t forget to register, then you can click Going on the facebook event to encourage others.

What: Experts from the Georgia Water Coalition will brief you on important legislative issues. Then you will put your new skills and information to work! Following the event, meet with your local legislators virtually to advocate in support of important legislation.

[2019 and 2020]
2019 and 2020

 -jsq, John S. Quarterman, Suwannee RIVERKEEPER®

You can join this fun and work by becoming a WWALS member today!

Tonight Columbia BOCC can stop Niagara from bottling water 2020-01-07

Tonight at 5:30 PM the Columbia BOCC will vote on a water bottling operation by Niagara Bottling that has already been rejected by the Columbia County, Florida, Economic Advisory Board. The Board of County Commissioners makes the actual decision.

Especially if you live in Columbia County, please attend or send them email or call them. We don’t need more plastic bottles to clean up and we don’t need more drawdown of the aquifer and rivers. See the letter below by Merrillee Malwitz-Jipson for much more on what and why.

Besides, the demands Niagara makes sound like private prison company demands to have a certain number of prisoners or else penalties. For example:

Phase 1 water obligations of 650,000 gallons per day by Lake City to provide water is only relieved after Columbia County receives a non-appealable water use permit authorization sufficient to meet company’s water requirements at build out of 2,860,00 gallons per day of potable water and Columbia County has all water infrastructure completed and can independently serve the company.

The purpose of a county government is not to serve a private company from somewhere else.

See also background news stories by Stew Lilker, Columbia County Observer:

The word “potential” is important: just because a company promises jobs doesn’t mean they would actually appear. And if water bottling companies and phosphate mines and agriculture keep draining the aquifer, what jobs will be left?

Letter by Merrilee Malwitz-Jipson to Columbia BOCC


November 6, 2021

Good Evening Gentlemen,

I am a resident of Columbia County. I identify with and volunteer for a citizen based organization named Our Santa Fe River which opposes bottled water businesses in our region in order to protect our freshwater springs, rivers and public water supplies found in wells and municipality service systems.

Tomorrow night, Columbia County (FL) Board of County Commission meeting will be discussing and possibly voting on the Belle Project (Niagara water bottling plant proposal).

Thursday, January 7, 2021 at 5:30 P.M.
School Board Administrative Complex
372 West Duval Street

Regular scheduled meeting Agenda: Continue reading

Okefenokee news in the Georgia runoff elections 2020-12-29

The mine and the Swamp and the Georgia U.S. Senate runoffs are in the news, in the Albany Herald, the Saporta Report, and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, plus my op-ed last week in the Valdosta Daily Times.

You can also contact the governor, the runoff candidates, and other elected officials:
https://wwals.net/?p=54109#howtocomment

For why, see the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen.

[Mine, Swamp, River, Bird]
Mine, Swamp, River, Bird

So far, the only statement we’ve seen from any Georgia runoff candidate is in the AJC article:

Jenni Sweat, a spokeswoman for Perdue, said the office received regular updates on the Twin Pines project as they do with many other Corps projects. “This presents an economic development opportunity in rural Southeast Georgia that local officials support, and our office has monitored its status through the federal and state regulatory process,” said Sweat in a statement.

Let’s also hear from the other U.S. Senate candidates, Jon Ossoff, Kelly Loeffler, and Raphael Warnock. And let’s hear from candidates for Public Service Commission, Daniel Blackman, and Lauren Bubba McDonald. If nothing else, the miners will probably want more electric power for their mine site, so that makes it a PSC issue, too.

Albany Herald

Staff reports, Albany Herald, 29 December 2020, Environmental groups ask governor to stop mine near Okefenokee,

HAHIRA — Environmental groups, including the Suwannee Riverkeeper and the WWALS Watershed Coalition, have sent a letter to Gov. Brian Kemp asking him to stop the proposed titanium strip mine from being allowed within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp in south Georgia and north Florida.

The letter, which lays out evidence to support the groups’ request, states: Continue reading

Protecting our waters from a strip mine –Suwannee Riverkeeper in Valdosta Daily Times 2020-12-23

“Dear runoff candidates: What will you do to stop this proposed strip mine far too near the Okefenokee Swamp?”

You can also ask that question of those candidates and of the Georgia governor and other elected officials:
https://wwals.net/?p=54109#howtocomment

[Dateline, Op-ed]
Dateline, Op-ed

The op-ed in the Valdosta Daily Times of December 23, 2020, was slightly shortened. Below is what I sent, including links to references.

A company from Alabama, Twin Pines Minerals LLC, proposes to strip-mine for titanium dioxide for paint within a few miles of the Okefenokee Swamp. Twin Pines is under a Florida Consent Order for titanium mines in north Florida. Its president was a proponent of the Franklin County, Georgia, biomass plant that caused a massive fish kill. The state had to pass a law to stop it from burning railroad ties. https://wwals.net/?p=53931

The miners have promised jobs, from 150 to 300, with no specifics. And at what cost?

A sign at I-75 Exit 16 for Valdosta says: “Okefenokee Swamp… 62 Miles.” The Swamp is an internationally-known treasure that Continue reading

Victory on Georgia Constitutional Amendment 1, and more voting for clean water

Voters in every county in Georgia approved Amendment 1, to dedicate state fees and taxes to their stated purposes. The statewide victory was 81.6%.

There is more work to do, to get the legislature to use this new law to stop taxes from being diverted to the general fund, so for example counties and cities can get more grants for tire amnesties. But now the mechanism is available.

That wasn’t the only good referendum news, and there is more voting for clean water to do.

[Victory: 82%]
Victory: 82%
Special thanks to the Suwannee River Basin cities of Adel, Hahira, and Valdosta, Atkinson, Lanier, and Lowndes Counties, for passing resolutions in support.
See also previous blog post.

The other good clean water news is that Amendment 2 passed with 74.5% Yes, also passing in every county. That’s HR 1023: people may petition for declaratory relief from certain acts of this state or certain local governments or officers or employees.

Dave Williams, Capitol Beat News Service, 4 November 2020, Georgia voters pass three ballot questions by wide margins,

The sovereign immunity amendment stems from a 2014 Georgia Supreme Court decision that essentially granted the state blanket immunity from citizen lawsuits in a case brought by the Center for a Sustainable Coast. The group had filed suit alleging the state Department of Natural Resources was illegally allowing alterations to private property in fragile coastal wetland areas protected by state law.

So that’s two victories for clean water by the people of the state of Georgia.

More voting for clean water to do

As everyone probably knows, there are Georgia runoff elections on January 5, 2021, with the usual early voting and absentee ballots. Both Georgia U.S. Senate seats are in the runoff.

A Public Service Commission runoff that was scheduled earlier will also be on January 5, 2021. WWALS has long advocated for GA-PSC to make responsible decisions on power plants and pipelines that affect all our waters, from water levels to coal ash to mercury.

Once again, we urge you to vote for clean water.

As an IRS 501(c)(3) nonprofit educational charity, WWALS cannot Continue reading

Help Georgia stop titanium mine threatening Okefenokee Swamp –Dirty Dozen 2020, Georgia Water Coalition 2020-11-17

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Hahira, Georgia, November 17, 2020 — Once again, the Okefenokee Swamp features in the Georgia Water Coalition Dirty Dozen, “the worst offenses to Georgia’s water.” The Swamp and the Suwannee and St. Marys Rivers and the Floridan Aquifer are still threatened by a strip mine, but this time only Georgia can stop it, with your help.

[Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site]
Great Blue Heron, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, TPM mine site

Contact: This Okefenokee item was submitted by Suwannee Riverkeeper John S. Quarterman (229-242-0102, contact@suwanneeriverkeeper.org) and Georgia River Network Executive Director Rena Ann Peck, (404-395-6250, rena@garivers.org).

They also recently observed the mine site that threatens our ecosystems and drinking water for private profit. [TPM mine site with ONWR on left]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, TPM mine site with ONWR on left

They met again that same weekend on the Suwannee River in the Okefenokee Swamp with forty paddlers, experiencing the fragile natural beauty that makes the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge a great economic benefit to both Georgia and Florida.

[Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07]
Photo: John S. Quarterman, Great Blue Heron flying, Suwannee River, Okefenokee Swamp, 2019-12-07

The entire text of the Okefenokee Dirty Dozen item is below. Also below is how you can help.

This year’s Dirty Dozen report includes the following: Continue reading