Things have a tendency to change quickly in the effort to pursue Trump administration policy on offshore drilling. On Thursday, Green Scene of Coastal Georgia hosted a small talk by the Glynn Environmental Coalition and One Hundred Miles on what’s going on and what the stakes are regarding drilling off the Georgia coast.
There are steps to the process, the first of which is done — five companies obtained incidental harassment authorizations that allow them to unintentionally “harass, hunt, capture or kill” or attempt to do the same to what’s considered by the federal government small numbers of marine mammals.
The second step is to obtain authorization to conduct seismic testing. One concern is a 2017 study indicated seismic airgun operations lead to the deterioration of zooplankton populations, which causes a problematic ripple effect upward through the food chain.
“But some of the biggest impacts that we’re really concerned about are to the North Atlantic right whale,” Alice Keyes, One Hundred Miles vice president for coastal conservation, said at the event held at Ocean Lodge on St. Simons Island. “Whales — we always have a heart for whales — and you just can’t get around the fact that these gentle beast are threatened by seismic testing. There are only about 400 individuals that are remaining on the planet today, and they come to the Georgia coast to have their babies.”
She said 26 scientists sent a letter to President Barack Obama during his administration saying that opening up the Atlantic Coast to seismic testing could be the tipping point for North Atlantic right whales. Of course, since then, there’s been an unusual mortality event of at least 20 whales, and three consecutive disastrous calving seasons, making the situation more dire.
Keyes also said there’s a lot that goes into offshore drilling infrastructure and operations.
“Helicopters back and forth, boats back and forth, tunnels and pipelines for bringing the oil onshore,” Keyes said. “And then, if it goes poorly, you have a situation like we had in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.”
The Deepwater Horizon oil spill lasted nearly five months, releasing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf and affected coastlines from its location off Louisiana all the way to near Tampa, Fla.
“Granted, they were drilling in real deep water, but it was just an exploration well,” Keyes said. “It wasn’t even producing oil — they were just exploring.”
The argument from offshore energy exploration advocates, that opening up the Atlantic Coast for drilling would be beneficial economically, hasn’t won over the governors of those states, however, who in a rare bipartisan manner each publicly stated opposition to those plans, frequently mentioning a preference to protect fishing and tourism industries.
That’s where the Interior Department comes in, which regulates such matters. Interior Secretary David Bernhardt told the Wall Street Journal in late April that federal offshore energy exploration plans were indefinitely suspended after a federal judge in Alaska ruled against the Trump administration, saying those plans — issuing from Executive Order 13795 — were illegal according to Section 12(a) of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act.
That has since changed. Tuesday, he told members of Congress that the department is moving ahead with the process of approving seismic testing applications and its five-year offshore plan. According to The Hill, he said state issues would be of top concern.
“I’m not aware of a single lease that was ever developed over the opposition of a state,” Bernhardt said.
Taking him at his word, that would put the Atlantic Coast out of consideration, but looking at what led to this point, it’s not a reasonable conclusion. In an interview Thursday with the Washington Post, Bernhardt said “he could not predict when the offshore leasing plan would be finalized.”
But even what Bernhardt’s told news media is in question thanks to what Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, said in a declaration Thursday in the federal lawsuit that seeks to prevent seismic airgun testing off the Atlantic Coast. One Hundred Miles is a party to that lawsuit.
Cruickshank states, “Neither the Department of the Interior nor the secretary of the Interior have made any announcement that the department ‘may wait until the resolution of any potential appeal from an order issued by Judge Gleason of the District of Alaska….
“The department is simply evaluating all of its options in light of the recent court decision to determine the best pathway to accomplish the mission entrusted to it by the president.”
And to present another influence on this debate, the candidacy of former Vice President Joe Biden for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 has Democrats looking at the Obama administration’s record in a new way.
With climate change and environmental policy playing a much larger role in American politics in general, and Democratic politics in particular, the Biden campaign’s announcement Friday of seeking a “middle ground” in environmental policy quickly received push-back.
Biden’s plan, as much as it’s presently known, would keep the United States in the Paris climate agreement, set emissions and energy efficiency standards at Obama administration levels, and continue to rely on fossil fuels.
Federal courts ruled against federal approvals of two gas drilling plans in western Colorado in March and against five drilling permits issued in New Mexico’s San Juan Basin on Monday. As Bernhardt pointed out in his Washington Post interview, the authorizations for those efforts came under the Obama administration.
The Vietnam Veterans Memorial is a powerful monument that pays tribute to the more than 58,000 American veterans who made the ultimate sacrifice in service to their nation.
An estimated 5.6 million people visit the memorial each year to look at the names engraved on the polished black granite wall.
Now, The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund, the organization responsible for maintaining the war monument in Washington, D.C., wants to put a face with each name by creating The Wall of Faces.
And they need the help of the Golden Isles.
Organizers are seeking photographs of three Brunswick men who were killed in Vietnam while serving in the Army.
• Pvt. Atwell A. Armstrong was born in Brunswick on Aug. 19, 1947. He died Dec. 11, 1968 in the province of Phuoc Long.
• Pfc. Oscar T. Francis was born in Brunswick on May 29, 1951. He died April, 24 1970 in the province of Quang Ngai.
• Pfc. Arthur Mitchell Downs was born in Brunswick on Aug. 2, 1945. He died Oct. 17. 1966. The place of his death is unknown, according to the website.
The Wall of Faces gives the panel location on the wall of each fallen veteran along with his or her photograph. Eight women are listed on the wall.
The memorial, which is online at vmf.org/wall-of-faces, provides background information including each veteran’s date of birth, date of casualty, home city, county and state of record, branch of service, rank, casualty province and if there are any associated items left at the wall.
A link for each veteran shows additional photographs and another link at the bottom of the page called Leave a Remembrance enables people to post comments about the veteran.
Anyone with photos of the veterans is asked to bring them to The Brunswick News office at 3011 Altama Ave. where they will be scanned to be sent to the organizers of The Wall of Faces.
Most people head to safety when a hurricane threatens, but a handful of Air Force reservists fly though the wall of a hurricane and into the eye of the storm to gauge its strength.
Two Hurricane Hunters aircraft and their crews made a visit to the Brunswick Golden Isles Airport on Friday as part of a hurricane awareness tour that also included presentations by emergency responders, mobile command centers, a catastrophe response team from USAA, the National Weather Service and the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.
Lt. Cmdr. Rob Mitchell said flying a WP3 Delta specifically built to fly into hurricanes is a different experience each time he does it. And after 48 hurricane penetrations, he knows the difference between a Category 1 and a Category 5 storm.
The turbulence can range from the bumps a passenger could experience on a bad commercial flight to ones that make pilots questions their sanity. There are times when the flight into the eye of the storm is so turbulent that Mitchell said he doesn’t look forward to the return flight.
“It can be six hours of boredom and two hours of sheer terror,” Mitchell said of flying through the wall of a powerful hurricane.
Lt. Col. Jeff Ragusa said he flew the combat version of the C-130 transport before he volunteered to be part of the Hurricane Hunter crew. He said the plane is so structurally solid that it doesn’t need any structural modifications to fly through the wall of a hurricane. But he said there are times where he wonders what he’s doing flying through the wall of a hurricane.
The Hurricane Hunter crews use an array of sophisticated instruments to monitor wind speed, air pressure and gather other information to help determine the strength and direction of the storm.
The intent of the event at the airport was the create awareness about the upcoming hurricane season, and it was the final stop on the five-city tour. One of the goals during the current tour is to create awareness about the risk of flooding inland caused by a hurricane.
“You get all the heavy rains and tornadoes. It’s more than the wind that you see on TV,” said Lt. Col. Marnee Losurdo.
Rob Burr, executive director of the Glynn County Airport Commission, said airports also play an important role during a hurricane, where emergency operations are often staged during the recovery after a storm strikes.
Maybe you thought about dropping that clunky old obsolete computer monitor in the bottom of your curbside garbage can and being done with it.
But then your environmental conscience got the better of you, so that digital dinosaur is still gathering dust in a corner of the garage. It is right next to the car battery that has been there since it died in your driveway in 2014.
Keep Golden Isles Beautiful has an upcoming solution for dispensing with this type of trash and other unconventional clutter. It is the annual Electronics Recycling and More event, set from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, May 18 in the Glynn Place Mall’s JCPenny parking lot. In addition to accepting most large electronic items, the KGIB crew also will take scrap metal, light bulbs, clothing and outdated prescription medicines, said Lea King-Badyna, Executive Director of Keep Golden Isles Beautiful. Additionally, folks can drop off personal documents for shredding.
The event is mostly free, but the nonprofit KGIB will happily accept a $5 donation for each carload, King-Badyna said. There is a $20 fee for disposing of televisions and a $10 charge for those big CRT computer monitors, which is levied to defray the disposal cost of hazardous materials, she said.
While there are facilities at various locations throughout the county that accept such refuse — most often for a cost — this popular KGIB event offers the only opportunity to address these items at one time, in one place, King-Badyna said.
“It’s a one-stop recycling shop,” she said. “You get in your car and you drive through, and we take care of it.”
Bulky electronics are accepted at local landfills, she said. But almost everything in such devices can be recycled and reused by innovative businesses like Atlanta Recycling Solutions, which is working with KGIB on the event, King-Badyna said.
“These are easy things to be recycled and, theoretically, we want our landfills to be filled only with items that are truly trash,” King-Badyna said. “It’s about waste reduction and landfill reduction. We need landfills but we need them for true trash.”
It would appear many in the Golden Isles agree with this sentiment, if last year’s Electronics Recycling and More event is any indication. Nearly 600 cars went through in 2018, dropping off more than 30,000 pounds of electronics that included 141 television sets and 88 computer monitors, King-Badyna said. Additionally, KGIB volunteers shredded 20,000 pounds of documents, accepted 800 pounds of textiles, 6,600 pounds of scrap metal and 1,397 pounds of batteries. They also relieved folks of 165 florescent lightbulbs and 150 compact florescent lightbulbs.
With local members of law enforcement supervising, the event took in 105 pounds of outdated prescription medicines last year as well.
“It’s a huge event for us and for the community,” King-Badyna said.
So big, in fact, that organizers have had to add some restrictions this year. While everything from washing machines to microwaves are welcome, the event will not accept smaller electronics such as toasters and mixers. Also, the event will accept only personal documents for shredding; no business documents. People cannot remain to watch the documents being shredded as this has proven time-consuming in the past.
Folks are asked to bring no more than 10 boxes of such paper items. And please, don’t get back in line. Florescent bulbs longer than 4 feet will not be accepted, nor will they take projection-style on console televisions.
“We’ve streamlined it to have the entire event run more smoothly,” King-Badyna said.
More than 50 KGIB volunteers will be onsite to assist King-Badyna and her staff of one, assistant Christy Trowbridge. For more information, call 912-279-1490, or go to www.kbgib.com.
“Golden Isles residents and our coastal environment are the beneficiaries of this massive collaboration,” said Clement Cullens, chairman of the KGIB Board of Directors.