Columbus Area May Dodge Strict EPA Scrutiny

26 08 2008



Local leaders can breathe a little easier now that initial reports indicate the Columbus area will not face stricter scrutiny for meeting some federal air-quality standards.

Both the federal Environmental Protection Agency and the Georgia Environmental Protection Division have not included Columbus in a list of areas to be designated as “nonattainment” for failing to meet air-quality standards for particulate pollution. The EPA and EPD will make a final decision on which cities deserve stricter environmental enforcement in December.

Local government and business leaders fear such enforcement because it could affect everything from transportation projects to industrial recruitment, and particularly any initiative involving federal funding. Anything that could worsen the area’s air quality would be subject to intense scrutiny.

“It doesn’t mean you can’t develop,” said Rick Jones, the city’s planning director. “It just makes it more difficult to do so.”

Read on here.


EPD Proposes Settlements with Gainesville, Cumming Over Sewage Spills

26 08 2008


By Ken Stanford Editor, Access North Georgia

ATLANTA – The state has proposed settlements with the City of Gainesville and the City of Cumming over sewage spills.

The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) wants $6,250 from Gainesville and $1,500 from Cumming.

The filings were among several involving northeast Georgia interests that were were released Monday.

The Ellijay water pollution control plant (proposed $750 settlement), Unicoi State Park near Helen ($150), Georgia Cumberland Academy in Gilmer County ($750) and Gilmer County’s Oakland Elementary School ($500) were also included.

Each of the filings and proposed settlements come under the authority of the Water Quality Control Act, according to EPD.

NOAA Projects Fewer, But Stronger Storms From Climate Change

26 08 2008

The following is NOAA’s position on climate change and hurricanes:

Given the high degree of interest in the possible relationship between climate change and tropical cyclones (including hurricanes and typhoons), a new summary statement on the topic has been developed by the global community of tropical cyclone researchers and forecasters as represented at the 6th International Workshop on Tropical Cyclones of the World Meteorological Organization (November 2006). A more comprehensive statement was also developed at the workshop.

The summary statement notes the following: “The surfaces of most tropical oceans have warmed by 0.25-0.5 degree Celsius during the past several decades. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) considers that the likely primary cause of the rise in global mean surface temperature in the past 50 years is the increase in greenhouse gas concentrations….

…Some recent scientific articles have reported a large increase in tropical cyclone energy, numbers, and wind-speeds in some regions during the last few decades in association with warmer sea surface temperatures. Other studies report that changes in observational techniques and instrumentation are responsible for these increases.”

Consensus statements by the workshop participants

“1. Though there is evidence both for and against the existence of a detectable anthropogenic signal in the tropical cyclone climate record to date, no firm conclusion can be made on this point.

2. No individual tropical cyclone can be directly attributed to climate change.

3. The recent increase in societal impact from tropical cyclones has been largely caused by rising concentrations of population and infrastructure in coastal regions.

4. Tropical cyclone wind-speed monitoring has changed dramatically over the last few decades leading to difficulties in determining accurate trends.

5. There is an observed multi-decadal variability of tropical cyclones in some regions whose causes, whether natural, anthropogenic or a combination, are currently being debated. This variability makes detecting any long-term trends in tropical cyclone activity difficult.

6. It is likely that some increase in tropical cyclone peak wind-speed and rainfall will occur if the climate continues to warm. Model studies and theory project a 3-5% increase in wind-speed per degree Celsius increase of tropical sea surface temperatures.

7. There is an inconsistency between the small changes in wind-speed projected by theory and modeling versus large changes reported by some observational studies.

8. Although recent climate model simulations project a decrease or no change in global tropical cyclone numbers in a warmer climate there is low confidence in this projection. In addition, it is unknown how tropical cyclone tracks or areas of impact will change in the future.

9. Large regional variations exist in methods used to monitor tropical cyclones. Also, most regions have no measurements by instrumented aircraft. These significant limitations will continue to make detection of trends difficult.

10. If the projected rise in sea level due to global warming occurs, then the vulnerability to tropical cyclone storm surge flooding would increase.”

The full texts of the summary statement and comprehensive statement should be consulted for more details and context.

Read more here.


Port Wentworth: ‘Free’ Land Not Free of Contamination

26 08 2008

By Summer Teal Simpson (The Creative Coast)

A land donation to the city of Port Wentworth has turned out to be less than the gift that former city officials had bargained for.

The half-acre lot on Ga. 21 is contaminated from what is believed to be a leaking underground fuel tank, the remnant of a former gasoline station, according to city and environmental officials.

The discovery was made last fall after Wendell Lovett contracted in September with the city to buy the property. Before closing the deal, an engineering firm conducted an environmental assessment and found the property was “extremely contaminated,” according to a memo Lovett’s attorney, Christopher Klein, sent to the city.

The firm, Whitaker Laboratory Inc., reported the presence of chemicals such as benzene, which was found at levels 52 times the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s maximum limit, in the soil and the groundwater.

Lovett terminated the contract after the discovery but offered in January to consider a new contract that would reflect the cost of cleaning up the site.

Lovett wouldn’t comment.

Read on here.

Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites Mobilize Against Budget Cuts

26 08 2008

Friends of Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites is preparing to mobilize its members and concerned citizens across Georgia in support of the State Parks and Historic Sites across the state. 

In light of the recent announcement from DNR Commissioner Noel Holcomb regarding possible state park and historic site closings, Friends of Georgia State Parks and Historic Sites is developing an action plan to help mobilize local chapters and members in support of the state park system and to advocate against further cuts to the system’s operating budget.  Friends plans to work with the Commissioner, the Division and its members to mitigate some of the impact the proposed budget cuts may have.

Since 2002, the Parks, Recreation and Historic Sites Division has sustained continuous budget reductions.  Through these sustained reductions, Friends has worked diligently with the Division to minimize the negative impact on the safety, security and quality of experience for park guests while simultaneously avoiding park closures.  The management strategies implemented in response to previous cuts won’t suffice under the new cuts, given the cumulative effect of all the reductions.

Read on here.