January 31, 2018

Offshore drilling isn't the only threat to Georgia's fragile coast

     Thank you, Gov. Nathan Deal.  In the race to begin offshore drilling, you have raised the caution flag.  In his eighth and final year, the former congressman will go into the history books as perhaps this state’s most business-friendly governor.
     Gov. Deal’s initiatives met perfect timing with a rising economy to create thousands of new jobs.  Should the Peach State win the $5 billion Amazon lottery, with stakes of 50,000 jobs, he’ll no doubt ride out from under the Gold Dome wearing a gold crown, as a champion of business.
     I am glad Gov. Deal has concerns about the risks of gas and oil drilling along the 100 miles of Georgia’s coast.  From Savannah to St. Marys, tourism is a major economic engine.  Thousands of jobs are dependent on this multibillion-dollar industry.  There’s also possible devastation to shrimping and fishing, similar to the Gulf of Mexico offshore-drilling fiasco in 2010.  The risk of a Deepwater Horizon-like spill isn’t worth taking the chance off our coast.            
     Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, appealed to President Donald Trump to exempt the Sunshine State from the proposed offshore-drilling plan.  The Trump administration agreed, and Florida gets a pass.  Tourism is too important to our neighboring state’s economic health.  Never mind one of the president’s palatial playgrounds—Mar-a-Lago—hugs the Atlantic Ocean in tony Palm Beach.  Maybe that’s just a coincidence.
     What is not a coincidence is Georgia’s near-cavalier attitude toward protecting its pristine coast and all those important jobs when it comes to coal-ash dumping.  As much as I applaud Gov. Deal’s alarm over offshore drilling, I am perplexed why this administration and key members of the General Assembly push back on tighter laws pertaining to toxic coal ash.  Do you see the irony here?
     A quarter-century ago, geological findings indicated Broadhurst is an unsuitable site for a landfill.  But as happens in politics and money, somebody got to somebody.  Now in 2018, we have a just-waiting-to-happen environmental disaster in the wetlands which straddle U.S. 301 South. And where do the waters of the Little Penholloway Creek and the Little Satilla River eventually empty?  Pull up a map and take a look.
     Gov. Scott ought to take a look, too.  Broadhurst sits atop the Floridan Aquifer, one of his state’s major drinking-water sources. And the Jacksonville Electric Authority (JEA) has already sent 800,000 tons of toxic coal ash to Broadhurst, where a leak/spill has already happened. How about that, Neighbor?             
     Now, go back to those streams. The big Satilla River flows into St. Andrew Sound.  The Penholloway feeds into the Altamaha River, which enters the Atlantic by wrapping around Little St. Simons Island.  Do you think Georgia’s coastal tourists want to dine on seafood laced with dangerous heavy metals found in Broadhurst’s toxic coal ash?
    Again, Gov. Deal, we are grateful for your looking out for the fragile nature of Georgia’s coast.  Indeed, 

the downside of offshore drilling is just too risky.  Now, we ask you and others under the Gold Dome to 

recognize toxic coal ash is a major threat to our environment and economy, too.