Citing experts, Sen. Ossoff urges Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division to reject strip mine application
Fellow Georgians can submit their views on the strip mine proposal until Monday, March 20 by emailing email@example.com
Washington D.C. — Citing warnings from leading scientists and experts, U.S. Senator Jon Ossoff today submitted his formal opposition to the proposed strip mine next to the Okefenokee Swamp.
Sen. Ossoff has been leading the charge to protect the precious National Wildlife Refuge, which is the largest blackwater swamp in North America and generates tens of millions of dollars for Georgia’s tourism economy.
In his submission to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD), Sen. Ossoff cites scientific analysis and warning from key experts, including a leading hydrologist at the University of Georgia, Dr. Rhett Jackson, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which is responsible for the stewardship of the Refuge.
The Georgia EPD opened a 60-day public comment period on Twin Pines’ proposed strip mine last month. The comment period runs until Monday, March 20.
“The Okefenokee Swamp is a unique and irreplaceable natural resource. Damage to the swamp will irrevocably harm the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge, the State of Georgia, and Georgia’s tourism economy,” Sen. Ossoff wrote. “With great respect, I submit to you that the risk of severe damage to this ecosystem is unacceptable. I therefore urge EPD to reject Twin Pines’ application.”
Dr. Jackson, who has conducted extensive studies on the hydrology of both the Okefenokee Swamp and the St. Marys River, concluded that the Mining Plan “fails to address key environmental issues, specifically the effects of salt deposition downwind of the evaporation system, [and] the necessity of a contingency plan for unplanned discharges to the local tributaries to the St. Marys River.”
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also notes that hydrologic models in the Mining Plan “are incapable of appropriately evaluating the impacts of the project on water levels in the Okefenokee Swamp” and fail to consider seasonal and annual hydrologic variations that will affect mining operations.
In September 2022, at Sen. Ossoff’s invitation, U.S. Secretary of the Interior Deb Haaland joined him to survey the Refuge and meet with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officials on the refuge’s conservation status and environmental risks. They also heard directly from local leaders about the importance of protecting the refuge for the communities in the area.
This month, Sen. Ossoff also launched a bipartisan push with Congressman Earl L. “Buddy” Carter (R-GA-01) urging the Department of the Interior to formally nominate the Wildlife Refuge to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Click here to read Sen. Ossoff’s public comment submission.