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Georgia Water Coalition Legislative Update 
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GWC Legislative Tracker
Legislative Update Number 11 (March 24, 2017)

Today is Day 38 of the 2017 legislative session. Only 2 days remain in the 40-day session. The session resumes next Tuesday, March 28. Day 40, known as Sine Die, will be on Thursday, March 30. See the calendar here.
 
GWC Priority Issues
 
Ensuring Safe, Secure Disposal and Storage of Coal Ash Wastes

While Rep Jeff Jones’ proposed legislation (HB 387 and HB 388) to protect citizens against potential threats from the disposal and storage of coal ash did not move this session, we have seen some small steps in the right direction as a result of the multi-faceted efforts to increase transparency and safeguard this process.
 
There are signs that our message to protect Georgia's communities from toxic coal ash waste is sinking in. With pressure from legislators from the House Natural Resources Committee’s ad hoc coal ash task force, EPD updated to its website, which now provides the public with additional information on efforts to drain and close Georgia Power coal ash pond closure and on landfills’ plans to store this waste. 
 
On the EPD website you will find:

  • Links to 2 plans to pump water from coal ash ponds into streams in Cobb County and Glynn County
  • A place to sign up for updates on future coal ash pond closures and landfills’ plans to accept coal ash waste.

Status: Both House bills stalled in the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee.
 
What You Can Do: 

1. Visit EPD's website and sign up for the updates.
2. Call/Email assigned committee members.  Thank them for participating in the committee, and encourage them to ask EPD to outline the differences in requirements for coal waste disposal at Georgia Power-owned facilities and municipal solid waste facilities.

3. Thank Rep Lynn Smith, Chair of the House Natural Resources and Environment Committee, for setting up the ad hoc coal ash task force.  Share with her your concerns about receiving advanced notice and ensuring safe coal waste disposal in your community.  

Contact: Emily Kurilla, Ogeechee Riverkeeper – emily@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org
 
Buffers for State Waters Delayed
HR 362 and SR 152 establish a Joint Study Committee on Stream Buffers. The House and Senate Natural Resources and Environment Committees are using the Joint Study Committee as a delaying tactic, and to avoid the Erosion and Sedimentation Control Act fix the GWC has been working on for two years. What’s the problem with a study committee?  We have studied buffers for decades in Georgia. We know the “Sound Science” will tell us that bigger and wider buffers are necessary for water quality and fish and wildlife. What do we want to see from the study committee? We will not accept a reduction in the current 25’ buffer on all state waters and a 50’ buffer on trout waters, or other buffers designed to protect drinking water supplies. As a practical matter, we support a study committee because hopefully it can resolve one specific thing: how to measure a buffer in the absence of “wrested vegetation.” That must be a driving question before the General Assembly in 2018.
 
Status: SR 152 has passed both chambers. HR 362 has passed the House, and now must be adopted by Senate before the study committee can be established.
 
What You Can Do: Please ask you Representative and Senator to help make sure that qualified environmental professionals with “experience in water resource management” from the GWC community are included as joint study committee members.
 
Contact: Chris Manganiello, Chattahoochee Riverkeeper – chris@chattahoochee.org

Other Issues the GWC is Tracking

Senate Bill 191 – Protecting your Property from Petroleum Pipelines Use of Eminent Domain
 
SB 191 would require additional permitting measures and more closely regulate private companies’ use of eminent domain for the construction of petroleum pipelines in Georgia. Many stakeholders including Georgia-based companies, legislators, and conservationists worked diligently on the bill based on recommendations by a study committee convened by the legislature last session, only to have Chairman Don Parsons of the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee amend it in favor of Kinder Morgan, a Texas-based company who tried to construct the Palmetto Pipeline through Southeast Georgia two years ago. The bill in its amended form has issues that must be corrected in order to fully protect Georgians and their property from the threats posed by petroleum pipelines. If the legislature does not pass legislation by March 30, the moratorium on the use of eminent domain by petroleum pipelines will sunset on June 30, 2017. The Georgia Water Coalition supports the passage of strong legislation to protect property rights and water supplies. 
 
Status: The bill has passed the Senate and yesterday passed out of the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications Committee. It is waiting to be sent to the full House for a floor vote.
 
What You Can Do: Ask Representatives to fix SB 191 with the below provisions OR, extend the moratorium for 2 years:


1. We would like to see language included to ensure that property owners have the assurance that the pipeline companies will be liable for damage and responsible for cleaning up any environmental or health issues that arise from spills and leaks. The current version limits due process for property owners who have been harmed by construction or operation of a pipeline.
2. Due to the sandy soils, abundant wetlands and high water table of the coast, the Georgia Water Coalition is asking the General Assembly to retain the prohibition of new petroleum pipelines within the Georgia coastal management zone.
3. Finally, we need to ensure that the public and landowners are fully engaged in the process of granting private companies’ the use of eminent domain. SB 191 should ensure that public participation is part of the application process.

 
Find your Representative: http://www.house.ga.gov/mediaServices/en-US/FindYourLawmaker.aspx
 
Contact: Emily Kurilla, Ogeechee Riverkeeper – emily@ogeecheeriverkeeper.org

Statewide Water Trails Resolution of Support Passes Unanimously

House Resolution 281, a resolution in support of Statewide Water Trails, recognizes and encourages the proliferation and use of water trails in Georgia. A water trail is similar to a hiking trail but on a waterway, and includes safe public access points, information kiosks and signage, and family friendly amenities such as picnic areas and facilities along the route.
 
Establishing water trails and the creation of new opportunities for public enjoyment of state waters is supported by the Georgia Water Coalition as addressed in the 2017 biennial report: “All Georgians and visitors to the state should have opportunities to enjoy recreation on Georgia’s waters. One way to improve the public’s access to and enjoyment of state waters is to establish and fund a statewide water trail system. Water trails provide extremely cost-effective recreation opportunities and are dynamic creators of tourism and economic development in rural areas. Users of trails often become dedicated advocates for rivers.” 
 
Georgia River Network requires that a water trail fulfill six criteria to be considered “established” and part of the Georgia Water Trails Network. There are currently 15 established and 17 developing water trails in Georgia.  To view the Statewide Water Trails Resolution of Support and learn more about Georgia River Network's Water Trail Program, visit the Georgia Water Trails Website at http://GaWaterTrails.org.
 
Status: HR 281, assigned to the Natural Resources & Environment Committee, passed unanimously on March 9, 2017.
 
What You Can Do: Call house members voted yes! Call your representative and thank them! And you can thank the following representatives for sponsoring HR 281:

  • Representative Spencer Frye
  • Representative Lynn Smith, Chairman of Natural Resources & Environment Committee
  • Representative Tom McCall, Chairman of Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee
  • Representative David Knight, Chairman of Games, Fish & Parks Committee
  • Representative Chuck Williams, Agriculture & Consumer Affairs Committee
  • Representative Debbie Buckner, Natural Resources & Environment Committee 

Find your Representative: http://www.house.ga.gov/mediaServices/en-US/FindYourLawmaker.aspx
 
Contact: Gwyneth Moody, Georgia River Network, gwyneth@garivers.org
 
House Bill 271 – Changing the Shore Protection Act to the Shore Destruction Act

HB 271 currently sits in the Senate Natural Resources committee, which must approve the bill before it can be voted on by the full Senate. The bill still has significantly flawed language that puts coastal property and public land along the coast at risk.
 
The bill would allow homes to be built only 25 feet from the ordinary high water mark along the coast's most rapidly eroding shores. Currently, the provisions are more restrictive for state-owned property. 

Status: The bill passed the House and currently sits in the Senate Natural Resources committee.
 
What You Can Do: Contact your Senator and ask him or her to vote NO on the passage of HB271.
 
Find your Representative: http://www.house.ga.gov/mediaServices/en-US/FindYourLawmaker.aspx
 
Contact: Megan Desrosiers, One Hundred Miles – megan@onehundredmiles.org

Upcoming Events 
Want to make a difference for clean water? 
Join us April 28th for an Advocacy Training Workshop at our Spring Partner Meeting. 

Our clean water is under assault. Special interests are hard at work in Atlanta and around the state attempting to block our efforts to protect our drinking water and property. 

Against this backdrop, YOU are the final line of defense to keep Georgia's rivers streams and lakes swimmable, fishable and drinkable. 
 
We encourage you to attend an Advocacy Training workshop on April 28th, at Little Ocmulgee State Park near McCrae, GA.  Join dozens of other clean water advocates at the annual spring Georgia Water Coalition Partner Meeting. GWC partners from across Georgia will mobilize and learn about threats to our clean water and how to be more effective at influencing the leaders who set our local and statewater policy. 
 
Our spring partner meeting will be held in conjunction with Georgia River Networks Weekend for Rivers event. Activities will run from Thursday evening, April 27th  – Saturday afternoon, April 29th. Stay the whole time or just register for certain activities.
 
For full details on the GWC Partner Meeting, the Advocacy Training Workshop and GRN’s Weekend for Rivers  visit http://garivers.org/2012-04-17-22-59-07/weekend-for-rivers.html
Register Here
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Georgia Water Coalition
c/o Dana Skelton
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(706) 549-4508
Athens, GA 30605
www.georgiawater.org

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Georgia Water Coalition · c/o Dana Skelton Georgia River Network 126 South Milledge Avenue, Suite E3 · Athens, GA 30605 · USA

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