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Georgia Water Coalition Legislative Update 
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GWC Legislative Tracker
Legislative Update Number 10 (March 17, 2017)

Today is Day 35 of the 2017 legislative session. Only 5 days remain in the 40-day session. The session will resume next Monday March 20 for Day 36. The 2017 legislative session will end 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.

Yesterday, the ad-hoc coal ash task force created by the House Natural Resources Chair Lynn Smith met to continue the dialogue started in committee meetings earlier in the session. There are signs that our message to protect Georgia's communities from toxic coal ash waste is sinking in. Before the meeting, EPD revealed an update to its website, which will not provide 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: HR 362 passed the House and SR 152 passed the Senate. Each resolution must now be adopted by the other chamber before the study committee will 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. SB 191 would prohibit the permitting of new construction, expansion or extension of petroleum pipelines in any area that is within the Coastal Management Zone. However, powerful interests are working to remove the coastal protections and push back on the provisions protecting your property from being taken by a private company through eminent domain powers. We must ensure the provisions that protect your property from being taken by pipeline companies are kept in the bill. 

Status: The bill passed the Senate and currently sits in the House Energy, Utilities and Telecommunications committee, where it was discussed without a vote this past Wednesday.

What You Can Do: Contact your Representative and let them know:  “We want a strong pipeline bill that protects property rights and natural resources. If a strong bill is not put forth, the moratorium should be extended.”

Find your Representative: http://www.house.ga.gov/mediaServices/en-US/FindYourLawmaker.aspx

Contact: Emily Kurilla, Ogeechee Riverkeeper – emily@ogeecheeriverkeeper.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

 

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