2015 Legislative Session Preview

2015 Legislative Session Preview

Environmental Issues:  2015 Georgia Legislative Session

Aquifers:  As a result of the Senate Aquifer Storage Study (ASR) Committee, there will likely be legislation addressing this issue.  ASR is dangerous because pumping waste water underground can introduce bacteria, pathogens and disinfection byproducts into Georgia’s aquifers that hundreds of thousands of Georgians rely on for drinking.  A ban on ASR projects on the coast from 1999 to 2014 has expired.

Clean Power Plan:  The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is working to influence state legislatures across the country to obstruct carbon pollution limits proposed by the Environmental Protection Agency’s Clean Power Plan.   Such a bill may be introduced in Georgia.

Electric Vehicles:  Lifecycle assessments show significant benefits of electric vehicles in terms of lower air pollution emissions and smaller carbon footprint than even hybrid vehicles. Georgia's tax incentives are working, and Atlanta has become the #1 market for the Nissan LEAF with about 20,000 electric vehicles on the road in Georgia today. Rep. Chuck Martin is likely to re-introduce his bill to eliminate the sales tax credit for Alternative Fuel vehicles in Georgia, which will put out the flame in our hot market. 

Marsh Buffers:  The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued a memo on Earth Day 2014 doing away with the 25’ buffer for waters of the state that do not have a “bank” with “wrested vegetation.”  This would eliminate protection of streams, fresh water wetlands, salt marsh and other water bodies that do not have wrested vegetation.  This issue was argued in the GA Supreme Court on January 5, 2015.  In addition to the judicial debate, there will be an effort to amend Georgia’s Erosion & Sedimentation Act to more clearly impose statutory 25’ buffers for all salt marsh and freshwater bodies.

Solar Financing:  There will be a renewed effort to make solar affordable to everyday Georgians by clarifying that Georgia law allows third parties to purchase solar panels and sell the energy back to homeowners.  The sponsor, Rep. Mike Dudgeon has worked hard with solar advocates and utilities to address all concerns to that customers all over our state can benefit from onsite solar.               

Transportation Funding:  The Joint Transportation Funding Study Committee’s report makes several recommendations for increasing funding for transportation infrastructure and projects.  The recommendations will likely be supported by the conservation community if additional revenue is used to significantly support rail, transit, bike and pedestrian projects. 

Soil & Water Conservation Commission funding or reorganization:  this state agency is charged with monitoring construction sites to reduce the amount of dirt and debris that gets into our waterways.  Unfortunately, their revised “Green Book” manual that sets standards for silt fencing has come under political fire since some Georgia silt manufacturers would fail the pass muster under the new, stricter standards.  There may be an attempt this session to eliminate the Commission’s funding or transfer them to the Department of Agriculture to lessen their influence.

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GreenLaw is dedicated to preventing air and water pollution that endangers human health and degrades Georgia’s natural resources. Since 1992, GreenLaw has achieved these goals by providing free high quality legal and technical assistance to environmental organizations and community groups throughout Georgia. For more information, visit www.greenlaw.org and follow @greenlaw_GA on Twitter.

The Georgia Chapter of the Sierra Club's mission is to be the leading organization that empowers Georgians to take action to preserve, protect and enjoy our environment.  For more information, visit http://georgia.sierraclub.org/ and follow @gasierraclub on Twitter.