March Legislative Update

GreenLaw is a member of the Georgia Water Coalition’s leadership team and has been working closely with the coalition this legislative session to promote clean water issues under the Gold Dome. Of particular interest to GreenLaw is the Emergency Response bill (HB 549), which relates to our Ogeechee River fish kill case, and revisions to the Coastal Marshland and Shoreline Protection Act (HB 402), which impacts the work we’re doing to protect Jekyll Island from overdevelopment.


Emergency Response (HB 549):  Creates a statutory mandate for rapid response to illegal spills in Georgia’s waterways to ensure that the Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s emergency response program will be staffed and funded when budget decisions are made.  The bill requires appropriate and timely responses to emergencies that threaten the state’s waters and proper public notification and coordination between the state and local communities to protect the health of our families during emergencies.

HB 549 was not introduced in time to make it out of the House by Crossover Day. However, the bill did get a hearing in the House Natural Resources and Environment sub-committee with GreenLaw attorney, Hutton Brown, testifying in support. Because this is the first year in a 2-year session, the bill will remain alive for us to work on over the summer and during the 2014 legislative session.
Shore Protection / Coastal Marshlands Act (HB 402):  The bill as originally introduced contained a number of provisions of concern to the Initiative to Protect Jekyll Island, including a change to the way the "jurisdictional delineation" line is drawn under the Shore Act, and a too-loose definition of "shoreline engineering" that need not require a permit under the Marsh Act.  Those provisions were deleted from the bill.  The legalization of a short term "Letter of Permission" in lieu of a full Permit under the Shore Act is still in the bill, but there is now a requirement that there be a public notice of 15 days before such a Letter take force.  The letters are purported to be designed to help the film industry, but the law does not limit their use to that sector.
Thanks to the Georgia Water Coalition and Neill Herring with the Sierra Club for providing content for the legislative updates.

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