2012 General Assembly Session
Working with other members of the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC), CRBI is currently tracking bills that will...stop the looting of the hazardous waste and solid waste trust funds by legislators, allow non-native tilapia (the South's "kudzu fish") to be stocked in Georgia ponds and allow sunken logs to be mined from South Georgia rivers.To keep abreast of state action that impacts our rivers and streams, register to participate in the Georgia Environmental Action Network
HB 811--put the trust back in trust funds
CRBI SUPPORTS THIS BILL
Background: Each year millions of dollars are collected by the state through fees charged to consumers when they purchase new tires or dump trash at a landfill. These fees are supposed to be used to clean up hazardous waste sites, illegally dumped tires and other litter and pollution problems. Unfortunately, each year legislators use the money collected for the Hazardous Waste and Solid Waste Trust funds and allocate it to other portions of the state budget. For instance, since 2004, legislators have looted $84 million from the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund. In the private sector, misuse of such collections would be considered criminal, but at the General Assembly, it is business as usual. Read a Association of County Commissioners of Georgia Fact Sheet on the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund and Solid Waste Trust Fund.
What the Bill Does: This bill aims to stop the raiding of these funds by reducing the amount of fees the state can collect if they use them for some other purpose.
Status: The bill passed the House 151-5, and now awaits action by the Senate. A Senate committee has amended the bill to gut the intent of the bill and make the measure ineffective. Supporters of the bill hope to restore the version passed by the House.
SB 362 Mining Logs from Georgia RiversCRBI OPPOSES THIS BILL
Background:In the 1800s and early 1900s, hundreds of logs were floated down Georgia rivers to sawmills downstream or on the Georgia coast. Many of these logs sunk to the river bottom, and now the wood from this virgin timber is highly-sought after for woodworking and specialty construction projects.
What this Bill Does: This is a special interest bill that will benefit a few people who want to mine submerged logs from our river beds, allowing these special interests to set their own price for this valuable lumber rather than pay a fair price to Georgia's taxpayers who own these logs. Dredging these logs off the river bottom also damages the river, removing important habitat for fish and potentially disturbing polluted sediments encased in the river bed.
Status: The bill passed the Senate and is now before the House Natural Resources Committee.
SB 360 – "Kudzu Fish" In Georgia
CRBI OPPOSES THIS BILLBackground: Tilapia are a non-native, invasive sunfish that are already raised in controlled aqua-culture operations in Georgia. A native of Africa, theses fish are aggressive, adaptable and where released in other Southeastern waters, they have out-competed native sunfish, displacing them from their habitat. For this reason, they have come to be known as "kudzu fish," an exotic species that has no business in Georgia's ponds, lakes, streams or rivers.
What this Bill Does: This bill would allow the stocking of tilapia in ponds (something that is currently prohibited under Georgia law), ostensibly as forage fish to grow larger sport fish, such as large-mouth bass. If the fish escape the pond (as can happen during a flood), they can enter Georgia's streams and rivers and permanently alter native fisheries. Though not tolerant of colder water temperatures found in North Georgia, studies show that tilapia can survive South Georgia winters.
Status: This bill has passed the Senate and now awaits action in the House.
Several bills related to interbasin transfers were introduced during the 2012 legislative session, but none of the bills moved beyond the committee level, and the House Natural Resources Committee continued its log-standing refusal to consider any bills attempting to regulate interbasin transfers.
SB 374 Tennessee River Interbasin Transfer Bill
Background: Currently, Georgia's only prohibition against moving water from one river basin to another is a provision in state law that prohibits water transfers into the Metro Atlanta area from outside the area.What this Bill Does: This bill would exempt water transfers made from a specific portion of the Tennessee River Basin in Northwest Georgia to Metro Atlanta from the state law prohibiting such transfers.
Status: The bill passed the Senate Natural Resources Committee but died in the Senate Rules Committee.
2011 General Assembly Session
Working with the Georgia Water Coalition (GWC), CRBI tracked several issues during the session which ended Apr. 14. During the session, the Coalition successfully defeated bills that would have granted the Georgia Department of Transportation exemptions from sedimentation and erosion laws, allowed for the mining of deadhead logs on South Georgia Rivers and permitted landfills over groundwater recharge areas.
Working with legislators the Coalition also supported a $2 million appropriation in the state budget to study the feasibility of raising the pool level at Lake Lanier on the Chattahoochee.
Unfortunately, a bill designed to facilitate public-private partnerships to build reservoirs narrowly passed, and efforts to improve regulation of interbasin transfers failed once again as legislative leaders blocked all attempts to vote on such measures.
To keep abreast of state action that impacts our rivers and streams, register to participate in the Georgia Environmental Action Network
By signing up for GEAN, you will receive e-mail action alerts about issues so that you can easily contact your elected officials via e-mail.
Below is a synopsis of the session.
SB 128 & HB 132 --These bills would strengthen regulation of interbasin transfers, codifying existing rules of the Department of Natural Resources. This bill changes "should" to "shall" and makes the law apply to all water withdrawal permits involving interbasin transfers--not just new applications for permits involving interbasin transfers. CRBI supports these bills.
Unfortunately, neither of these bills advanced as Rep. Lynn Smith (Chair of the House Natural Resources Committee) and Sen. Ross Tolleson (Chair of the Senate Natural Resources Committee) refused to allow a vote on these bills. GWC targeted Rep. Smith with a phone campaign that generated more than 600 calls to her office on this issue, but she still refused to call a vote on any IBT legislation.
There is hope that interbasin transfers will be debated and voted on during the 2012 session. While CRBI and other Coalition groups want to strengthen IBT regulations, the Metro Atlanta growth industry would like to weaken prohibitions preventing water transfers to Metro Atlanta.
Legislators also passed HR 424 a resolution that encourages on the Department of Natural Resources, the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority and private entities to study the feasibility of transferring water from the Tennessee River Basin in Georgia to Metro Atlanta.
122. The GWC worked to defeat SB 122 on the House floor, but the bill passed
by a very narrow two-vote margin. SB 122 is bad policy for taxpayers and Georgia
waterways and will allow private developers to build subdivisions around new
locally funded “water supply” reservoirs without adhering to rules intended to
protect water quality in drinking water reservoirs. It allows developers to
convey private property obtained by local governments through eminent domain,
and then lets these private entities charge unrestricted “user fees” for water
For an idea of what kinds of problems this bill could lead to, read these articles from the AJC and Dahlonega Nugget: Deal's water plans advance despite concerns and Landowners say they won't be bullied by reservoir real estate agents.
Governor Deal announced plans early in the session to create a reservoir bond package to fund the development of new water supply reservoirs. The Governor has proposed a total of $300 million in funding over 4 years, but only $46 million made it into the budget this year. We are advocating that funding should be available for all water supply projects, not just reservoirs, and should prioritize water conservation and efficiency - the cheapest and fastest water supply solution.
$2 million was also put in the budget to study the feasibility and any impacts of raising the full pool level of Lake Lanier by 2 feet to meet multiple water needs. The GWC supports conducting studies on raising Lake Lanier’s pool level by 2 feet which could generate over 25 billion gallons of additional storage that could be used for downstream flows, maintaining lake levels, and water supply, without constructing new reservoirs. Recently, both Gwinnett and Forsyth County have passed resolutions supporting raising Lanier's full pool by 2 feet.
Finally, at the beginning of the session, the Governor also issued an "Executive Order on Water Supply Program Task Force" that orders the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority (GEFA) to develop and implement the “Governor’s Water Supply Program” to assist local governments in developing new sources of water supply, convene a “Water Supply Program Task Force” to provide “expert guidance” in program development and ensure interagency coordination, to work w/ the Task Force to develop project financing options, and explore opportunities for public-private partnerships, and develop a project selection system that “ensures alignment of state financial support for critical, cost effective water supply projects.” The first organizational meeting for the new program was held Monday, March 21. More information about the task force can be found on the GEFA website.
GA dot & dirt in our streams
HB 131--DEFEATED! This bill would have exempted the Georgia Department of Transportation and other state agencies from fines resulting from failure to adhere to erosion and sedimentation and other laws that protect our rivers and streams. Currently, both government agencies and private companies are subject to fines if they violate these clean water laws, but this bill would have prevented state environmental regulators from levying fines against DOT and other state agencies.
Landfills over Groundwater
SB 110--DEFEATED! This bill would have allowed the expansion of landfills that have been permitted to be built over “significant groundwater recharge areas.” Thanks to tremendous grassroots efforts and the work of several GWC partners, this bill was tabled and not allowed to move this session.
Deadhead Log Mining on South Georgia Rivers
SB 218. DEFEATED! This bill would have allowed people who want to mine submerged logs from river beds to set their own price via a sealed bid process rather than pay a fair price set by the state for the logs, which is the way the DNR Board previously determined the issue should be dealt with. This bill was defeated on the House floor thanks to the efforts of our GWC partners. Submerged logs provide important habitat for aquatic species and disturbing logs buried in river sediment could release contaminants from years old pollution that is sequestered in the river bottom.
billboards vs. trees
HB 179--This bill is now before Gov. Deal for his signature, but there is widespread opposition to this measure. This bill would allow billboard companies to cut more (and larger) trees from in front of roadside billboards on publicly owned land. This program costs the state hundreds of thousands of dollars each year through concessions to billboard owners. Billboards contribute to visual clutter along our highways and reduce the scenic beauty of the state. CRBI strongly opposes this bill.
Energy efficient light bulbs a bad idea?
SB 61--A measure by Coosa River Basin legislator, Sen. Barry Loudermilk (R-Cassville), this bill is introduced in response to federal energy efficiency standards expected to eliminate all incandescent light bulbs by 2014 in favor of more energy efficient compact fluorescent light (CFLs) bulbs. The bill would exempt light bulbs made in Georgia that are not exported across state lines from federal energy efficiency guidelines. It remains unclear how many light bulbs are actually manufactured in Georgia and whether those manufacturers would be willing to produce light bulbs that can only be sold in Georgia. CFLs use 75 percent less electricity than incandescent light bulbs. These energy savings can help reduce mercury emissions from coal-fired power plants, and thus reduce the amount of this toxin that enters our rivers' aquatic food chain. While consumer choice is important, the federal guidelines are designed to move us toward a more sustainable future. This bill passed the Senate but mercifully died in the House.