Improved environmental protections among Georgia legislative wins

Providence Canyon in Southwest Georgia.

In one of the Georgia General Assembly’s most interesting and remarkable legislative sessions in years, SELC and partners in the Georgia Water Coalition accomplished several important victories, many in the final days of the session.

Three major leaps forward include improving environmental protections, restoring the “trust” in government trust funds, and a victory over Big Ag’s attempt to weaken nuisance laws. Here’s a deeper look at what that means:

Improving environmental protections
  • New legislation closes a loophole that once incentivized Georgia landfills to accept out-of-state coal ash and deprived local governments of funds needed to address leaking landfills.
  • A bill now requires releases of ethylene oxide, a cancer-causing chemical emitted by medical sterilization facilities, to be reported within 24 hours. This is necessary because three areas in metro Atlanta have been identified as having an elevated cancer risk from ethylene oxide pollution.
  • A bill bans the burning of railroad ties treated with creosote or naphthenate compounds at biomass facilities, which will improve local air quality and reduce noxious odors.

Our relationships with key legislators were crucial, as was the tireless work of the Georgia Water Coalition. We could not have won these battles without great partners and strong coordination.”

—April Lipscomb, Senior Attorney

Restoring the “trust” in government trust funds
  • It took over a decade of work to put a constitutional question on the ballot this November that will requires fees collected for environmental cleanups to be used for their intended purposes.
  • Another question on the November ballot would waive sovereign immunity by asking voters to restore Georgians’ right to challenge environmental laws and regulations that are unconstitutional or illegal.
Victory over Big Ag’s attempt to weaken nuisance laws
  • In one of our hardest fought victories in years, SELC and Georgia Water Coalition partners—as well as farmers, private lawyers, and property rights activists—defeated legislation that was intended to prevent nearly all nuisance lawsuits against industrial agricultural operations, including concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs.

SELC played a key role in these efforts, including drafting legislation, lobbying, and organizing grassroots pressure.  We hope and plan to build on these victories next year when a new 2-year session begins.

“Our relationships with key legislators were crucial, as was the tireless work of the Georgia Water Coalition,” says Senior Attorney April Lipscomb. “We could not have won these battles without great partners and strong coordination.”

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