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Archive: 2004 Environmental Legislation in the Georgia General Assembly

Date: 21 April 2004

Re: 2004 Environmental Legislation in the Georgia General Assembly

Below is a selected list of environmental legislation that was signed, passed, or failed to pass the legislature. Bills are denoted as "HB" or "SB", for House or Senate. The Governor has 40 days after the session ends to veto bills, sign them into law, or allow them to become law without signing. Resolutions are given as HR or SR. You can look up legislation at: www.legis.state.ga.us.

Status Number Title and Description

Passed Legislation and Resolutions

Pass

HB 0237

Water Planning - HB 237 is a hold over legislation from the 2003 Session and gives the General Assembly a say in the state's water plan. Under the bill, the state Department of Natural Resources' Environmental Protection Division, with oversight from a water council of state agency heads and legislative appointees, would come up with a statewide water plan by July 1, 2007 and present it to the General Assembly no later than January 2008. The General Assembly would have to approve the plan and if not the council could submit a revised plan up until the halfway mark of the session. Beyond that, legislators could come up with their own plan. The last version submitted by the water council would go into effect by default on July 1, 2008 if legislators don't approve their own plan. HB 237 does not allow farmers to sell their water withdrawal permits, which was a controversial provision of the original proposal.

Pass

HB 0242

Environmental policy (cost/benefit) - HB 242 requires prior to the DNR Board promulgation or amendment of any environmental regulation or the department or division taking any covered action, the board, the department, or the division, as appropriate, shall prepare a detailed statement of rationale whenever the proposed environmental regulation or covered action will exceed or differ from the requirements of any federal regulation, standard, or policy on the same subject or repeal or decrease or render any requirement imposed by an existing environmental regulation, standard, or policy less stringent or restrictive. The detailed statement of rationale shall state the basis for the regulation or covered action, including the scientific or technical basis, alternative policy considerations, and estimated cost to implement to the department and the regulated community and shall identify any studies, reports, policies, or statements of professional judgment or administrative need relied upon in developing the environmental regulation or covered action. The scope and level of detail of each detailed statement of rationale shall be determined by the director of the division or the commissioner.

Pass

HB 0709

Allowing Atlanta Sewer Tax - HB 709 is omnibus tax legislation that provides a mechanism for the city of Atlanta to hold a referendum to levy a 1 cent on the dollar sales tax to help pay for court ordered sewer improvements and maintenance expected to cost $3.2 billion. If approved by voters, the new tax could generate as much as $100 million annually. The measure allows Fulton County to call a referendum on a special-purpose local option sales tax increase to 8 percent. If the county fails to call for a referendum or if the county calls for a referendum and it fails then Atlanta could call for a vote on a city-only increase in the sales tax. Atlanta has been fined millions for not meeting certain environmental regulations regarding its sewer system and this legislation is an attempt to help pay for the necessary improvements. Another provision allows for Columbus to call for a vote on another penny-on-the-dollar in sales tax. Finally, HB 709 would exempt the first $50,000 of a disabled veteran's home from ad valorem taxation.

Pass

HB 0727

Dredging Sand - HB 727 requires beach sand that was dredged from Georgia's coastal rivers be used to replenish the state's beaches.

Sign

HB 1083

Solid Waste Facilities - HB 1083 prohibits the permitting of a disposal facility or solid waste handling facility within one mile of a outdoor recreational camp for kids under 18 years of age. The camp must have also been in operation for at least 25 years.

Sign

HB 1180

Midyear Budget - HB 1180 is the state's $16.1 billion revised spending plan for the current fiscal year that ends June 30th. After two weeks of negotiations, conference committee members were able to find agreement and provide $172 million in Medicaid funding, which will allow the state to pay doctors and hospitals that treat elderly and poor patients under the program.

The compromise midyear budget also contains: $118 million for local school districts to cope with growing enrollments, $17 million to fully fund PeachCare, $1.3 million needed to save the state's emergency dental program from elimination, $354,608 to fully fund the Katie Beckett Waiver Program which helps parents with children who are severely mentally disabled, $250,000 to soften the blow from the Governor's recommended reduction in funds for the state's libraries, $166,000 to restore funding to help low-income and at-risk mothers to deliver healthy babies, $100,000 to reduce the Governor's recommended cuts to Georgia's QuickStart program, which works with new industries to provide specialty job training for potential workers, $50,000 to restore funds for the "Three O'clock Project," which helps to steer at-risk children away from drugs by promoting academic excellence and a healthy lifestyle and $25,000 recommended by House conferees to reduce cutbacks to the state's adult literacy program.

Pass

HB 1181

State Budget Compromise - HB 1181 is the state's $16.4 billion spending plan for fiscal year 05 which begins July 1st and runs through June 30th of next year. Budget conferees were able to hammer out a compromise between the House and Senate versions. Some major highlights include $200 million restored for K-12 education over the Governor's proposal, $368 million dedicated to the Medicaid program that provides care for the elderly and poor, $116 million restored for books and fees covered through the HOPE scholarship, a continuation of the state's property tax relief program for homeowners, almost $1 billion in bonds for construction projects, 2 percent pay raises for state employees and teachers that will begin in January and $1 million for the daily operations of a commuter-rail link between Atlanta and Lovejoy.

see: http://www.legis.state.ga.us/legis/budget/SumGen05HTML/Natural%20Resources.htm

Special Session - Governor Perdue has indicated he will call a special session of the General Assembly because HB 1181, which is the state's budget for fiscal year 05 that would take effect July 1st, is out of balance by $57 million. Georgia's constitution requires a balanced state budget. The discrepancy is because a compromise could not be reached on HB 869, which would have provided funds in the budget for the new public defender system through court fines and fees. The Governor determines which issues will be on the agenda for the special session. It will cost approximately $45,000 per day to hold a special session and some lawmakers have suggested the Governor should have modified the spending plan to put it in balance.

House/Senate Conference Committee passed version of DNR/EPD related budget items include:

  • ($-375,000) To eliminate funds for the Northwest Georgia Water Planning District ($25,000), Lake Allatoona Preservation Authority ($100,000) and the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District ($250,000)
  • ($-10 million) To eliminate funds for the Greenspace program
  • ($-250,000) To eliminate funds for the desalination project
  • ($-613,331) To eliminate funds for 3 laboratory positions ($180,749), 3 management positions ($320,347) and equipment ($112,235) in the Environmental Protection program
  • ($-195,122) To reduce contracts for Geologic Survey Technical Assistance ($25,000), Clean Fuel Fleet ($71,953) and Southwest Ecology Study ($98,169)
  • ($-171,100) To eliminate 3 positions and related costs in the Atlanta Office of Emergency Response
  • ($-756,400) To eliminate funding for the Southwest Georgia Groundwater study ($345,400) and planned reduction in the Coastal Sound Science Groundwater study ($411,000)
  • ($-408,884) To eliminate funding for 6 positions associated with the Stormwater Management program
  • $300,000 To provide funding for a comprehensive water management plan
  • $2.2 million To provide for 35 positions and 20 motor vehicles for the Stormwater Management program to be funded with fees as mandated in HB285
  • To transfer ($82,521) from contracts to per diem and fees for water quality and sediment testing
  • $-0- To provide for increases in the employer contribution to the State Health Benefit Plan for public school employees and state employees to match prior employee premium increases
  • $-0- To provide funding for the Hazardous Waste Trust Fund
  • $-0- To provide funding for the Solid Waste Trust Fund

Pass

HB 1277

Irrigation Systems - HB 1277 would require all new electronically controlled irrigation systems within the metropolitan area water-planning district to have a rainfall sensor shut off switch.

Pass

HR 1579

House Solid Waste Management Study Committee of five persons will study revising the Solid Waste Management Act and report by the end of 2004.

Pass

HR 1759

Plasma Arc Technology was recognized as a technology that represents renewable energy production in the State of Georgia by the destruction of wastes.

Pass

SB 0246

Locally-Funded Water Reservoirs regarding water resources, so as to provide that the state shall not take over operation of, condemn, or otherwise take control of locally funded water reservoirs without paying just and adequate compensation.

Pass

SB 0356

Carbon Sequestration Registry Act provides a registry of offsetting reductions in greenhouse gases obtained by carbon sequestration to be managed by the Georgia Forestry Commission. Georgia Superior Court Clerks will be provided an information system for entries of the carbon sequestration registry.

Pass

SB 0460

Stream Buffers - SB 460 requires the Environmental Protection Division to develop rules by the end of 2004 on how it issues variances that allow streamside land to be disturbed. The 25-foot buffer variance decision would be based on whether change would be protective of environment, drainage structures have erosion controls in place, maintain water quality for segments within 10 miles of a 303(d) listed stream segment, or Corps of Engineers approved mitigation plan.

Pass

SB 0489

HOT Lanes - SB 489 allows for the future implementation by the Department of Transportation, with the General Assembly's approval, of HOT lanes (High Occupancy Toll Lanes). These would be HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) lanes that could be driven in by solo drivers if a fee has been paid. The measure also allows buses and motor coaches to move into HOV lanes while traveling down the highway, which is currently prohibited.

Pass

SB 0568

Sewage Holding Tanks provides for regulation of removal, transport, and disposal of certain waste removed from grease interceptors, sand traps, oil-water separators, or grit traps that are not connected to on-site sewage management systems. Removal of commercial waste that is not connected to an on-site sewage management system for the purpose of transporting such waste to a disposal site shall be accomplished in a clean and sanitary manner by means of a vacuum hose or pump that shall remove the entire contents of the holding tank or pretreatment system being serviced; and such waste removed shall be received, unmingled with any hazardous waste or septic waste, into a leakproof tank truck approved and permitted for such service. Any commercial waste spilled, leaked, discharged, or otherwise released or removed from a grease interceptor, sand trap, oil-water separator, or grit trap that is not connected to an on-site sewage management system to any location other than a licensed leakproof tank truck shall be deemed a violation. Commercial wastes shall be manifested. Annual licenses issued by local issuing authorities are $250/100 for first/additional truck. EPD to promulgate rules by the end of 2004.

Pass

SR 0755

Protect Ocmulgee and Altamaha River Corridor urges the U.S. Congress to consider creating a national preserve or other similar federal property to protect land and other natural resources in a continuous corridor of the Ocmulgee and Altamaha Rivers in central and south Georgia. Such a national preserve or other similar federal property protecting land and other natural resources also would stimulate local economies through tourism while protecting water supplies and other natural resources, providing roaming range for wildlife, and protecting Robins Air Force base from being encircled and trapped by development which could limit mission capability.

Pass

SR 0878

President Jimmy Carter Hiking Trail urges the Department of Natural Resources to examine and propose a hiking trail in Gilmer County (Rich Mountain Wildlife Management Area) to be named for President Jimmy Carter.

Pass

SR 0904

Revoke Groundwater Withdrawal Permit and Lift Moratorium urges EPD to revoke the closed Durango plant groundwater permit (44.5 MGD) and consider lifting the moratorium for other groundwater withdrawals in the 24 county coastal area.

Failed Legislation or Resolutions

Fail

HB 0495

Public Safety Land Use Act would have required each person to test or cause to be tested for hazardous contamination all newly purchased or donated real property which has been used previously as a site for industrial or chemical application or use or as a landfill before such real property may be used for constructing a public or private school, a recreational facility, or a residential community development. No local government shall issue a construction permit to a person for any such real property unless proof of testing for hazardous contamination performed by a neutral third party is presented to the local government.

Fail

HB 0882

Landfill Modifications would have removed the restriction of granting a landfill modification within 3 years of commencement of operations and less than 10% increase.

Fail

HB 0992

Onsite Sewage Management Systems would have removed prior approved septic systems and required DHR/Public Health to develop statewide regulations.

Fail

HB 1185

Watercraft Searches by DNR Conservation Rangers would have been limited if the owner had given express consent or had probable cause, but only if the owner was not actively engaged in hunting, fishing or other commercial activity.

Fail

HB 1284

Solid Waste Management Disposal Facilities would have had to comply with local ordinances when seeking a permit or major modification of an existing permit.

Fail

HB 1345

River Basin Protection Act of 2004 would have regulated inter-basin transfers of water over 100,000 gallons daily and sets out 15 criteria that EPD would use to judge the permit application. Exempts the Metro-North Georgia Water Planning District. Directs EPD to develop a final in-flow stream policy by 2007.

Fail

HB 1408

Sewage Holding Tanks was similar to a Senate bill (SB 568).

Fail

HB 1468

Denial of Individual Sewage Permits would have required DHR Public Health and County Boards of Health to either grant or deny an application for individual onsite sewage management system within 5 business days and notify applicant in writing of the decision. Currently law requires 15 days to notify of a denial.

Fail

HB 1548

Motor Vehicle Emission Inspection Exemption would have exempted vehicles older than 10 years and driven less than 10,000 miles yearly an exemption from emissions testing if the owner is at least 65 years old. Currently law requires 5,000 miles / year.

Fail

HB 1615

Intra-, Inter-Basin Water Transfer would have changed surface water withdrawal permits to require the Division to consider 22 factors in granting a permit, permittee has a water conservation plan in place, no inter-basin transfers across 2 adjoining counties, no intra-basin transfers across 4 adjacent counties (except in Metro-North Georgia Water District or lower Savannah River basin), no inter-basin transfers from Etowah River, appeals of permits do not automatically stay EPD action, and other amendments.

Fail

HB 1655

Clean Fuel Use would have required county and municipal government and schools to purchase vehicles capable of using "clean fuels" (biodiesel, CNG, LPG, hydrogen, ethanol, propane) after January 2007. State government would have been required to comply after January 2005. The fuel and vehicles would have to be available and have comparable cost.

Fail

HB 1697

Fees for NPDES Permits would have required EPD to enact rules to establish application and annual fees for wastewater and land application system permits based on sliding scale of detriment or toxicity, not to exceed $10,000.

Fail

HR 1419

House Septage Disposal Study Committee would have been formed to study problems of some counties not having facilities for disposal of septage and subsequent illegal discharge to land or waters of the State. A report would have been due by the end of 2004.

Fail

HR 1425

Constitutional Amendment on Solid Waste & Hazardous Waste Trust Fund would have allowed a referendum on the following question: "Shall the Constitution be amended so as to require the General Assembly to provide by general law for the creation of a Georgia Solid Waste and Hazardous Waste Trust Fund from which funds shall be disbursed to protect the public health and safety and the environment from the release of contaminants, hazardous waste, hazardous constituents, and hazardous substances?"

Fail

HR 1685

Radiation Monitoring Program at Savannah River Site would have urged the U.S. Congress to reinstate funding cut by the U.S. Department of Energy to EPD for radiation monitoring around the Savannah River Site.

Fail

HR 1762

Revoke Groundwater Withdrawal Permit and Lift Moratorium would have urged EPD to revoke the closed Durango plant groundwater permit (44.5 MGD) and consider lifting the moratorium for other groundwater withdrawals in the 24 county coastal area.

Fail

SB 0122

Roadway Exemption to E&S Act would have exempted public roadway projects constructed by the Department of Transportation from Control of Erosion and Sedimentation Act.

Fail

SB 0361

Regulatory Reform Act would have required, under the Georgia Administrative Procedures Act, state agencies to identify the number of small businesses affected by a rule-making, state the probable effect on small businesses, estimate the projected record-keeping, reporting and other costs for compliance, a description of less costly alternatives, and give an examination of risks the regulation is designed to abate. Small businesses are defined to be independently owned, with 50 or fewer employees or annual gross income less than $4 million. Federally delegated environmental laws may not be subject to this legislation, unless the federal environmental regulation does not comply with the federal Small Business Regulatory and Enforcement Fairness Act of 1996. It shall be the duty of every agency to provide reasonable assistance and education concerning the requirements of the laws of this state and the rules of the agency to any person or entity in order to achieve compliance with such laws and rules before commencing any contested case. A contested case shall be undertaken only after a reasonable attempt to achieve compliance with the laws and rules has failed to achieve such compliance.

Fail

SB 0483

Stream Buffers would have required an additional 25-foot buffer to streams in the state, with the continued exception of water and sewer line crossings. For individual home owners on primary trout streams, EPD would not grant variances to encroach on the 50-foot buffer. For individual home owners on secondary trout streams, EPD may grant up to a 25-foot buffer encroachment.

Fail

SB 0505

Cemetery as Greenspace would have allowed cemeteries to be considered greenspace in calculations for permanent protection of land.

Fail

SB 0524

No Stay When Filing a Permit Appeal would have discontinued an automatic stay if a permit, order or action is appealed by a third party. This would apply to any law or action by the EPD Director, pursuant to the Shore Protection Act or pursuant to the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act. A superior court judge can enjoin the party from conducting the action required by permit, order, or action while the administrative law judge reviews the appeal.

Fail

SB 0507

Georgia Smoke-free Air Act would have prohibited smoking in state or local facilities and enclosed public places, exempting private residences, designated hotel rooms, designated nursing home rooms, automobiles, stand-alone bars and tobacco retailers.

Fail

SB 0530

Contracts with Non-Profits would have allowed municipalities, counties or other water pollution control authorities to contract with non-profit (IRS section 501(c)(3)) organizations funded by Clean Water Act �319(h) grants.

Fail

SB 0571

Intermittent Stream Buffers would have exempted the 25-foot buffer requirements along channels and drainageways that have water in them only during and immediately after rainfall events and intermittent streams that do not have water in them year round.

Fail

SB 0590

Increasing Stream Buffers would have required an automatic proportional adjustment of the 25-foot and 50-foot stream buffer as the width of the stream increases.

Fail

SB 0614

Prohibit Groundwater Withdrawal Moratorium would have discontinued and prohibited the EPD Director from establishing a groundwater withdrawal moratorium as part of the Flint River Drought Protection Act.

Fail

SR 0579

Joint Water Conservation Study Committee would have undertaken a study of water conservation options for Georgia. The joint House-Senate committee shall consider existing policy, laws, rules, and programs to encourage or require water conservation measures by each water-using sector. The committee shall recommend legislative, financing, and other policy changes necessary for Georgia to increase water conservation, to assist city and county governments and other permitted water users to increase water conservation and to improve water use efficiency, and recommend any other action or legislation the committee deems appropriate. A report would have been done by the end of 2004.

Fail

SR 0874

Domestic Energy Policy would have urged the United States Congress to establish a domestic energy policy that will ensure an adequate supply of energy and the appropriate infrastructure, with an emphasis on natural gas supplies.

Fail

SR 0950

Revoke Groundwater Withdrawal Permit and Lift Moratorium would have urged EPD to revoke the closed Durango plant groundwater permit (44.5 MGD) and consider lifting the moratorium for other groundwater withdrawals in the 24 county coastal area.

Fail

SR 0964

Radiation Monitoring Program at Savannah River Site would have urged the U.S. Congress to reinstate funding cut by the U.S. Department of Energy to EPD for radiation monitoring around the Savannah River Site.

Fail

SR 0997

Senate Septage Disposal Committee would have been formed to study problems of some counties not having facilities for disposal of septage and subsequent illegal discharge to land or waters of the State. A report would have been due by the end of 2004.

Fail

SR 0998

Rising Price of Gasoline would have urged the U.S. President, the Federal Trade Commission, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Department of Justice, and Congress to address and investigate the rising price of gasoline.

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