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The Georgia Legislative session has begun, and many bills are being introduced that concern our members. Okefenokee Swamp protection and Coal Ash disposal are the two big concerns. The Georgia Water Coalition, GWC, has provided the following summary of the issues being followed–and a request to contact your legislator. You can write your own letter, or use the link provided, which automatically sends to your legislators from the address you provide. You can edit the letter as you wish to express your personal views.  You can also get more detailed info on the issues by contacting the person listed.
Barbara & Tally, GCG Legislative Team Members

GWC Priority Legislation
Each year, the GWC membership adopts two to three priority issues addressing critical threats to Georgia’s waterways. This year, the GWC is committing again to two issues we have been slowly gaining ground on for a number of years. With your advocacy and support we can continue to collect victories for the environment.

Protecting the Okefenokee Swamp
An Alabama-based company, Twin Pines Minerals, LLC, is proposing a mining operation that threatens the Okefenokee and tourism related jobs in the area. Mining next to the swamp can cause lasting and irreversible negative impacts to the swamp, its wildlife, regional ecotourism and adjacent timberlands. Industrial mining operations near the entrance of a world-renowned wilderness area threatens jobs. The Okefenokee Wildlife Refuge brings an estimated $64.7 million in tourism dollars and local jobs.

The cities of Homeland, Kingsland, St Marys, Waycross/Ware County, and Valdosta have passed local resolutions asking state officials to do everything possible to protect the Okefenokee.

The Okefenokee is the wrong place to mine. GWC supports legislation prohibiting mining the sensitive environments adjacent to and within the Okefenokee Swamp. The Okefenokee is the wild heart of Georgia. Don’t risk it. Protect the future of the Okefenokee today. Ask legislators to PASS LEGISLATION to permanently protect the Okefenokee Swamp from this and future risky mining proposals. For more information, please contact Megan with One Hundred Miles.

 Safe Coal Ash Disposal
Coal ash is the toxic waste left behind from coal-burning energy production. Coal ash contains dangerous heavy metals. More than 80 million tons of coal ash are stored in unlined pits along Georgia’s major rivers. Georgia Power is currently pursuing plans to permanently leave approximately 45 million tons of this waste mixed with groundwater in unlined pits along the Coosa, Chattahoochee and Ocmulgee rivers.

 In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency referenced the unsafe storage of toxic coal ash in Georgia. The agency clarified that federal law does not allow disposal of coal ash in groundwater. Georgia’s own laws must be fixed to ensure safer storage of coal ash.

 HB 647 (Rep. Vance Smith,R- Pine Mountain, and HNRE Chair Rep. Lynn Smith, R-Newnan) addresses post-closure groundwater monitoring at coal ash disposal sites. The Senate Natural Resources Committee needs to hold a hearing and vote on this piece of legislation.

 HB 176 (sponsored by Rep. Debbie Buckner, D-Junction City, Mary Margaret Oliver, Mary Frances Williams and others) and SB 230 (sponsored by Sen. Jen Jordan, D-Atlanta, and others) would require that coal ash be disposed of in lined, permitted solid waste landfills.

Status: HB 647 passed the House in 2021 and now awaits a hearing in Senate Natural Resources. HB 176 and SB 230 were introduced in 2021 and are stalled in their respective House and Senate Natural Resources Committees.

What you can do: Contact your legislators and ask them to support legislation to move coal ash away from our water resources.

 GWC strongly supports HB 176 and SB 230. GWC supports and is working to improve HB 647. For more information, please contact Kevin with Chattahoochee Riverkeeper.

 If you want to receive alerts when the GWC has calls to action on our priority legislative issues, please sign up for Protect Georgia. Protect Georgia alerts you as critical issues affecting our communities, environment and property rights arise. You can also see the GWC’s position on legislation we are tracking here.

Photo by RGC 2021 High School Environmental Competition Blogger Claire Mulkey