Conservation Under The Gold Dome
By Georgia Conservancy Communications Director Brian Foster
Though we’d rather be out exploring Georgia’s forests or waterways as our winter days transition into spring, we often have important and timely business to tend to in town this time of year.
As you are probably aware, through the 24-hour news cycle, the Legislative Session at the State Capitol is in full swing. In addition to the networking, constituent meetings, and resolutions in support of specific causes or organizations, our state legislators are tasked with the very critical job of crafting and building support for measures that have tremendous influence on our state’s natural resources and the places in which we love to recreate, research, and relax.
The Georgia Conservancy, along with many of our partners in conservation, is under the Gold Dome every day of the legislative session keeping a weather eye on such measures and advocating for bills that will advance the protection of our land, air, and water, while fighting against roll backs to the current environmental protections that are important to Georgia.
One of these important pieces of conservation legislation which we have long championed celebrates an important milestone this legislative session. This year marks the 50th anniversary of Georgia’s Coastal Marshland Protection Act, perhaps the strongest marsh protection measure in our nation and one that continues to play a critical role in the conservation success that is our 378,000 acres of ecologically-productive salt marsh, the most held by any state on the eastern seaboard. The success of the Coastal Marshlands Protection Act is a constant and clear reminder for us this session of the power of citizen-led advocacy and the willingness of legislators to make conservation a priority.
With this in mind, we are following and reporting on a number of pieces of legislation during this session, including:
- The Restoration of GEFA Loans – House Bill 901 would reinstate the Georgia Environmental Finance Authority’s (GEFA) ability to provide loans to local governments and non-governmental entities through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund for use in conservation projects.
- Changes to the Right To Farm Act – House Bill 545 seeks to limit the ability of landowners and homeowners to pursue legal action against newly-established, nearby agricultural operations that may be causing environmental harm.
- A Ban on Plastic Grocery Bags – Senate Bill 280 proposes a ban on the distribution of the ubiquitous plastic grocery bag to consumers.
- Updates to the Conveyance of State Heritage Properties – House Bill 906 seeks to amend methods of the conveyance of state heritage preserve properties, which are defined by the Heritage Trust Act of 1975 as protected heritage areas that exhibit “unique natural characteristics, special historical significance, or particular recreation value” to include additional entities.
- Updated Coal Ash Disposal Fees – Senate Bill 123 seeks to increase the minimum per ton surcharge imposed on privately-operated municipal solid waste facilities that accept coal combustion residuals (CCRs), commonly known as coal or fly ash, from $1 per ton to $2.50 per ton.
To learn details about each of these bills and a number of other measures important to the conservation of Georgia’s natural resources, please read and sign up for our weekly legislative update: www.georgiaconservancy.org/advocacy/update
To celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Georgia’s Coastal Marshland Protection Act, join us at our annual Oyster Roast for the Coast in Savannah on March 7th. Details here: www.georgiaconservancy.org/oysterroast