Georgia Legislature provides a few wins for environmentalists: Solar energy, plastic bagsThe state House has rejected a Senate bill intended to prevent cities from curbing the use of plastic bags, as Athens has done. Credit: onlineathens.com
By David Pendered
Georgia lawmakers have resolved two bills in favor of environmentalists – by passing one bill that promotes the installation of solar power, and by killing another that aimed to prevent local governments from regulating plastic bags.
The House and Senate have approved a solar financing bill, House Bill 57. It intends to help property owners install solar power equipments by enabling loans, leases and other agreements that facilitate third-party financing, according to the Georgia Solar Energy Association.
This is how the Solar Energy Industries Assoc. defines the financing model:
- “Third-party financing of solar energy primarily occurs through two models. A customer can sign a traditional lease and pay for the use of a solar system or the customer can sign a power purchase agreements (PPA) to pay a specific rate for the electricity that is generated each month.”
HB 57 was sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from metro and exuburban Atlanta. House signers include Rep. Mike Dudgeon (R-Johns Creek); Rep. Karla Drenner (D-Avondale Estates); Rep. Buzz Brockway (R-Lawrenceville); Rep. Harry Geisinger (R-Roswell); Rep. Ed Setzler (R-Acworth); and Rep. Mark Hamilton (R-Cumming).
The Senate sponsor was Sen. Steve Gooch (R-Dahlonega), the chamber’s majority whip.
“This shows how working together toward a common goal can transcend political divisions and produce lasting, productive results for all of Georgia,” GSEA Chairman Brion Fitzpatrick said in a statement.
“This stride forward would not have been possible without the coalition that collaborated on this effort throughout the legislative process,” Fitzpatrick said. “That coalition includes Georgia Power, Georgia’s EMCs and MEAGs, the Georgia Solar Energy Industries Association, the Georgia Property Rights Council, the environmental community, and consumer protection advocates, as well as many others.”
The plastic bags bill has traveled under the moniker, “plastic bags everywhere.”
Senate Bill 139 was sponsored by six senators and intended to prevent local governments from restricting the use of plastic bags and Styrofoam containers commonly used to transport retail items and food from shops to their destinations.
The bill responded to steps in Athens and Tybee Island to restrict the use of plastic bags.
In the Senate, sponsors included Sen. Tyler Harper (R-Ocilla); Sen. Jeff Mullis (R-Chickamauga), who chairs the powerful Rules Committee; Sen. John Wilkinson (R-Toccoa); Sen. Ross Toleson (R-Perry); Sen. Freddie Powell Sims (D-Dawson); and Sen. Dean Burke (R-Bainbridge).
The House sponsor was Rep. Tom McCall (R-Elberton).
The Senate approved the legislation fairly quickly. The bill was introduced Feb. 19 and, seven days later, the Senate passed a slightly modified version of the bill. The proposal met some resistance in the House, which offered two substitute versions before voting March 27 to reject the proposal. The vote to pass the bill failed with a vote of 65 to 85.
Opponents of the bill were able to muster a fair level of support for their position.
A national symposium to discuss the worldwide plastic pollution issue just happened to be hosted March 26 and 27. It was sponsored by Georgia State University and the David J. Sencer Centers for Disease Control Museum.
In a statement announcing the conference, Pam Longobardi, GSU Distinguished University Professor, Professor of Art and founder of the Drifters Project, said:
- “This is a unique conference that brings together top scientists, artists, activists and industry leaders as partners in exposing the environmental and public health issues of plastic pollution and collaboratively working to offer solutions.”
Former state Rep. Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, executive director of GreenLaw, observed of SB 139 in a statement release March 25:
- “Home rule is a long-established policy in Georgia whereby local governments can decide how to best govern themselves. The Georgia Legislature should respect Tybee’s right to control litter in their community.”