Dear Senator Carter,
I am sure I speak for a lot of people when I say thank you and, also more recently, Representative Ron Stephens for your efforts to keep your constituency informed with your guest columns in this paper. For you to find the time to draft these reports to the residents of our coast, considering the very busy schedule you have in Atlanta, is very much appreciated.
You and I have met informally at a meeting of the DNR’s Coastal Resources Division (CRD) in Brunswick. I would venture to say that with the exception of Senator Jeff Chapman of Brunswick and you there has been very little physical presence of any of our political representation, both past and present, at official meetings concerning issues of our coastal environment.
At that meeting I spoke out in defense of the CRD regarding the fact that they were being asked to do the impossible in law enforcement of 3400 miles of shore line in Georgia with a total of four law enforcement officers in their ranks assigned to the coastal region. I provided you with a copy of the chart the DNR has printed warning people about consumption of seafood out of the waters surrounding Brunswick. It warns pregnant women and children not to eat seafood other than under strict guidelines. I mentioned to you that it is a fact that sixty percent of the waters in Georgia, rivers, lakes and ponds are functioning at sub-standard levels due to pollution. This is Georgia, not Indonesia.
We all need to concentrate on what must be done to prevent further decline and perhaps affect a return to safer waters that Georgia residents have a right to. Unfortunately our political leadership in Atlanta seems bent on exacerbating the problem with proposed legislation designed to weaken the challenge to bad decisions affecting our environment.
Traditionally the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has allowed controversial subjects or challenges to their work to move from the legislative branch to the judicial branch via a lawsuit brought by opposing parties. This effectively removes the subject from EPD’s very limited budget and from their very strained ability to handle their workload with limited personnel and the previously mentioned limited budget.
The courts have been more prone to consider pure fact and scientific and professional testimony in making decisions as opposed to what seems to be the EPD’s adherence to their political up line.
SB486, along with a flurry of several other House and Senate bills, is designed to severely weaken the ability of the residents of the State of Georgia to challenge faulty decisions made by the EPD, often driven by the previously mentioned lack of funding and personnel.
I question the motives of anyone who would even bring such a bill to the floor.
We are well on the road to selling our soul to the devil with such legislation. Too often quantity is confused with quality.
For example, the planned Washington County (Sandersville) coal fired power plant is being promoted as a source of jobs and a healthy economy. The facts are this: “Clean Coal” is a total misnomer. Once you dig and burn coal you release mercury into our environment. It goes into the air or into the water. It does not go away. Many states will not even discuss the idea of a coal plant within their borders. Coal plants are highly technical and automated. The jobs they provide are very few and also highly technical. The proposed Washington County plant can be run with less than thirty people. The job descriptions do not fit the work force of rural Washington County. The power generated is planned to feed the growing monster called “Greater Atlanta”. All the folks in Washington County get is the pollution. Everybody downstream, including the Ogeechee River Basin gets the pollution. The Ogeechee River already has twice the amount of mercury poisoning the EPA allows and the Washington coal plant will dump even more into it.
Another example that is a little closer to home is the proposed 3.2 million gallon a day sewage treatment plant in Liberty County which is designed to dump the effluent directly into the salt marsh. The promoters of that project would benefit from the passage of SB48, a bill designed to prevent factual, scientific challenge to bad ideas. To seriously curb the people’s ability to challenge questionable decisions made by the DNR and its separate divisions is a very bad idea. It may also be unconstitutional. The individuals interested in shoving the badly designed waste water treatment plant down the throats of the residents of the coast know full well that a law suit is probable. It is going to become necessary to force a review of what appears to be a continuing improper process on the part of the EPD.
State law must be adhered to and a proper environmental impact study (EIS) must be done by competent personnel. The EPD has already sanctioned one complete farce of an EIS provided to them by CH2MHil, a design/engineering company from Denver Colorado with a very large presence in Georgia. Because of public disclosure of the very faulty EIS EPD has undertaken to do another study which at this point in time appears to be equally as faulty. The entire process appears to be designed so that the EPD can claim the work is done and the permit can be issued to build the waste water treatment plant.
Very often the verbiage used in House and Senate bills is carefully constructed to hide the real meaning of the bill. Its real intent and purpose can be camouflaged. This kind of thinking and these kinds of insidious maneuvers driven by greed and miss information can destroy the quality of life we enjoy in most of our State. We are becoming the victims of twenty-first century carpet baggers, some home grown.
Please vote no on SB486, SB492, HB1363, HB1365, and HB1370.
Hubbard is an environmentalist and retired Green Beret who lives in Richmond Hill.