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Week 5 Under the Gold Dome
Week 5 of the Georgia General Assembly

The Georgia Conservancy’s Advocacy team, led by Advocacy Director Leah Dixon, is under the Gold Dome every day of the Legislative Session (in spirit whilst working remotely) advocating for the protection of Georgia’s land and water.

There are often many surprises that arrive during the three-month session. Some of these surprises may be welcome pieces of legislation that will be of benefit to Georgia’s natural resources, while others could have dire consequences for our state.

The Georgia Conservancy looks forward to working with House and Senate leadership, and legislators on both sides of the aisle, to forward thoughtful conservation-minded policy with no rollbacks to the environmental protections that are already in place. Last week, the House and Senate approved the FY 21 Supplemental Budget, which will take the State through June 30, 2021. The legislature will continue its work on the FY 2022 Budget.

The following bills have been filed and are of high importance to the Georgia Conservancy. We will keep a dedicated eye on these measures during the 2021 Legislative Session.

Georgia Carbon Sequestration Registry – House Bill 355 (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59427?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID)

House Bill 355, sponsored by Rep. Marcus Wiedower (R-119) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/house/4956?session=1029&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , seeks to establish a carbon registry in Georgia that would enable the creation and tracking of carbon credits that can be accrued and then sold by developers to companies looking to offset their carbon footprint. The registry would include carbon credits for the use of sustainable building products, such as CO2 infused concrete, mass timber, carbon-neutral flooring, and all wood products, in statewide construction projects. Housed at the State Forestry Commission, the registry allows for the verification of structures by an independent third-party so as to determine the number of credits issued to the developer. Participation in the registry would be voluntary.

The measure would also establish a Sustainable Building Material Carbon Sequestration Technical Advisory Committee.

House Bill 355 is currently in the House Committee on Natural Resources & the Environment

The Georgia Conservancy supports the passage of House Bill 355

Georgia Environmental Justice Act of 2021 – House Bill 339 (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59406?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID)

Sponsored by Rep. Karla Drenner (D-85) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/house/95?session=1029&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , House Bill 339 would establish the Environmental Justice Commission.

The commission would have 22 appointed member and provide that “as a prerequisite for obtaining certain permits in neighborhoods consisting of persons of color or from low-income families applicants shall take certain actions to mitigate health hazards”, and that “governmental agencies shall consider the disproportionate effect of environmental hazards on people of color or people from low-income families in implementing certain environmental policies.” The Commission would also “provide that no person in Georgia shall be excluded from any state funded program or activity because of race, color, or national origin; to repeal conflicting laws.”

HB 339 is currently in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment.

The Georgia Conservancy supports the passage of House Bill 339

Senate Bill 102, sponsored by Sen. John Kennedy (S-18) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/senate/852?session=1029&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , and House Bill 150, sponsored by Rep. Bruce Williamson (R-115) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/house/778?session=1029&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , seek to prohibit governmental entities from prohibiting the connection or reconnection of any public utility based upon the type of fuel or energy source.

These bills have the potential to hinder innovation at the local level to address climate change.

SB 102 is currently in the Senate Committee on Regulated Industries and Utilities. HB 150 is currently in the House Committee on Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications

The Georgia Conservancy opposes these pieces of legislation, as we support local communities’ authority to explore their own solutions in the expansion and adoption of alternative energy sources.

Retail Distribution of Plastic “Grocery” Bags – Senate Bill 104 (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59386?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID)

Senate Bill 104, sponsored by Sen. Donzella James (D-35) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/senate/372?session=1029&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , seeks to prohibit the distribution of plastic “grocery” bags by retail stores to customers. The bill would exempt a number of other plastic bags and containers.

Senate Bill 104 is currently in the Senate Committee on Natural Resources & the Environment

The Georgia Conservancy supports the passage of Senate Bill 280, as well as strengthening education and outreach on reuse, reduce, and recycling.

Ethylene Oxide Emissions & Facility Permitting Requirements – House Bill 3 (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/58788?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID)

Following legislation passed last year (Senate Bill 426), House Bill 3, sponsored by Rep. Erick Allen (D-40) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/house/4939?session=1029&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , further establishes permit requirements for facilities that emit ethylene oxide.

Recently, ethylene oxide, commonly used to sterilize medical equipment, has been linked to an uptick in cancer reports in communities near facilities that release the gas beyond state-permitted quantities.

The bill would require facilities that release more than 50 pounds of ethylene oxide annually to allow the Georgia Environmental Protection Division to install monitoring equipment, and allow for the department to continuously monitor emissions and keep daily records for the term of the permit. Reports would be required to be available and updated twice a year on the EPD website. The legislation would also set further off-gassing requirements. Additionally, it would require facilities emitting ethylene oxide to submit an ambient air monitoring plan by January 1, 2022.

House Bill 3 is currently in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment

The Georgia Conservancy is currently evaluating House Bill 3

Lining Systems for Solid Waste Facilities – House Bill 176 (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59099?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID)

House Bill 176, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Buckner (D-137) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/house/71?session=27&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , seeks to require coal combustion residuals (CCR or coal ash) to be disposed of in solid waste facilities that, at a minimum, contain liners and leachate collection systems that meet or exceed the design standards for new municipal solid waste landfills.

HB 176 is currently in the House Committee on Natural Resources and the Environment

The Georgia Conservancy is currently evaluating and monitoring HB 176.

Flood Risk Reduction as County Tax Purpose – House Bill 244 (https://www.legis.ga.gov/legislation/59230?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID)

House Bill 244, sponsored by Rep. Don Hogan (R-179) (https://www.legis.ga.gov/members/house/4906?session=1029&mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) , would authorize the use of insurance premium tax revenue for flood risk reduction policies or projects to be implemented in unincorporated areas of counties that are prone to experiencing floods. Such policies or projects may include, but are not limited to, the creation of flood risk management strategies and plans, installation of stormwater management infrastructure and acquisition of high-risk properties. Currently, these funds can also be used for police and fire protection, solid waste collection, and curbs, sidewalks and street lights. Additional funding for flood risk management is especially important in our coastal counties which already experience the detrimental effects of sea level rise.

Learn more (https://www.georgiaconservancy.org/blueprints/slr?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID) about the Georgia Conservancy’s work to address sea level rise on our coast.

House Bill 244 is currently assigned to the House Governmental Affairs Committee

The Georgia Conservancy supports the passage of House Bill 244

The following are measures or issues that we anticipate seeing during the 2021 Legislative Session:

Georgia Outdoor Stewardship Program – The Advocacy and Land Conservation programs continue to monitor GOSP activities. The second-year application period closed on October 16th, and projects have been selected and approved by the GOSP Board of Trustees and the DNR Board. This slate of projects will now be considered by the State House and Senate Appropriations sub-committee before beginning the final phase of the application process.

The Budget – As legislators prepare the FY 22 Budget, we will monitor specific items related to natural resources and conservation. As noted above, we will work to restore original funding for GOSP.

Reauthorization of the Georgia Land Conservation Tax Credit – The Georgia Conservation Tax Credit will sunset on December 31, 2021 unless reauthorized by legislators in the upcoming session. We are working with the Association of Georgia Land Trusts to introduce legislation to reauthorize the credit, which offers landowners a financial incentive for protecting their lands. The Georgia Conservation Tax Credit is essential to land conservation in our state. The program has supported permanent conservation of critical lands and habitat and serves as an important statement of the State’s conservation values.

Dedication of the Solid and Hazardous Waste Trust Funds – Voter approval of Amendment 1 on the November 2020 ballot allows the General Assembly to statutorily dedicate existing trust funds whereby fees collected for a specific purpose must be allocated to that purpose rather than be redirected to the General Fund. The Georgia Conservancy will work with partners to advocate for legislation that would dedicate fees collected for the Solid and Hazardous Waste Trust Funds.

Georgia Outdoor Recreation – Georgia’s robust outdoor recreation assets benefit the conservation of our natural resources and bolster the health of communities large and small. During the 2021 Legislative Session, the Georgia Conservancy is working with partners in the Georgia Outdoor Recreation Coalition (GORC) and legislators to strengthen and expand our outdoor recreation infrastructure through thoughtful policies and programs. Learn more about GORC at www.gaoutdoors.org (http://www.gaoutdoors.org/?mc_cid=7b43a7e6fa&mc_eid=UNIQID)


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