The Georgia Legislature officially began their 2015 session this past Monday and so begins a weekly series of posts highlighting the significant land use/development/transportation bills being introduced. The media certainly does a good job of covering the major pieces of legislation, but many significant bills related to how we interact with the natural environment often go unnoticed. The first week started off a bit slow, but expect it to ramp up within the next few weeks; last year’s session saw nearly 50 bills related to land use, development, and environmental issues.
This the first installment of a weekly segment looking at the bills being introduced in the Georgia Assembly that involve land use, environmental, and transportation issues. Please see the 2015 Legislative Session page for ongoing coverage.
HB-4, Allow Interbasin Water Transfers from Certain Rivers into the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District
Harry Geisinger, 48th District
This is probably the most significant related bill introduced thus far and could end up being one of the most significant of the entire session. The Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District governs the management of water in the 15 county region. This includes enacting and enforcing rules related to stormwater management, water treatment, and water conservation. Current law prohibits the District from studying or including in any plan any transfer of water into the District from outside the District. HB-4 amends this by allowing such a transfer if it is from a river with an annual average flow of at least 15 billion gallons per day at the withdrawal point. The county in which the withdrawal point lies would have to approve such a transfer.
This bill has one intention: to grab water from the Tennessee River should Georgia lawmakers ever attempt to follow through on their plan to challenge the official boundary between Georgia and Tennessee. Remember this plan? It has been brought up many times in the past and has been resurrected once again in light of the current US Supreme Court case involving water rights between Georgia and Florida (see my series on the Tri-State Water Wars). Essentially, many people feel that the border between Tennessee and Georgia was drawn incorrectly and Georgia should actually extend northwards. This would give the state access to the Tennessee River. This plan will be addressed in more detail in final part of the Tri-State Water Wars articles.
This bill currently has yet to be assigned to any committee.
HB-11, Preventing New Cities from Being Formed in Such a Way as to Create Islands of Unincorporated Land
Rhan Mayo, 84th District
This is a pretty common sense bill. It would prevent the boundaries of newly incorporating cities from being in draw in such a way as to create pockets of unincorporated county land that are not touching any part of the unincorporated county land. Essentially, new cities cannot create pockets of unincorporated land that are cut off from the rest of the county. With the proliferation of new cities in the metro region this bill could have a significant impact. I need to familiarize myself with the ongoing boundary disputes concerning those areas of the region that are in the midst of changing jurisdictional hands before making any further comments. The bill could stir some localized backlash if it applies to the current boundary disputes, but other than that it’s not clear who exactly would or should oppose this bill.
Currently the bill has yet to be assigned to a committee.
SB-36, Prohibit the Storage of Groundwater in the Floridan Aquifer
William Ligon, Jr., 3rd District
This is a bill that was introduced in last year’s session and never made it out of committee. This bill seeks to prohibit the pumping of groundwater into the Floridan aquifer for the purpose of storing such water for later use – known as Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR). The Floridan aquifer is located in southern Georgia and Florida; this bill applies to the coastal Counties of Brantley, Bryan, Camden, Charlton, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, McIntosh, and Wayne. ASR has been used in Florida for several decades to store water for the purpose of replenishing aquifers and to serve as reserves in times of drought. Concerns of have been voiced recently that this practice can be harmful to the aquifer because it has the potential to introduce harmful heavy chemical and pathogens. In coastal areas, the introduction of groundwater into the brackish aquifer waters may result in water that isn’t drinkable resulting in an inefficient system.
Currently this bill has not been assigned to a committee
HB-57, Financing of Solar Power Technology on Private Land
Mike Dudgeon, 25th District
This bill seeks to dramatically increase the amount of electricity generated by solar technology by creating rules for the financing of personal solar equipment. The bill would prevent electricity providers from prohibiting the use of solar technology by customers. Customers can enter into agreements with solar financing agents that allow financing payments to be based on how much electricity is being produced. The idea is that the up front costs of solar equipment are reduced through this financing mechanism. Any solar technology used by customers would still be regulated by local land use ordinances, however.
More commentary on this bill in the near future. A more comprehensive look at this bill and the land use regulations that affect solar energy can be found here.
This bill has been assigned to the Energy, Utilities, and Telecommunications House Committee
Please see the 2015 Legislative Session page for ongoing coverage.
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Categories: 2015 Legislative Session, Atlanta, Land Use, Law and Government, Tri-State Water Wars
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