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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

GA lawmakers look to update drilling law to better protect water, landowners

Most of Georgia’s natural gas reserves are in nine counties in Northwest Georgia. Over the past 10 years or so, there have only been several applications for drilling permits. None of those efforts has been successful, but lawmakers are looking to improve state law in order to be prepared for potential changes in the market.

Georgia lawmakers in the House of Representatives, led by Rep. John Meadows, are reportedly proposing changes aimed at balancing the right of the oil and gas industry to drill, the right of landowners to protect their property, and the public’s right to protection of drinking water supplies.

Glyphosate toxicity continues to cause concern, despite EPA’s permissive approach to regulation, P.2

Previously, we began discussing the topic of glyphosate toxicity and how the EPA regulates pesticides. As we noted, the EPA regulates pesticides by establishing and enforcing residue tolerance levels. As we’ve noted, many are concerned at present about the EPA’s stance on glyphosate, saying that the tolerance level is currently set to high and that consumers are therefore at risk.

One issue that is currently being probed in litigation that began last month in federal court in California is how much influence Monsanto—the company that produces the herbicide Roundup—has had over the EPA’s approach to regulating glyphosate. A group of over 50 plaintiffs are claiming that Monsanto has been sitting for decades on evidence that glyphosate increases cancer risks. The plaintiffs are claiming that family members developed non-Hodgin lymphoma after being exposed to Roundup.

Expecting the unexpected may help you avoid water problems

If you were born and raised in Savannah, Tybee Island or another Georgia region, or for that matter, anywhere in the United States, rancid, contaminated drinking water is not likely high on your list of worries. In fact, that's usually something people in the United States and Canada and other advanced countries tend to imagine when thinking of Third World populations around the globe. However, the crucial factor in something that's unexpected is that you were unable to prepare for it.

In recent years, there have been several serious water crises throughout the nation. Those who had always enjoyed fresh, clean drinking water were suddenly witnessing their children and loved ones becoming gravely ill, with many even dying. From extremely high lead levels to aggressive E. coli bacteria, several public water supplies were grossly contaminated, causing illness and deaths to great numbers of victims.

Glyphosate toxicity continues to cause concern, despite EPA’s permissive approach to regulation, P.1

The number of toxic chemicals the average American is exposed to on a regular basis would probably surprise many people. Toxic chemicals can be found in our food, in our water, in household cleaning chemicals and other household items, on the job, in consumer products, and in the air we breathe. Most of the time, the chemical exposure we get is relatively small. Even small, repeated exposure can add up to cause problems, though.

While federal regulators routinely monitor and enforce limitations on the use of certain chemicals known to be harmful, there are a lot of chemicals out there which can cause harm but which are not regulated, or at least not regulated very heavily. One of the chemicals that may fit into this category, depending on how you interpret the science, is glyphosate. 

Georgia Power denies allegations that power plant permits are expired

The Sierra Club and other environmental advocacy groups have reportedly filed a lawsuit against Georgia Power for allowing coal-fired power plants to operate with outdated permits. The groups are alleging that the agency failed to ensure that five different power plants were current on their permit. Some of the facilities, they say, failed to update for permits for more than a decade, and therefore were not in compliance with stricter federal water pollution rules.

The significance of the allegations is that failure to keep up-to-date with wastewater permits can result in the discharge of high levels of various toxins into water supplies, including mercury, arsenic, and various heavy metals. This obviously puts local animal and human populations at risk. 

Democrats combative over President Trump’s combative EPA nominee

Readers may or may not have heard of President Trump’s nomination of Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency. The pick, like most of Trump’s other nominations, has proven controversial. Lawmakers held a confirmation hearing earlier this month in which they probed Pruitt with hundreds of questions to determine whether he is qualified for the appointment. The most recent report is that Democrats did not turn up for a scheduled vote on the nominee this week.

What exactly makes Pruitt so controversial? According to the Washington Post, Pruitt has a history of opposing the EPA, having fought the agency during Barack Obama’s presidency on regulations concerning smog, power plant carbon emissions, mercury pollution, and water quality. During his time in Oklahoma, Pruitt established an office dedicated to fight against unjustified federal regulation. 

Are chemical safety laws due for an update?

While much of the decision depends on the new presidential administration, a bill last year set the tone for the EPA to upgrade their research, potentially banning more dangerous chemicals from everyday use.

A 1976 law allows the EPA to ban chemicals, within certain guidelines. Since its passing 40 years ago, nine chemicals are no longer in use. Uses of those chemicals varied from insulation, coatings and industrial roles to household and everyday items such as flooring and aerosol cans. Different chemicals, of course, have different effects. Some damage users' lungs or organs with cancer-causing agents. TCDD is one of the most well known substances. It was the base of Agent Orange, which infamously polluted Vietnam waters and poisoned soldiers in the Vietnam War.

Vets to receive supplemental disability benefits for water contamination

Last week, the Veterans’ Administration announced that over $2 billion will be used to provide disability benefits for veterans who were exposed to tainted water during their time at Camp Lejeune, a Marine Corps base in North Carolina. The decision was made after it was determined that there was enough scientific and medical evidence to acknowledge a connection between contamination in the water and eight different medical conditions suffered by the veterans and family members.

The disability benefits will be made available, as a supplement to VA provided health care, to vets who were stationed at the base for at least 30 days in total between 1953 and 1987 and who meet diagnostic criteria. 

Looking at EPA regulation of PFASs and similar chemicals

We’ve been looking in recent posts at a study concerning the presence of toxic chemicals known as PFASs in public water supplies, noting that Georgia is among a group of states noted to have relatively high levels of these chemicals in its water supplies. As we noted, the EPA does regulate this group of chemicals.

There are a handful of federal laws which directly or indirectly regulate the use of PFASs. The Safe Drinking Water Act, for instance, regulates nearly 100 water contaminants and laid out a process for identifying and listing unregulated contaminants for potential data gathering and potential regulatory decision-making. Although the EPA currently has no regulations in place for PFASs and similar types of chemicals, it has taken several nonregulatory actions demonstrating that it is evaluating whether to issue such regulations. 

Harvard study finds Georgia water supplies may be relatively high in PFASs, P.2

Last time, we began looking at the topic of PFASs contamination of public water supplies. As we noted, there are various potential ways that PFASs can enter into water supplies other than industrial sites. Not surprisingly, these toxins show up more frequently in some states and locations than others.

According to the Harvard study we mentioned last time, Georgia is among a group of 13 states which account for a large percentage of PFASs detections across the United States. The study, which involved examination of 36,000 water samples across the United States, found that 75 percent of PFAS detections came from California, New Jersey, North Carolina, Alabama, Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Georgia, Minnesota, Arizona, Massachusetts and Illinois. 

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