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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Use of artificial turf increases, despite toxicity concerns

Sports advocates here in Georgia and elsewhere have probably heard of the trend toward using artificial turf fields made up of small pellets of crumb rubber, which comes from old recycled tires. Crumb rubber is often used for football and soccer fields as it provides cushioning for players when they fall, but there are also concerns about the toxicity of the rubber pellets.

In some areas, there is a growing opposition to use of crumb rubber because of the potential health risks to athletes, though there is debate as to how legitimate the concern is. Some municipalities have debated putting a moratorium on artificial turf. At the same time, use of synthetic turf is rapidly growing in some areas in order to support expansion of athletics programs. According to the both the EPA and a Georgia-based group turf industry group, the number of fields has more than doubled since 2009, and crumb rubber is used in nearly all of them.

Lawmakers support reform of federal law addressing toxic chemicals, P.2

In our last post, we mentioned that there is legislation currently under consideration in the House of Representatives which would update the Toxic Substances Control Act by expediting the review process for chemicals used in consumer products and give states more authority to pass their own regulations as well as provide companies better guidance on the use of chemicals in their manufacturing process.

The Toxic Substances Control Act entails compliance with various rules, and companies that fail to follow these rules can expect to face enforcement efforts from the EPA and state authorities, which result in fines and orders to make the appropriate changes to come into compliance with federal law. 

Lawmakers support reform of federal law addressing toxic chemicals, P.1

Staying healthy these days is a challenge, not only in terms of diet, exercise and proper rest, but also in terms of avoiding toxic chemicals in the products we use every day. Because of the impact of toxic chemicals on health and quality of life, the issue is something all of us should be concerned about as consumers.

Federal law addresses the issue of toxic chemicals found in consumer products through the Toxic Substances Control Act (TSCA), which was originally passed in 1967. Under the TSCA, the Environmental Protection Agency has the authority to require manufacturers to report and keep records regarding the chemicals they use in their products, as well as to restrict the use of certain chemicals that are considered too dangerous to use. 

Georgia joins lawsuit over new Clean Water Act regulation

Along with eight other states, Georgia has reportedly joined in on a lawsuit filed against the Environmental Protection Agency over a new clean water rule which would give the government authority to regulate tributaries leading to rivers and streams covered by the Clean Water Act.  

The latter, as readers may know, covers all navigable waters, but the new rule would extend the scope of regulation even further to water sources that feed navigable waters. The rationale behind the extension is that, since tributaries feed into navigable waterways, they should be protected from pollution the same way.

Supreme Court: EPA failed to conduct cost-benefit analysis with emissions regulation

Readers all heard earlier this week about the United States Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding marriage rights, but the court also issued other opinions as well. One of these opinions dealt with a challenge to the Environmental Protection Agency’s effort to regulate coal plant emissions of mercury and other pollutants. This effort met with a significant challenge from 20 states and various interest groups.

The regulation aimed to reduce the 2005 carbon emissions level by 30 percent by 2030. The problem, according to critics, was that the costs of meeting that goal would be significant. From a legal perspective, critics argued, the EPA has to take into account the cost of regulations in enforcing the Clean Air Act, from which the regulations would draw their authority. The agency did not do this when it passed the regulation. 

Pope’s encyclical brings greater awareness of environmental responsibility

Regardless of where you fall in terms of religion and politics, the buzz surrounding Pope Francis’ new encyclical on the environment is certainly interesting. Those who are familiar with the Catholic Church’s teaching on the issue know that concern for the environment has become an increasingly important message, even if that concern has been voiced by previous popes and has been around for years.

For those who haven’t had the chance to read through the encyclical, TIME offers a brief synopsis of the major points. These points are: that climate change is a fact and that it is becoming worse; that the human population does have a significant impact on climate change; that governments and lawmakers have a responsibility to address the situation; and that climate change affects developing nations disproportionately. You may or may not agree with these points, but very few will disagree with the effort to bring increased awareness to environmental responsibility. 

What are the consequences of violating Georgia soil and water law? P.2

We began speaking last time about enforcement of Georgia’s Erosion and Sedimentation Act. We’ve already mentioned that one possible avenue is enforcement action by the Environmental Protection Division or other appropriate authority. The other possibility is for a private party to initiate a tort action against an offending party.

The type of tort initiated in an action under the Erosion and Sedimentation Act depends on the type of harm that occurred. This could involve a claim of trespass, negligence, nuisance, or infringement of riparian rights. Nuisance refers to situations where a property owner is conducting or allowing activities that result in an increase in the volume, velocity or turbidity of the water for the plaintiff. Trespass involves situations where water and/or sediment is spilled onto other properties as a result of land disturbing activities. 

What are the consequences of violating Georgia soil and water law? P.1

In our last post, we spoke about criticisms that are being leveled against the new lineup of the formerly independent but now government backed Soil and Water Conservation Commission. One of the points we noted, in speaking of the heavy representation from industry on the new commission lineup, is that businesses, environmentalists and private citizens often have competing interests when it comes to soil and water quality, and environmental issues in general. The concern with a largely pro-business representation in the organization that helps set soil and water policy is rooted in this concern.

One of the important points to talk about here is enforcement of soil and water law. What happens when a party conducting land disturbing activities which impact soil and water quality violate Georgia’s Erosion and Sedimentation Act

Environmentalists suspect conflict of interest in new commission lineup

Those who follow environmental news and policy here in Georgia know that one of the recent developments in the area of soil and water quality is that state law was recently changed so that the Governor is now able to make appointments to the Soil and Water Conservation Commission, which used to be an independent authority.

The role of the commission, for those who don’t know, is to oversee changes to the Manual for Erosion and Sediment Control in Georgia—otherwise known as the Green Book—which is sort of the go-to resource for determining best practices concerning erosion and runoff control. The change to allowing gubernatorial appointments was undertaken on the grounds that it would help lower costs and allow businesses greater representation when it comes to water quality policy. 

Gasoline leakage reflects poorly on company’s safety reputation

In our last post, we spoke about the controversy that has arisen from Kinder Morgan’s pipeline proposal. Much of the controversy, we noted, is connected to the possible exercise of eminent domain in building the pipeline. It isn’t clear at this point how far the project will progress, but one thing that can be said with certainty is that the company has its opponents.

One significant expression of opposition to the project is Push Back the Pipeline, which is an effort founded by Savannah Riverkeeper and composed of individuals and groups who disapprove the pipeline plan. One of the incidents the group has used to illustrate some of its concerns is the leakage of over 330,000 gallons of gasoline from a pipeline in Belton, South Carolina. The leakage is due to a structural failure that was first reported back in December. 

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