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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

Mine closings present environmental threat as companies go bankrupt

Readers may be aware that the mining industry is currently experiencing significant financial challenges due to lack of demand. As a result, workers are being laid off, companies are filing for bankruptcy, and mines are being abandoned. Along with these mine closings, there is an increased risk to the environment.

As mines are increasingly abandoned, the risk of environmental pollution increases, which can impact local natural environments and populations. Mining companies, facing their own challenges, are not likely to take precautions to prevent possible pollution or clean it up. This is all the more likely given that mining companies are allowed to make promises to clean up abandoned mines without actually setting aside the funds necessary to do so. This practice is known as self-bonding.

Toxic tort victims: work with us to seek compensation for pollution-related injury, loss

Last time, we began looking at a federal lawsuit which has been filed against the Environmental Protection Agency by several environmental advocacy groups who claim the agency doesn’t adequately regulate fracking wastewater disposal. As we noted, the groups are requested stricter regulations.

It isn’t that nothing has been done in recent years to address the issue. Last year, for instance, the Department of the Interior established standards for fracking on public lands and Native American reservations. The regulation of the industry is, however, largely in the hands of individual states at present. 

Environmental groups sue EPA to adequately address fracking concerns

Various environmental advocacy groups have filed a federal lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency alleging that the agency has not done enough to address the environmental concerns associated with hydraulic fracturing, commonly known as fracking. The groups say current regulations on fracking wastewater disposal are vague and inadequate, and they are seeking to force the EPA to establish stricter rules on disposal of fracking wastewater.  

Typical industry practice at present is to pump the wastewater into underground wells, but oil and gas companies are able to dispose of the toxic waste in a variety of ways, including spraying it on icy roads and putting it in landfills. The advocacy groups behind the litigation are saying EPA has allegedly failed to update the rules for oil and gas drilling waste disposal for almost 30 years, and that something needs to be done to specifically address issues stemming from inadequate fracking waste disposal methods. 

Georgia river faces significant challenges amidst water rights litigation, P.2

In our last post, we mentioned a recent report by nonprofit organization American Rivers which named the Chattahoochee River as among the most endangered rivers in the country. As we noted, pollution and excessive water use have contributed to the degradation of the river basin. Part of the problem is that there is an interstate debate over water use.

Florida Republican Senator Marco Rubio recently weighed in on the debate when he criticized Georgia for overusing water from the river basin to supply the needs of the Atlanta metro. Rubio is apparently supporting legislation which would require the governors of Alabama, Florida and Georgia to come to a mutually acceptable agreement regarding water allocation. The bill would eliminate funding for the Army Corp of Engineers until such an agreement is reached. 

Georgia river faces significant challenges amidst water rights litigation, P.1

The Chattahoochee, that great river Alan Jackson crooned about, was recently listed as among the most endangered rivers in the nation. The finding was the result of an annual study by American Rivers. In its report, the nonprofit said the river basin and its native wildlife have suffered from years of mismanagement as well as excessive water use.

The report urged lawmakers in the three states through which the river runs—Alabama, Georgia, and Florida—to take action to ensure the sustainability of the river system, the survival of which is seriously threatened. Of particular concern is raising the river elevation in certain sections of the river. 

A brief look at how the zoning board weighs requests for variances

In our last post, we began speaking about the issue of zoning, and the importance of working with an experienced attorney when dealing with zoning matters. For businesses and real estate developers, one of the ways zoning issues can come up is when a variance or special exception needs to be requested.

Variances and special exceptions to zoning rules may only be granted when an application is properly submitted and specific criteria are met. The criteria for variances and special exceptions are different, and it is up to the applicant to demonstrate that a variance or exception should be granted. 

Looking at the City of Atlanta’s zoning arm

Earlier this month, the city of Alpharetta reportedly kicked off the process of making updates to its city-wide land use plan, asking citizens to get involved by attending public meetings and make their voices heard. The city is reportedly required to update its Comprehensive Land Use Plan every five years.

Atlanta, of course, has a similar plan in place, which is required by law to be updated every three to five years. The plan is intended to facilitate growth and development with respect to a variety of aspects of development, including population, natural resources, community facilities, transportation, and land use. The latter term includes standards pertaining to the classification of neighborhoods for development purposes, or zoning. 

Flint water crisis prompts litigation over excessive lead exposure

We have previously written on this blog about the Flint water crisis, noting the shakeup in the local government over the debacle. We also mentioned that the investigations that began in response to the incident, including an investigation by the EPA. In addition to the legal action that has already been taken, a lawsuit was recently filed in a federal court in Detroit seeking damages for Flint resident and property owners who have suffered both physical and economic injuries.

The plaintiffs named in the lawsuit include seven residents and a total of 17 children who were found to have increased levels of lead in their bodies as a result of the coverup. The lawsuit alleges that the defendants are guilty of gross negligence, which would give them the right to sue under state law. Immunity does not apply in cases of gross negligence. In the suit, the plaintiffs seek damages for both past and future health care costs, among other things. 

Retain experienced counsel to navigate EPA hearings process

Last time, we spoke briefly about federal pesticide regulation, which is handled by both the FDA and the EPA. As we noted, the EPA can and does sometimes grant conditional approval for pesticides subject to ongoing research concerning the safety of the pesticide under consideration. An ongoing dispute between the EPA and Bayer CropScience involves the granting of conditional approval for a pesticide by the name of flubendiamide.

In the United States, the pesticide has been used on tobacco, pepper, almond, and watermelon crops. The EPA approved the pesticide on a conditional basis, and is now moving to cancel approval based on evidence that it accumulates in streams and lakes, which could cause it to harm freshwater wildlife. 

Federal regulation of pesticide use helps protect environment, public health

Chances are that most of our readers, at some point, have thought about whether it is worth their hard-earned money to spend more on organic food as opposed to the chemically treated stuff. For those who can afford it, organic produce can arguably be beneficial, but many people, of course, cannot.

Whatever your opinion on the organic food debate, federal laws and regulations do set minimum standards in terms of pesticides used in animal-derived products, as well as germicidal preparations used on inanimate objects, rodenticides and insecticides. These laws and regulations are enforced by both the Food and Drug Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency. 

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