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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

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. 

Landowners upset over prospect of eminent domain for proposed pipeline project

Readers may have heard that energy company Kinder Morgan has been pushing to lay down 260 miles of pipeline along the Savannah River and to the coast. The pipeline would apparently break off from a larger pipeline that brings gas to the Northeast from Gulf Coast refineries, and the gas to be transported through the pipeline would mostly be for domestic use.

In order to push the project forward, Kinder Morgan plans to seek out the ability to exercise eminent domain, though the extent to which the company would do so is likely to be minimal. Still, the prospect of a private company forcing land owners to give up their property has turned out to be controversial. In addition, there are concerns about the potential environmental impact of laying down a pipeline.

Work with experienced attorney in enforcing environmental regulations

Last December, we wrote about new regulations put out by the Environmental Protection Agency which aim to control the amount of coal ash plants are able to release in the course of their operations. As we noted, the federal rule is the first ever to address coal ash.

Under the rule, coal ash ponds are supposed to conduct groundwater monitoring on a regular basis and ponds with high levels of coal ash are supposed to be shut down. We also pointed out that over twenty coal ash ponds are scattered throughout the state of Georgia, making the issue quite relevant here. 

Work with experienced environmental law attorney on air Clean Air Act compliance

Clean air is something many people take for granted, but here in Georgia, there are places where air quality is a significant concern. According to a recent report by the American Lung Association, six counties in the state of Georgia have unacceptably high ozone levels. Ozone, of course, is dangerous for humans, and it is critical to keep ozone levels under control.

Metro Atlanta faces particular challenges with air quality, not surprisingly. Air pollution in Atlanta comes from a variety of sources, but especially from vehicle emissions. The problem is made worse by an increasing population and no large transit system to accommodate drivers. Needless to say, everybody needs to do their part to help address the problem. This is particularly true for those who have duties to fulfill under clean air laws. 

Getting involved in the Superfund cleanup process

We’ve been speaking in recent posts about the Superfund cleanup process, how it works, and its purpose. What we want to highlight here is that citizens and communities have the opportunity to get involved in the Superfund cleanup process and see that their interests are represented in remedial investigations and feasibility studies, and ultimately that they are addressed when those plans are carried out.

The Superfund program, at least in theory, is supposed to encourage community involvement in the cleanup process.  According to the EPA, the program aims for community participation early on in the cleanup process and seeks to address the concerns communities bring to the table. To assist in this effort, the EPA has various training and technical resources available for communities to allow for better participation. 

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