County to rule on whether sewage plant can continue operating

31 10 2008

Diane Wagner | Rome News-Tribune

The Floyd County Commission is scheduled to decide today whether a private sewage treatment plant can continue to operate at the old Lindale mill. Andrew Hawkins of Carter Environmental wants to treat septic system collections at the West First Street site of the defunct denim mill’s treatment plant.

Nearby residents have mobilized to protest the odors and noise from delivery trucks, but Hawkins, who got permits before committing to the business, is contesting their claims.

His attorney, Albert Palmour, cautioned officials in a Sept. 30 e-mail to “(keep) in mind that the waste facility existed and was next door to these people and their ancestors.”

The Rome-Floyd County Planning Commission recommended approval of a special use permit for treating septic system waste, but drew the line at the FOG — food, oil and grease — collections that sparked outcry in the neighborhood and led to a shutdown of operations earlier this year.

Commissioners caucus at 4 p.m., with their regular meeting and public hearings starting at 6 p.m. The board meets on the second floor of the County Administration Building, 12 E. Fourth Ave.

Click here for the board’s complete agenda.

Unity Christian School’s request for a special use permit to build a new campus on property off Wilbanks Road at the Rome bypass also goes to the board with a recommendation for approval.

A rezoning application to allow a convenience store at the corner of Rockmart Highway and Pleasant Hope Road is facing an uphill climb. Residents and members of two nearby churches are petitioning for a denial and the planning commission has backed them.

Read on here.

Hearings set for proposed nuclear reactors

31 10 2008


MARGARET NEWKIRK | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

On Monday, state utility regulators begin a three-month process of deciding whether to allow Georgia Power to build more nuclear reactors.

First up: The public.

The Georgia Public Service Commission has set all of Monday aside to hear from public proponents and opponents of the planned nuclear expansion.

Georgia Power wants to build two additional reactors at its Vogtle nuclear plant in Waynesboro.

The utility estimates its portion of the cost at more than $6 billion for its 45.7 percent ownership share of the project. Municipal utilities and the state’s electric membership cooperatives will own the rest.

Georgia Power will begin making its pitch for the new reactors on Wednesday.

Official opponents, such as industrial customers or environmental organizations, and the PSC staff will make their case in January.

The PSC has until Feb. 17 to rule.

Nonprofit group bringing its environmental advocacy to Savannah

31 10 2008


Marjorie Young | The Creative Coast

The Southern Environmental Law Center (SELC) has launched a special initiative focusing on the Georgia coast, says David Pope, Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of the SELC. The nonprofit SELC is the South’s largest environmental advocacy organization, using the power of the law to protect the environment and health in the Southeast. SELC’s Georgia Coastal Initiative brings the organization’s long-standing reputation and expertise to local environmental efforts. With three attorneys on the project, SELC will provide its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups.

Media contact: David Pope, (404) 521-9900

(SAVANNAH) – The Southern Environmental Law Center, the largest, nonprofit environmental advocacy organization dedicated solely to protecting the South’s environment, has launched an initiative focusing on the Georgia coast, including Savannah and the surrounding coastal region. For some time, the Georgia coast, home to some of the most beautiful and vast marshlands, has been under increasing development pressure threatening its special landscape and ecosystems.

“We believe the Georgia coast and certainly the Savannah area are special places that deserve special attention and protection,” says David Pope, Director of the Georgia/Alabama office of SELC. “The Georgia coast is a place with a unique ecology. Georgia marshes are famous worldwide attracting tourists, fishermen and Georgia residents alike.”

SELC, founded 22 years ago, uses the full power of the law to preserve and protect the health and environment of the Southeast, including shaping, enacting and enforcing laws and policies, strengthening relationships with legislators and policy-makers, and partnering with other environmental organizations.

Pope adds, “We are not anti-development. We appreciate the need for responsible growth and economic prosperity. But, our job is to protect the public’s interest in the public’s resources and we will challenge those projects that do not meet the requirements of the law and may damage this special place.”

SELC works collaboratively with more than 100 partner groups who depend on the group’s expertise, regional perspective, and legal strategy to complement and strengthen their efforts. SELC’s consistent track record has earned it a reputation as one of the most effective non-profits in the nation. SELC, which is donor-funded by foundations, families and individuals, provides its services at no cost to its partner environmental groups. There are three attorneys based in the Georgia-Alabama office, headquartered in Atlanta, who are focused on Georgia coastal issues.

Pope adds, “the Southeast, already the fastest sprawling region in the U.S., faces unprecedented pressures from explosive population growth and development trends. Georgia’s coastal marshes and hammocks are very vulnerable in the next 10-20 years given the intense population growth expected in the area. If special attention is not given to the Georgia coast, we could lose one of the South’s most precious resources.”

In addition to beauty and recreations, the Georgia coast’s wetlands provide a cleansing sponge for stormwater runoff, he explained, and the marsh estuary is one of the most unique and productive areas in the U.S. Improperly placed development will cause serious damage to the marsh and the entire ecology.

About the Southern Environmental Law Center
SELC is a nonprofit donor supported environmental advocacy organization using the power of the law to protect the environment and health in the Southeast. Since 1986, SELC has informed, implemented and enforced environmental law and policy concerning clean air and water, mountain forests, the coast and wetlands, and rural lands and livable communities. Working to defend the public’s interest and never for private gain, SELC provides its legal services without charge to other environmental organizations and partner groups. SELC has 63 staff members and offices in Charlottesville and Richmond, Virginia; Chapel Hill and Asheville, North Carolina; Charleston, South Carolina, Washington, DC, Sewanee, Tennessee; and Atlanta. Visit SELC online here.

Environmental steps completed for proposed 411 connector

31 10 2008

Rome News-Tribune

Officials from the Federal Highway Administration have signed the Record of Decision for the 411 Connector project. The signing of the ROD completes the exhaustive environmental regulations required for federally funded road projects.

The proposed connector will link U.S. 411 at its interchange with U.S. 41 west of Cartersville with I-75. The project will separate through traffic from locally generated traffic, reducing congestion in the corridor. Although Georgia lawmakers secured $25 million on federal funding for the project, the state DOT announced recently the project is on hold because of budget constraints.

Rome’s David Doss, who represents the 11th Congressional District on the Sate Transportation Board, said he will work with the federal, state and local officials to push for the road’s completion.

“This ROD is proof that, by giving this project the attention it deserves, environmental streamlining works,” said Federal Highway Administrator Thomas J. Madison. “With today’s signing, hundreds of thousands of Georgia residents are nearer to the congestion relief they have waited years for.” “The ROD is a huge step forward,” said Doss. “This road has been needed for 30 years.

Click here to read a story about the suspension of funding. Click here to read a story from the public meeting when the route was unveiled.

State amendment would give tax relief to tree farmers

30 10 2008


STACY SHELTON | The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Finding opposition to the state Constitutional amendment that would give property tax relief to tree farmers is not easy given endorsements ranging from the Georgia Chamber of Commerce to the Sierra Club.

Amendment No. 1 on the General Election ballot would change the way forest land of more than 2,000 acres is assessed. Instead of fair-market value, the land would be taxed based on its actual use. That method of assessment is already in place for individual and family-owned forests of 2,000 acres or less. The change would benefit corporations and owners of larger land parcels.

Tree farmers in fast-growing areas have seen steep increases in their property taxes, a factor in deciding to develop or sell their land.

One exception to the chorus of amendment supporters is Kate Shropshire, the founder of Urban Independents, a progressive, grass-roots voter education group in Atlanta.

“This is a tough one,” said Shropshire, noting that many of the groups she generally agrees with — including environmental and conservation organizations — support the amendment.

Shropshire’s main opposition stems from the way the amendment is worded, which she calls “misleading.”

“It’s making it sound like we’re protecting land that is public-use land,” she said. “That’s not true. It’s not land that we will own or have access to.”

The question to voters as worded on the ballot, reads “Shall the Constitution of Georgia be amended so as to provide that the General Assembly by general law shall encourage the preservation, conservation, and protection of the state’s forests through the special assessment and taxation of certain forest lands and assistance grants to local government?”

In exchange for the tax relief, forest owners must agree to not subdivide or otherwise develop their land for at least 15 years. If they break the agreement, they would have to repay any taxes they would have owed along with other financial penalties.

Read on here.

Georgia Nuclear Plant Delay?

30 10 2008

WSB Radio

There’s a new complication in the already lengthy approval process for two proposed nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle, near Waynesboro, Georgia.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s Atomic Safety licensing board agrees with environmental groups that the federal government’s review should look at the effect of dredging the Savannah River.   The NRC is about halfway through their 3 year review right now.

“It doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a delay in that process,” the NRC’s Roger Hannah tells WSB.  “It may simply that further information and further analysis have to be developed.”

The river dredging would be needed to barges could bring reactor components to the site. 

Hannah says a 3 judge agency panel found something missing in the staff review of the project.

“They did not adequately consider what dredging of that part of the rive might do to the environment.”

The state Public Service Commission must also approve the plan.  It’s set to hold hearings on the plant in a few days.

Notices go out about uranium levels in water

29 10 2008


CRYSTAL OWENS | Online Athens

Nearly two dozen utilities across Northeast Georgia are telling customers that their water contains radioactive contaminants.

But, they warn, staying hydrated is no more dangerous than a trip to the dentist. A change in U.S. Environmental Protection Agency regulations has required government officials throughout the country, including 34 Georgia municipalities, to notify residents of the uranium levels in their water.

The EPA last month lowered the maximum amount of uranium allowed in drinking water from 30 to 20 parts per billion, which in turn, by federal law, forced those municipalities with uranium levels over twice the 20-ppb limit to notify residents.

In Lexington – one of three municipalities in Oglethorpe County affected by the change – the water contains 48 ppb of uranium, said Mayor David Montgomery.

Lexington residents get their drinking water from four sources, but a well on Georgia Highway 77 South tested positive for higher uranium levels than the other wells, Montgomery said.

The city’s utility is drawing less water from that well while officials test the groundwater, a process that could take months, he said. If uranium levels still are high, the city will stop using the well.

Maxeys’ officials, along with leaders in Banks, Barrow, Clarke, Franklin, Jackson and Madison counties, also notified residents of the change.

Water customers should not be alarmed by the uranium levels, said Ted Jackson, state Environmental Protection Division environmental emergency and radiation program manager.

The uranium exposure to a person who drinks eight to 10 glasses of water each day for a year is equivalent to one chest X-ray per year, Jackson said.

“The risk in the grand scheme of things is not large,” he said.

Read on here.