Georgia senators: Obama doesn’t understand tri-state water issues

20 10 2008

Submitted by the offices of Sens. Isakson and Chambliss

WASHINGTON – U.S. Sens. Johnny Isakson, R-Ga., and Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., sent a letter to Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., expressing their disappointment with comments he made on Oct. 16 regarding water allocation issues in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa river basins.

The text of the letter is below:

Dear Senator Obama:

We are writing to express our disappointment with comments made yesterday by you and your campaign relating to water allocation issues in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) and Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River basins. As you may know, these river basins serve Georgia, Alabama, and Florida. While we appreciate your recent and sudden interest in the tri-state water issues we have been working on for the past six years, the comments by you and your campaign reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of the problems in the ACF and ACT basins, a lack of understanding of the requirements of the Army Corps of Engineers with regards to the ACF and ACT basins under federal law, and a cavalier disregard for the needs of the residents of Georgia.

According to your campaign’s statement, you “would direct the National Research Council (NRC) to conduct a study to assess the water availability, supply options, and demand-management alternatives that factor into ACF River System usage, as well as the impact of freshwater flow on the ecology of the Apalachicola River and Bay.” You also said “As President, I will make protecting Florida’s water resources a priority.”

As you may know, the Army Corps of Engineers is required under federal law to update the water control manuals for the ACF and ACT basins, and recently announced it would begin doing so in the ACT basin. We were pleased to hear from Secretary of the Army Pete Geren personally that the Corps is moving forward with updating these manuals, because it will allow the Corps to make smarter decisions in their management of these river systems. We have underscored to him how important this action is. As you also may know such an update would include studies to assess water supply and demand, and environmental management practices for ALL the users and stakeholder in the basins, not just those on the Apalachicola River and Bay. To ask the Corps to ignore its responsibilities under federal law in favor of the residents of Florida is a clear affront to the residents of Georgia. To state that you will make protecting Florida’s water resources a priority over Georgia’s shows that you do not care about the needs of the people of Georgia.

We have continually worked to get Georgia, Florida and Alabama together and to force the Corp of Engineers to update a 20-year-old Water Control Plan for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa and Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basins. In 2006 we held Senate hearings in Gainesville and Columbus to implore the Corps to keep its commitment to update its outdated water control plan for the two river basins.

On August 1, 2007, we met with Secretary Geren as well as Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works John Paul Woodley, Lieutenant General Robert L. Van Antwerp and General Counsel Craig Schmauder. At the meeting, Secretary Geren indicated his desire to give mediation time to work before starting the update of the water control manuals.

When Secretary Geren gave his commitment to us that if and when mediation broke down and was not making progress, he would begin the update of the water control manuals, we held him to that promise. On September 28, 2007, after judges involved in the mediation announced that the talks had broken down, we sent a letter to Secretary Geren strongly urging him to honor his pledge to update the water control plan.

On October 18, 2007, Secretary Woodley told both of us by telephone that the Corps will start the process for updating the water control manual for the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River Basin.

We also facilitated meetings in Washington between the Governors of Georgia, Alabama, and Florida, as well as meetings between the Governors and the Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, and Council on Environmental Quality Chairman Jim Connaughton. We continue to work with the Governors and their staffs to come to a solution so the states can take advantage of the productive talks they have had and agree on a resolution.

From Lake Lanier to Lake Allatoona, from Atlanta to West Point Lake, and from LaGrange to Columbus, we have worked to find a solution that benefits not only the people of our state, but all those who reside in the river basins. It is unfortunate that you wish to undo the good work we have done to find a solution for all the people in the river basin and instead prioritize the needs of only the people of Florida.

Sincerely,

Saxby Chambliss Johnny Isakson

United States Senator United States Senator

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Augusta violates air rule

26 09 2008

By Rob Pavey|  Augusta Chronicle

Augusta has violated a stricter federal standard for measuring air pollution four times this year, increasing the likelihood it could face an unwanted “non-attainment” designation for flunking the U.S. Clean Air Act.

“It does look like we will be recommending the Augusta area for non-attainment for the new standard,” said Jimmy Johnston, the manager of Georgia Environmental Protection Division’s Air Protection Branch.

Generally, in non-attainment areas, it can be more difficult for industries to obtain — or renew — permits to release industrial emissions. It also means stricter controls on outdoor burning, which Augusta already has through summer burning bans. It can also make it more difficult to obtain federal transportation money.

The Environmental Protection Agency’s new standard for ozone, unveiled in March, lowered the allowable concentration in the air to no more than 0.075 parts per million, stricter than the old standard of 0.085. In Augusta, all four violations this year — ranging from 0.0077 to 0.082 parts per million — would not have violated the old standard, but exceeded the new one.

Next March, EPD must make recommendations to EPA regarding which Georgia communities should be declared in non-attainment, Mr. Johnston said. The designations would take effect in 2010 and could trigger restrictions on industrial air permits and transportation projects.

Read on here.





North Florida, Alabama and Georgia looking to connect river communities

21 09 2008

By Bruce Ritchie | Tallehassee.com

CHATTAHOOCHEE — Steamboats once plied the Apalachicola carrying cotton, timber and other commerce between farms and forests in Alabama, Florida and Georgia and the Gulf of Mexico.

Now, some residents are hoping to reconnect communities like Chattahoochee, Sneads and Blountstown to the Apalachicola River for tourism and economic development.

They’re supporting the concept behind a group called RiverWay South, based in Columbus, Ga. at Columbus State University. The group says its mission is to promote the Apalachicola, Chattahoochee and Flint Rivers for tourism and to preserve the heritage of communities.

“That (Apalachicola River) was an economic engine that drove this area years and years ago,” said Lee Garner, city manager of Chattahoochee. “I’d like to see it used some more.”

Larry Johnson of Tallahassee, who was visiting the Apalachicola River in Chattahoochee, said the idea sounds interesting.

“I love water — that’s why I’m here right now,” he said standing near the river bank below the U.S. 98 bridge.

In Fort Gaines, Ga. along the Chattahoochee River, the group helped bring in University of Georgia students to produce plans, brochures and signs for connecting historic and natural areas and redeveloping the area. The university has begun looking at Chattahoochee and Apalachicola to create links the Apalachicola River and draw visitors.

Some say it’s a hopeful sign amid the ongoing fight over water among from the river system among Alabama, Florida and Georgia.

The three states have been fighting in federal court over water since 1990. Citing environmental concerns, Florida also has refused to allow Apalachicola River dredging for barge traffic to the upstream states.

But supporters of RiverWay South say the focus is on the three states’s shared resource — the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint river system. And they say it will help forgotten communities once again use the river as an economic engine.

Read on here.





EPA REACHES AGREEMENT WITH E.I. DUPONT DE NEMOURS AND GRIFFIN LLC VALDOSTA, GA ON FEDERAL PESTICIDE RULES VIOLATIONS

19 09 2008

Contact Information: Dawn Harris-Young, (404) 562-8421, harris-young.dawn@epa.gov

 

(Atlanta, Ga. – September 19, 2008) The Southeast office of the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA Region 4) has settled an administrative penalty case against E.I. duPont de Nemours and Company (Dupont) and Griffin LLC Valdosta, GA (Griffin) for violations of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA). According to the terms of the settlement, Dupont and Griffin collectively will pay a total civil penalty of $877,500, and will undertake corrective actions to ensure that the violations do not recur. Dupont and Griffin manufacture, market, and sell a variety of pesticide products. These products are sold to farmers in the United States for use on cotton and tobacco.

“By law, pesticides must be properly labeled and registered,” said Beverly Bannister, EPA’s Air, Pesticides, and Toxics Management Division Director in Atlanta. “This helps ensure the safe use of pesticides and reduces risks to human health and the environment.”

Based on a review of pesticide importation records and inspections conducted by EPA and the Georgia Department of Agriculture at Dupont’s pesticide production facility in Valdosta, GA, EPA determined that Dupont and Griffin LLC had been importing a registered pesticide active ingredient, ethephon, from a non-approved manufacturing facility in China, and that the composition of the ethephon differed from the composition specified in the statement of formula set out in the registration. As a result, the composition of two end-use products manufactured by the companies, Super Boll and CottonQuik, differed from the compositions specified in EPA’s approved registrations for those products. The original registrant, Griffin Corporation, began importing the active ingredient from the unapproved facility in 1996. In 1998, Griffin Corporation and Dupont formed Griffin LLC and in 2003, Dupont acquired 100% interest in Griffin LLC. Both Griffin LLC and Dupont continued the practice of importing the ethephon from the unapproved source in China.

EPA also determined that the containers of ethephon imported from China were misbranded in that they stated the incorrect percentage of the active ingredient ethephon contained in the product. Additionally, analytical results from samples of the end-use products Superboll and CottonQuik showed that they contained ethephon in concentrations exceeding the allowable certified limits specified in their registrations. After EPA notification in April 2005 that it was in violation of FIFRA, Dupont filed a registration amendment for the active ingredient to indicate the new source and to revise the formulation. Dupont recently sold the registrations for these products to another company.

Under FIFRA, all pesticides must be submitted to EPA for review, evaluation and registration to ensure that they do not pose an unreasonable risk to human health or the environment. Proper identification of a pesticide’s active ingredients is an essential component of the regulatory scheme that helps to ensure a product’s integrity and safety. Pesticide manufacturers are required to clearly state the amount of active ingredients contained in each product and must manufacture the product within a specific range of the stated composition percentages. Pesticide products that contain too little or too much active ingredient may pose unreasonable risks to human health or the environment and may not perform effectively.

For more information on pesticide regulation and enforcement, please visit: http://epa.gov/compliance/civil/fifra.





Meeting over water, river answers very few questions

19 09 2008

By Andy Powell | GadsdenTimes.com

An Army Corps of Engineers meeting Wednesday night in Gadsden about the Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa River basin left some of those attending a little frustrated.

Their concerns about things such as water flow, pool levels and taking water from that basin and giving it to another basin that serves the city of Atlanta weren’t in the scope of the meeting, which was to get input on rewriting the Corps’ water control manual for the basin.

The Corps of Engineers’ current manual for the basin was written in 1952.

E. Patrick Robbins, who oversees legislative and public affairs for the Corps in Mobile, said the “water wars” among Georgia, Florida and Alabama delayed the manual’s being rewritten in the mid-1980s because of long-running court battles. Other operating manuals for reservoirs in the basin have been written or updated since then, Robbins said.

He said recently the secretary of the Army decided it was time for the rewriting process to begin when a solution to the water controversy could not be reached.

Robbins said the Corps did not determine the water levels on Weiss Lake. He said that is determined by Alabama Power and that issue is outside the scope of the report. However, he said comments about that would be noted.

The meeting was one of four in the district that stretches from north of Atlanta to Mobile.

Other meetings were in Montgomery, Rome, Ga., and Kennesaw, Ga.

Read on here.





Georgia Farmers’ Sewage Sludge Suit Starts Flowing

12 09 2008

 

Jasmin Melvin | WASHINGTON (Reuters)

The Center for Food Safety, a private advocacy group, said Thursday it plans to sue the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency over its refusal to put a moratorium on dumping sewage sludge on farmland.

The use of sludge, the byproduct of waste water treatment, on farmland is legal under EPA regulations. Six dozen food and consumer groups want to halt the practice.

The groups petitioned the EPA in October 2003 to stop sewage sludge disposal on farms. The EPA denied the petition for a moratorium.

EPA spokeswoman Enesta Jones said the agency “does not comment on lawsuits we have not seen or have not been filed.”

Sewage sludge can contain nutrients and organic matter, which some say make it a useful fertilizer. Proponents view its disposal on farms as a cheap source of fertilizer that keeps wastes from piling up in landfills or being dumped in the ocean.

Research shows sludge also contains a harmful mix of heavy metals, pathogens and toxic chemicals that have killed farm animals, devastated crop yields and inflicted serious illness and health disorders on people who live and work near dump sites, Center for Food Safety Executive Director Andrew Kimbrell said.

“We’re pretty sure the court will declare that EPA acted illegally in denying our petition,” Kimbrell said.

The EPA determined there was not enough scientific evidence to support claims of harm to farm animals, crops and people in its decision to reject the petition.

Since then, the data used to make this conclusion has come under question.

In a lawsuit filed by Georgia farmer Andy McElmurray, U.S. District Court Judge Anthony Alaimo found that “senior EPA officials took extraordinary steps to quash scientific dissent and any questioning of EPA’s biosolids program.”

The judge ruled in February that McElmurray was entitled to Agriculture Department “prevented planting” subsidies because of contamination of his farm by sewage sludge. Alaimo called data used to support EPA’s Part 503(b) sludge regulations “fudged,” “fabricated” and “fraudulent.”

Kimbrell said, “Now we have a judicial decision behind us so we can go, fairly confident, to the court and say this denial was based on bad science.”

Read on here.





Senate cancels hearing on Georgia sludge findings

12 09 2008

WASHINGTON (AP) – Senate Democrats abruptly canceled a hearing on using sewage sludge as farm fertilizer after learning that two witnesses from Georgia had cited their upcoming testimony at the hearing in trying to win a settlement in a lawsuit.

The Senate Environment and Public Works Committee had been scheduled on Thursday to hear testimony from an Augusta-area farmer and a former federal scientist who have fought the Environmental Protection Agency and the University of Georgia over the safety of using sludge on farm fields.

The farmer, Andy McElmurray, and the scientist, David Lewis, are suing the University of Georgia Research Foundation and others, alleging that UGA research was part of a scheme by the EPA to justify a federal policy allowing the continued use of sludge as fertilizer.

A spokeswoman for the committee said the hearing was canceled out of concern that the private litigation would distract from the main issue of sludge safety. She said Chairwoman Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., plans to reschedule the session.

Read on here.