Jun 152015
 

Press Release from the Southern Environmental Law Center

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2015

Contact:

Bill Sapp, Southern Environmental Law Center, 404-521-9900, bsapp@selcga.org
Chris Manganiello, Georgia River Network, 706-549-4508, chris@garivers.org
Jenny Hoffner, American Rivers, 404-373-3602, jhoffner@americanrivers.org

GA Supreme Court Defers to EPD;
Buffer Protection for Freshwater Wetlands Not Required

Atlanta, GA—The Georgia Supreme Court today ruled in favor of the Environmental Protection Division (EPD) after the agency appealed a state court of appeals' decision that the Georgia Erosion & Sedimentation Act’s 25-foot water quality buffer provision applies to all state waters.

The Southern Environmental Law Center, representing Georgia River Network and American Rivers, was successful in overruling EPD’s policy that only some state waters are protected by buffers through a favorable decision from the Georgia Court of Appeals in July 2014. The decision also invalidated EPD Director Judson Turner’s April 2014 memorandum that stripped the protective buffer from the Georgia Coast.

After Director Turner ordered local issuing authorities to disregard the Georgia Court of Appeals’ decision, EPD appealed the appellate court’s decision and prevailed in state Supreme Court.

“A small strip of trees and plants may seem inconsequential, but that buffer provides a critical filter to prevent sediment and pollution from clogging our waters,” said Bill Sapp from the Southern Environmental Law Center. “We are disappointed with the decision, but regardless of today’s outcome, we will continue our work to restore protective measures and ensure that Georgia’s waterways are more swimmable and drinkable for the communities and industries that rely on clean water statewide.”

“It is fortunate that the 25-foot protective buffer has been restored along Georgia’s coastal marshes through the bill passed in the recent legislative session, which successfully closed large statutory loopholes that would have left our coast at risk,” said Chris Manganiello from Georgia River Network. “We will continue to work toward restoring the same protections for freshwater wetlands, and for all other waters across the state that are not currently protected.”

“Adopting consistent measures in order to keep invaluable rivers, streams, and marshlands clean and safe is in the best interest of all Georgians,” said Jenny Hoffner from American Rivers. “We remain hopeful that EPD will end its haphazard approach to how it applies buffers and instead implement a uniform method for protecting Georgia’s waters.”

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