Jun 152015

Press Release from the Southern Environmental Law Center

For Immediate Release: June 15, 2015


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.”


Jun 282012

Here's some Supreme Court news we overlooked: On Monday, the court, by not granting petitions for writs of certiorari filed by Alabama, Florida and Southeastern Federal Power Customers, essentially validated Atlanta's right to water from Lake Lanier (Docket).

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals last year reversed a district court ruling, finding:

ACT and ACF basins

First, the district court erred in finding that it had jurisdiction to hear Alabama, SeFPC, and Apalachicola because the Corps has not taken final agency action. The three cases therefore must be remanded to the Corps in order to take a final agency action. Second, the district court and the Corps erred in concluding that water supply was not an authorized purpose of the Buford Project under the [Rivers and Harbors Act]. The Corps’ denial of Georgia’s 2000 water-supply request is therefore not entitled to Chevron deference, and the request must be remanded to the Corps for reconsideration. Third, the district court erred in finding that the 1956 Act, which authorized the Corps to contract with Gwinnett County to withdraw 10 million gallons of water per day, expired after 50 years. Gwinnett County’s contractual and just-compensation claims are without merit. Fourth, we also provide certain instructions to the Corps on remand. And finally, the Corps shall have one year to make a final determination of its authority to operate the Buford Project under the RHA and [1958 Water Supply Act].

Coverage of the non-decision decision can be found here, here and here (scroll over those links to see the sources).


More legal background, courtesy of SCOTUSBlog

These documents concern the D.C. Circuit's decision in Feb. 5, 2008, that an agreement to reallocate Lake Lanier’s storage space "constitutes a major operational change on its face and has not been authorized by Congress." The court reversed the district court's decision. Litigation continued in the 11th Circuit.

Docket: 08-199
Title: Georgia v. Florida, et al.
Issue: The validity of, and ability of Florida and Alabama to challenge, a settlement agreement involving water allocation from Lake Lanier in Georgia.