The Georgia Water Coalition released its inaugural Clean 13 Report on Wednesday, Sept. 6, which highlights the work accomplished by various individuals, companies, industries and non-profits, along with state and local governments that have worked to protect Georgia’s waterways.
Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, chairman of the House Rules Committee, was one of the 13 recognized for his work in preventing water pollution from fracking. Fracking is a process that involves drilling down into the earth and injecting shale with a high-pressure mixture of water, sand and chemicals to extract oil and natural gas. The use of fracking has prompted environmental concerns recently due to the huge amounts of water which must be transported to the fracking site, and because of what environmentalists say is potentially harmful chemicals used during the process that may escape and contaminate groundwater around the fracking site.
It was in 2015 that property owners around Calhoun and Rome began receiving calls from different entities wanting to purchase mineral rights to drill on their property. When Rep. Meadows began receiving calls from locals concerning the issue, he consulted the governor’s office, which identified gaps in existing laws. During the opening weeks of the 2017 legislative session, Meadows introduced HB 205, which updates the law on oil, gas and deep well drilling that was adopted before the practice of fracking.
The bill improves the existing law by setting regulations that provide public involvement in the permitting process and will require drillers to identify and monitor drinking water sources near their wells.
While Meadows has stated that he supports U.S. energy independence and fracking, he is not for any process, including fracking, performed at the expense of drinking water. Meadows has long been a supporter of Georgia’s water systems; he has repeatedly halted or amended legislation to support clean water. He led efforts to improve the Flint River Drought Protection Act in 2014 and helped with strengthening the Marshland Protection Act in 2015.
HB 205 did not pass through the legislature during the 2017 session due to an amendment added in the Georgia Senate, but during a teleconference on Wednesday, Meadows said he feels certain the bill will land on the governor’s desk for approval in coming weeks.
“I didn’t want anything added to (the bill) so I held it in conference committee,” said Meadows. “We’ve revised the conference report and I have been reassured by the three senators on that committee that they would sign it. We will get this passed out in the first day or two of the session and get it to the governor for his signature.”
The 13 honorees in the Clean 13 Report include:
- City of Atlanta—Stormwater management ordinance eliminates pollution.
- Cox Enterprises—Conservation-minded company recycles water to protect Chattahoochee.
- Solar Crowdsource—Decatur company brings solar to small businesses and homeowners to protect multiple Georgia rivers.
- Georgia Department of Natural Resources—State agency restores and protects Paulding County’s Raccoon Creek.
- Georgia Institute of Technology—Green infrastructure projects transform campus into model for water efficiency, relieve pollution of Tanyard Creek.
- Ladybug Farms—Rabun County organic farm extols the virtues of rainwater harvesting.
- Macon Water Authority—Innovative pipe restoration protects Ocmulgee River.
- Mark Masters—Water Planning and Policy Institute Director provides facts to steer Georgia water policy.
- Chairman John Meadows—Powerful state legislator takes the lead on bills protecting drinking water.
- Scott Bridge Company—Bridge builder uses design and construction to protect endangered fish and mussels.
- South Fork Conservancy—Citizens organize $4.5 million restoration and trail project on Peachtree Creek and its forks.
- Storm Water Systems—Company’s trash traps remove litter from streams, keep it out of oceans.
- United Parcel Service—Package delivery giant eliminates carbon emissions and stormwater pollution in Columbus and other locations across state.
A celebration will be held on March 8, 2018 to recognize the Clean 13 honorees.
To learn more about the report, visit www.gawater.org/clean-13.
The Georgia Water Coalition is made up of more than 240 conservation and environmental organizations, hunting and fishing groups, businesses and faith-based organizations that have been working to protect Georgia’s water since 2002. These groups represent more than 250,000 Georgians.