A bill to protect Northwest Georgia's water from the effects of fracking is awaiting a vote in the Senate before heading to Gov. Nathan Deal for signature.
House Bill 205, deferred from the 2017 session, was resolved by a conference committee made up of three members of the House, including Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, and three from the Senate, including Sen. Chuck Hufstetler, RRome. It passed the House on Monday.
The measure updates the state's 1975 mining law to regulate hydraulic fracturing. The comparatively new technology shoots pressurized fluid into underground rocks to crack open fissures and extract natural gas or oil.
"Any oil and gas exploration to identify new sources of energy should not occur at the expense of the state's important natural resources, such as residential, municipal and industrial supplies of fresh water," the bill reads in part.
Just eight Northwest Georgia counties, including Floyd, are expected to have natural gas or oil reserves.
Under HB 205, the Georgia Board of Natural Resources will have until July 1 to adopt a set of regulations that include — for the first time — public notice of any applications for fracking permits. Permit applications will go through the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, which must allow for a 30-day comment period.
Applicants will have to identify any groundwater within a half-mile of the proposed drilling site and tell the EPD and public health commissioner what is in the liquid they'll be using.
The bill also confirms that local land-use regulations apply.
About a decade ago, the Floyd County Commission adopted what County Manager Jamie McCord called "one of the strongest regulations in the state." It limits all mining operations to heavy industrial properties of at least 200 acres and a special-use permit is required.
HB 205 also provides for some revenue. The state gets 3 cents per barrel of oil and 1 cent per thousand cubic feet of gas extracted. Cities and counties can levy up to 9 cents for the oil and 2 cents for the gas.
Meadows sponsored the bill last year and Floyd County's delegates, Rep. Katie Dempsey, Eddie Lumsden and Christian Coomer, signed on as co-sponsors. It easily passed the House but ran into a roadblock in the Senate.
The hold-up came from a provision tacked on by Sen. Burt Jones, R-Jackson, that increased the local government surcharge on private landfills. Senators passed the amended bill but the House balked and time ran out.
Jones, who later promised to pull his provision and put it in a separate bill, also served on the conference committee that resolved the differences.
Owners of the West Rome IGA have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of food to the community in the wake of their decision to shut down the store.
The Rev. Sidney B. Ford Sr., pastor at Pleasant Grove Baptist Church, estimated that his church and Love Connecting Communities ministry alone received $250,000 worth of items and turned it around immediately on Saturday to aid an estimated 2,000 community recipients.
"I called my whole church together to serve, and they all came to help," Ford said.
The grocery store's owners, Jingoish "JB" Brahmbhatt and Chandubhai Patel, gave the churches basic grocery goods, dairy goods and bakery items.
"I used to go over there and set up on the sidewalk trying to do fundraisers over there, and the owner and I became friends," Ford said. "When he called me I just thought we were going to get a little bit of stuff."
Ford said there are still more items, including canned goods, that are still being prepared for donation.
Several other churches, including some from Cave Spring and Cedartown, also benefitted from the leftovers at the IGA store.
The West Rome store closed on Jan. 20 after more than 60 years of service to the community.
Today's artwork is by Ezekiel Cheatwood, a 5-year-old pre-K student.
Organizers of the third annual Hearts United Gathering believe this year's event will be the most significant, as the senior pastor of Charleston's Emanuel AME Church — the site where Dylann Roof, aiming to start a race war, shot and killed nine people during a Bible study in 2015 — will address the power of forgiveness.
The Rev. Eric S.C. Manning, who became pastor of the historically black church in June 2016, a year after the June 17, 2015, shooting, will be the keynote speaker for the event put on by One Community United. The theme of his speech is racial healing and reconciliation, exemplified in the forgiveness offered by church members to Roof, a self-avowed white supremacist who was sentenced to death last year.
Board members for the local group, which is aimed at bridging racial divides through honest conversation and openly sharing experiences, held a news conference Tuesday morning in the same place where the event will be on Feb. 15 at 6 p.m. — the Wilder Center inside Rome First United Methodist Church at 202 E. Third Ave. HUG is one of two major events the group organizes; the One Table event, which brings locals of different races and backgrounds together over a communal meal in the fall, is the other.
Board member Rex Hussmann said there isn't a need to register and the doors will be open for all. However, those wishing to attend should get free tickets to give organizers an idea of how many people to expect — seating is limited. Tickets can be picked up at V3 Publications, Yellow Door Antiques, Schroeder's New Deli, Kroger or any location of Heritage First Bank.
Also, seating can be reserved through the Facebook event page, "Hearts United Gathering For Racial Healing & Reconciliation (Rome GA)."
"It was fate," said board member Charles Love in having Manning come and speak, adding that "divine guidance" certainly played a role. In addition to his HUG address, Manning will hold a meeting with local faith leaders at Lovejoy Baptist Church the morning of the event at 9 a.m., to hold a discussion on what churches can do to better race relations, Love continued.
"We have to be willing to forgive," Love said, adding that forgiveness is the backbone of churches.
Hussmann said, in finding a speaker, the group wanted to have someone who could offer practical advice for advancing the mission of the group, along with offering inspiration and passion for unifying the community and growing the number of those participating in the dialogue. The group is currently developing "action activities" for the future, Love added.
"This is a local opportunity to say 'no' to the strident and divisive" speech that seems to be picking back up as of late, Hussmann said.
Group member Bonnie Askew said real change in race relations must occur at a local level, by simply talking and discovering people have more similarities than differences.
Macey Morgan, a nursing student from Dalton, was honored Tuesday as the winner of the Georgia Northwestern Technical College Georgia Occupational Award of Leadership winner.
Stephanie Kinman, an English instructor and resident of Calhoun, received the college's Rick Perkins outstanding faculty award. The awards were presented at the luncheon in Rome hosted by the school, the Chamber of Commerce and Seven Hills Rotary Club.
William Nichols of Calhoun was honored as the school's Exceptional Adult Georgian in Literacy Education winner. His honor was officially announced before Christmas.
The other semi-finalists for the GOAL Award were Grace Dunnaway of Calhoun and Jill McBee of Fort Oglethorpe.
"Technical college education changed my life," Morgan said. She transferred to GNTC from Dalton State College. Her family has deep ties to the health care industry but said her family never pushed her in that direction.
The other nominees for the Rick Perkins Award included Pam Anderson, Raymond Atkins, Jim Pledger and Dan Roebuck.
Kinman is in her third profession, having served as a Spanish teacher and probation officer before going back to the classroom as an English instructor at GNTC. She called the decision to join the faculty at GNTC one of the defining moments in her life.
Morgan will advance to regional competition against winners from other technical colleges for the right to advance to state recognition. The state GOAL winner becomes the student ambassador for the Technical College System of Georgia. The state winner will receive a new automobile provided by Kia Motors Manufacturing Georgia.