Rep. John Meadows

Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun

A Northwest Georgia lawmaker who led a push to strengthen regulations on fracking is among the honorees in the Georgia Water Coalition’s inaugural Clean 13 Report. The report released Wednesday recognizes the efforts of individuals and organizations to protect the state’s water and natural resources.

“We’ve never done this before,” said Joe Cook, a spokesman for coalition member Coosa River Basin Initiative in Rome. “We do the Dirty Dozen report on polluters, and thought we should highlight the good news, too.”

Rep. John Meadows, R-Calhoun, worked with the oil and gas drilling industry and environmental groups such as CRBI to pass legislation in the House to update Georgia’s 40-year-old mining law.

House Bill 205 includes regulation on hydraulic fracturing — injecting liquid at high pressures into underground rocks to force open fissures and extract natural gas or oil. State reserves are only expected to be found in eight Northwest Georgia counties, including Floyd.

Local Reps. Katie Dempsey, R-Rome; Eddie Lumsden, R-Armuchee; and Christian Coomer, R-Cartersville, also signed on, but HB 205 stalled when a senator south of Atlanta tacked on a landfill surcharge.

Meadows, the powerful chairman of the House Rules Committee, said he expects the measure to make it through to the governor’s desk in the upcoming Georgia General Assembly session.

“Chairman Meadows’ legislation will ultimately help protect the state’s drinking water from risks associated with fracking,” Cook said.

Another Northwest Georgia initiative landed the Georgia Department of Natural Resources on the coalition’s Clean 13 list.

Fish and fishermen are coming back to Raccoon Creek thanks to a multi-year, multi-million dollar project of the DNR and private partners, the report states.

“While other creeks spill loads of mud and dirt into the Etowah River, Raccoon Creek in Paulding County regularly runs clear,” it says. “As portions of the creek are restored, rare fish like Etowah and Cherokee darters thrive.”

Other Clean 13 entities are:

• The city of Atlanta, for a stormwater management ordinance;

• Cox Enterprises, for a water-recycling program;

• Solar Crowdsource, for bringing a solar power option to small businesses and homeowners;

• Georgia Institute of Technology, for green infrastructure projects;

• Ladybug Farms in Rabun County, for rainwater harvesting;

• Macon Water Authority, for innovative pipe restoration;

• Scott Bridge Company, for using design and construction to protect endangered fish and mussels;

• South Fork Conservancy, for a $4.5 million restoration and trail project on Peachtree Creek;

• Storm Water Systems, for trash traps removing litter from streams; and

• United Parcel Service, for eliminating carbon emissions and stormwater pollution in Columbus and other locations across state.

“These may seem like small projects, affecting just an isolated area, but together they add up to big improvements for our water and communities,” Cook said.

Honorees will be recognized at a celebration on March 8, 2018, at the Mason Arts Center in Atlanta.