Georgia ‘Red Tape’ panel questions green rules

mlee@macon.comMarch 5, 2014 

ATLANTA -- A line slicing through the midstate separating one set of air pollution rules from another is a good example of how federal environmental law frustrates business owners, the state’s top environmental overseer told a blue-ribbon legislative panel this week.

People in Jones County “look at gas in Bibb (County) that’s cheaper ... and it really frustrates them,” said state Environmental Protection Division Director Jud Turner in front of the House Special Committee on Small Business Development and Job Creation. Known better as the “Red Tape Committee,” it was formed in 2012 to propose ways to cut down business regulations.

Turner was explaining that many of the environmental regulations that drive complaints to the committee are federal law.

Jones County falls into the 45-county north Georgia zone that failed the 1997 National Ambient Air Quality Standard for ozone pollution. To help get the area into compliance, the state mandated that during the summer the region use a low-sulfur gasoline that’s cleaner but pricier.

That federal-state division of labor is common. The federal government writes laws like the Clean Air Act and the Clean Water Act, and states write laws to comply.

It’s the spirit of keeping Georgia clean enough to ward off Washington that drives some thinking on state environmental law.

“We need to keep this at home,” said state Rep. Buddy Harden, R-Cordele, of air and water rules. If “we keep it at home, we’ve got a whole lot better chance to manage it the way we think it should be managed.”

Other committee members echoed the idea. But state Rep. James Beverly, D-Macon, a member of the committee, demurs.

“The better approach,” he said, would be cooperation between the EPD and the federal Environmental Protection Agency.

“You’re always going to have the federal government. You’re always going to have the state government,” Beverly said. “It’s time to get them together in a big way.”

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