Friday, October 06, 2006

Meet Georgia's "Dirty Baker's Dozen"

This week, Georgia's chapter of the Sierra Club released its list of endorsees for the Georgia general election of 2006. But, as has been the tradition of the last few years, the club also made a list of the state's elected officials who are most environmentally-unfriendly.

Here is the Georgia list for 2006:

Dirty "Baker’s Dozen" State Officials for 2006
Filed under:
Conservation, Legislative

Oct 3, 2006 -- The Georgia Chapter released its election year "Dirty Dozen" list of state elected officials on October 3. This year the list was expanded to 13 so PSC Commissioner Stan Wise could be included. The list is led by a candidate for Lt. Governor, State Senator Casey Cagle (R-Gainesville).

Casey Cagle emerged as an anti-environmental leader in 2003, when he served as the Senate leader promoting the selling of water withdrawal permits, which would have ended effective regulation of Georgia's water supplies (HB 237). He went on to push bills for the biggest developers, the Council for Quality Growth, including legislation to wreck stream buffers (SB 460 in 2004); measures to make meat rendering plants "not a nuisance" (SB 26); and a bill to ease cleanup standards for abandoned gas stations to the detriment of adjoining landowners (SB 277). He has tried to promote landfills (failed amendment to SB 122), and limit environmental controls that protect private residential property from developers and industrial polluters. One example of Cagle's attack on private property rights is his co-sponsorship of Senator Chip Pearson’s attempt to rollback all safety and health regulation (SB 30).

John Bulloch killed a bill in 2006 that would have prohibited the storage and sale of the groundwater pollutant MTBE in Georgia's gasoline supplies (HB 983). His own district has shown a high level of interest in the promotion of ethanol fuels, yet he supported its competitor, MTBE. He consistently supports pro-development and anti-environmental protection bills as a member of the Senate Natural Resources Committee. He supports the construction of a massive new coal power plant in Early County, a blow to any attempts to reduce global warming pollution or conserve energy in Georgia. As Chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Senator Bulloch has shoved through (SB 87, SB 88) at the behest of Giant Agribusiness to prevent local regulation of everything from genetically altered seed to fertilizer used for bombs in such places as Oklahoma City.

Ralph Hudgens is a consistent anti-environmental voice on the Senate Natural Resources Committee, and has opposed any environmental protections, and supported bills that harm the environment and the property values of landowners whose property is near commercial and industrial developments. A former owner of a billboard company, he has consistently supported the outdoor advertising industry.

Chip Pearson is only a freshman Senator but has already distinguished himself as the most aggresive member of the legislature in his lack of respect for natural systems and their value to Georgia and its communities. He has promoted legislation to effectively outlaw such protections and zoning and stream buffer protections (SB 30, SR 1040, SB 510, etc.) and has even tried to abolish municipal tree ordinances (SB 294). While he pretends to be an advocate for property rights, he appears to want only developers such as himself to have such rights, while taking such protections as trespass and nuisance law away from all other landowners.

Nancy Schaefer has a consistent anti-environmental voting record for her single term in the Senate. Prior to her election to the Senate she organized an anti-regulatory, pro-growth at any cost campaign in Habersham County which resulted in the repeal of virtually every local ordinance dealing with the regulation of growth, but fortunately, also the electoral loss of the Commissioners who advanced that program. Schaefer's rapidly growing district covers the headwaters of the Chattahoochee River, and some headwaters for the Savannah River as well. This area needs strong, pro-environmental leadership.

Tommie Williams is the Senate Majority Leader and a one-man wrecking crew on some environmental issues. In 2006 he cut all of the money from the budget to fund monitoring of Georgia's waters. These cuts were restored, but had Sen. Williams prevailed, even official records of floods would not exist. Such cuts go beyond ordinary political by-play into the realm of the dangerous. In 2005 Sen. Williams, and his colleague John Bulloch, a fellow Dirty Dozen member, got a bill passed that would allow the "mining" of old sunken logs from the Flint and Altamaha Rivers, forcing the state to subsidize businesses that prosper from destroying habitat (SB 283).

Members of the State House of Representatives

Steve Davis is a freshman House member from Stockbridge, in Henry County, who has distinguished himself by his rabid opposition to passenger rail service in Georgia. The current proposal for the Atlanta to Lovejoy commuter rail line would be of great benefit to Davis' constituents stuck in traffic on I-75 but that has not stopped Davis from taking every opportunity to oppose rail service.

Ron Forster of Ringgold has been noted in the past for his support for running All Terrain Vehicles on roads, an unsafe practice that is currently illegal. Rep. Forster is also an enthusiastic member of the American Legislative Exchange Council, (ALEC), a polluter-funded "service" that writes anti-environmental, anti-regulation bills for introduction in various states. In 2006 Rep. Forster introduced HB 1353, a bill that would dramatically reduce cleanup standards for toxic sites (Brownfields), and specifically exempted such property from "common law" property rights lawsuits by neighboring landowners.

Harry Geisinger is a returnee to the legislature, who was last a member in the 1970’s. A member of the House Natural Resources Committee, Rep. Geisinger supported every single anti-environmental action taken by that committee. He introduced several resolutions in support of offshore drilling for oil and gas off the GA coast, directly threatening Georgia ’s tourism industry (HR 1635, HR 1636, HR 2216).

John Lunsford of Henry County is the “Chief Hawk” of the Georgia House who is thereby automatically a member of all committees, so that he can attend and vote on any bill that might not pass without his intervention. In 2005 he introduced a series of bills that would create a state development bank (HB 436, etc.), using public money to promote more development in GA “in a way that makes things too easy, eliminating public input and oversight’ according to an editorial in the Savannah Morning News. He is also an opponent of passenger rail service who introduced HB 1033 which would have required local referenda on commuter rail service. Lunsford is one of the authors of a dangerous plan to use emergency lanes on highways to speed up traffic at the cost of safety.

Carl Rogers is a long-time House member who switched to the Republican Party recently. He is from Gainesville , where he has never lifted a finger to protect Lake Lanier . Rep. Rogers was so enthusiastic about destroying stream buffers in 2006 that he voted as a member of subcommittee on which he did not even sit in an outrageous attempt to speed passage of SB 460.

Richard Royal is a veteran House member from Camilla, who has just switched parties. Royal is a longtime crony of former House Natural Resources Committee Chair Bob Hanner, and was a stalwart in supporting the selling of water withdrawal permits. In 2006 Rep. Royal used his subcommittee chair status to kill a Senate bill and Constitutional Amendment that would have given tax breaks to landowners who maintain stream buffers on their land (SR 1104, SB 604).

Public Service Commissioner

Stan Wise is a long-time member of the Public Service Commission who has become ever more openly a proponent for whatever the utility companies that come before that body desire from it. He is a vocal proponent of nuclear power, refusing to even listen to any idea that power from such a source might not be nearly as cost-effective as other, safer forms of power.

Soon after Wise took office he voted to restrict energy efficiency efforts by imposing an overly restrictive screening test. Recently, he voted against improvements in the utility Green Power program (rejection of national certification).

Not only an enemy of the environment, Wise has worked against the consumers time after time. Notably, Wise led a recent attack on the PSC adversary staff. These are the people responsible for representing the consumers when utilities ask for rate increases (AJC 2-15-2006).

Wise has also opposed much needed ethics reform. Georgia and Louisiana are the only two states that allow secret conversations between regulators such as PSC members and the regulated utilities including Georgia Power and AGL. "Behavior that’s legal here would get regulators thrown out of office in some states" (AJC 2-15-2006). Wise sees no problem with closed-door meetings with utilities asking for hundreds of millions of dollars from Georgia consumers.

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