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Environmental Health and Justice 2023-24 Legislation

Below find a summary of legislation, from the 2023-24 Georgia General Assembly Session, that addresses environmental justice issues. This is an in-progress list. Please reach out to us with questions, comments, or additions.

HR 255 – House Study Committee on Environmental Justice

HR 255 would create a House Study Committee on Environmental Justice. Often a study committee is a first step toward more substantial legislation. It enables lawmakers to delve into an issue, understand community impact and need, understand current regulations, and then make informed policy decisions on what would be most beneficial and most plausible in Georgia.

This study committee would appoint five members of the Georgia House to study

  • placement and permitting of facilities that may cause pollution
  • impact on on low-income and minority residents of Georgia
  • how regulations can be updated to reflect current environmental and socio-economic conditions in Georgia.

This is important as Georgia strives attract more industry related to the Green Economy. Where will these new facilities go? How does Georgia ensure the facilities themselves do not have negative impacts on human health and the environment?

HB 260 & HB 485 – GA Environmental Justice Act of 2023

Similar to HB 339 from the 2021-22 session.

The Georgia Environmental Justice Act of 2023 (HB 260, and HB 495, essentially the same bill) creates a 22-member commission to conduct scientific analysis, including case studies, and prepare a report on target facilities that require environmental permits. These commission will analyze 1) health statistics of the population surrounding each site, 2) past violations of human health, 3) economic factors that caused facilities that have health implications to be placed in low-income or predominantly Black communities, and 4) policies that influenced these land use decisions. The purpose of these reports is to better understand the neighborhoods that are particularly at high risk from threats to human health, and understand how to create more equitable outcomes.

Scientific Merit 
Follows ScienceYes, this does follow scientific research accurately. The commission is collecting research that measures existing environmental injustice in Georgia, to better understand how to prevent environmental injustice. This is the first proposed legislation in Georgia that directly addresses environmental justice.  
Stakeholder PerceptionPositiveMajority of stakeholders agree. This bill affects those that live close to superfund sites, industrial plants, or waste sites, as well as those in high environmental risk areas. There is support from many environmental stakeholders including Sierra Club and Protect Georgia. The Georgia Environmental Protection Division (EPD) has not taken a stance on the bill.
ReachAll ImpactedAffects all target audience equally. The target audience are communities near environmentally regulated sites.
Measurable Impacts?Mostly TrackableAll data available to track metrics. Data will be collected but is not specified whether it will be publicly available or acted on.  
Political FeasibilityParty-Line SplitDemocrat sponsored bill.

HB 491 – Environmental Impact Statements

HB 491, Address issues regarding environmental justice and permitting, will establish additional permit application requirements for new or expanded facilities that are located in overburdened communities, which the bill defines as communities that are low income, minority, or where community members have limited English proficiency. These new requirements include:  the preparation of an environmental justice impact statement, the issuance of the environmental justice impact statement to the department and to the local government in which the community is located, and public hearings in the community.

Scientific Merit 
Follows ScienceYes, this does follow scientific research accurately. HB 432 requires preparation of an environmental impact statement prior to any new or expanded facilities in any overburdened communities (low income, minority, limited English proficiency), where polluting infrastructure has been historically placed. This would help to ensure these communities do not face additional environmental burdens.   
Stakeholder PerceptionPositiveMajority of stakeholders agree. Stakeholders include overburdened communities that could benefit from increased regulation to prevent pollution. Environmental organizations such as Protect Georgia and Georgia Conservancy support the bill. The facilities of interest may oppose this bill because of the expanded time required to receive certification for new builds, but no public commentary has been found.
ReachAll ImpactedAffects all target audiences equally. All overburdened communities would be subject to environmental justice reviews.  
Measurable Impacts?TransparentAll data available to track metrics. Environmental Impact statement will be available to the public.  
Political FeasibilityParty-Line SplitDemocrat sponsored bill.

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