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S.B. 524 The Denial of Justice Bill

S.B. 524 would violate the Georgia State Constitution
by preventing Georgia’s citizens from challenging any state
agency decision to issue a permit
regardless of the legality of that action or its impact on
public health and the environment.

S.B. 524 would violate the Georgia State Constitution by
creating disincentives
that would prevent Georgia's citizens from challenging any
state agency decision to issue a permit
regardless of the legality of that action or its impact on
public health and the environment.
It would guarantee that only the wealthy corporations could
afford to challenge a state issued perm

This Bill Is Motivated Solely To Prevent Citizen
Participation Based On False Claims that Citizens Are
Abusing the Process

Proponents of this bill claim that environmental
organizations are flooding the courts with frivolous appeals
filed for improper purposes.
Nothing could be further from the truth.

Charges that appeals have been filed for improper purposes
have been leveled most harshly against environmental
organizations that have appealed permits under the Coastal
Marshlands Protection Act (CMPA).

The facts do not support this position:
• In 1970, the Georgia legislature enacted the CMPA to
protect coastal marshlands as a “vital natural resource
system.”
• Based on available information, in the past ten years, a
total of 11 administrative appeals have been filed under the
CMPA.
Of these 11, only three appeals have been brought by
environmental groups.
• In two of these appeals, the environmental groups won
significant legal rulings
as the courts upheld the environmentalists’ claims that the
state was failing to properly apply the CMPA.
• The third case was settled prior to going to trial because
the state acknowledged the flaws in the permitting process
and agreed to modify the challenged permit.
• These appeals have empowered the state to more effectively
protect one of its most important natural resources – its
coastal marshlands.

The same conclusion can be reached for appeals of permits
issued by the Environmental Protection Division (EPD):
• The regulated community has filed an overwhelming majority
(approximately 75 %) of all appeals while members of the
public have initiated less than 1 in 4 appeals.
• Approximately 75 % of the challenges brought by
individuals and environmental organizations result in permit
modifications or other changes that benefit the environment.
For example, these cases have brought about the reduction of
hundreds of tons of smog-causing chemicals and ensured that
wastewater discharge permits meet water quality standards.

Call Senate Natural Resources Committee members now and ask
them to oppose SB 524. Note that there are a couple of
Senators from our basin on this list, but let the others
know as well. Just call and leave a message with the
assistant that you think that SB 524 should not be passed by
the Natural Resources Committee.

Hugh Gillis-Chairman (404) 656-5080

Casey Cagle-Vice Chairman (404) 656-6578

John Bulloch-Secretary (404) 463-8056

Rooney Bowen (404) 656-7580

Jack Hill (404) 656-5038

George Hooks (404) 656-0065

Ralph Hudgens (404) 463-1361

Carol Jackson (404) 656-0094

Brian Kemp (404) 463-1366

Rene Kemp (404) 656-0070

Dan Lee (404) 651-7738

Michael MeyerVon Bremen (404) 656-0037

Terrell Starr (404) 656-7586

Eric Johnson, Ex Officio (404) 656-5109

Overview of S.B. 524

• S.B. 524 would require all citizens to post a bond before
challenging any state decision to issue a permit even if the
state illegally issued that permit. The bond must cover
“all loss, damages, interest, attorney fees and costs and
expenses of litigation” that “may” be sustained by the
business or government entity that received the permit even
if that entity is not a party to the litigation. With such
highly speculative costs at stake, the bond is likely to be
prohibitive for citizens.
• This bill would require ordinary citizens who are serving
the critical function of ensuring that Georgia’s government
complies with the law to pay for defense attorneys who work
for industry. If the state wins, citizens will have to pay
for industry attorneys, any costs that resulted from the
delay and more, even if the citizen’s claim was valid but
rejected on technical grounds or other reasons. However, if
the citizen wins, no one helps to pay his or her costs.
• Even if a citizen discovers that the State made a serious
error in issuing a permit, the disincentive to challenging
that action is too great. The extreme (and unprecedented)
measures proposed by S.B. 524 would effectively halt any
further permit appeals by citizens. While that may be the
motivation behind this bill, that goal is patently
unconstitutional under the Right to Courts provision of the
Georgia Constitution.
• The deck is already stacked against ordinary citizens.
Citizens have the burden of proving their case and must meet
a very high threshold in order to win. One side or the
other must win and the Court can rule against a party even
if the decision was extremely close. The bond is forfeited
if the court rules against the citizen without regard to the
reason for the court’s ultimate ruling. That means that a
citizen may be paying industry’s attorneys fees even if the
claim was valid.
• The bill may result in punitive action by the federal
government. The state is responsible for running many
federal programs, including the Clean Water Act permitting
program. But these programs are conditioned on the state
meeting certain standards, including the provision of state
administrative processes that are “sufficient to provide
for, encourage, and assist public participation in the
permitting process.” 40 C.F.R. § 122.30. This proposal
falls well below that standard, and may result in the
withdrawal of federal program.


“No Person Shall Be Deprived of the Right to Prosecute or
Defend, Either in Person or by an Attorney, that Person’s
Own Cause in Any of the Courts of this State.” Georgia
State Constitution, Para. XII. Right to the Courts

 
 




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