Southeast Green - Business depends on the environment and the environment depends on business

Getting to “End of Smog,” not “End of Smog Season”

Atlanta’s 2011 “smog season” was a pretty bad one by any measure. This year Atlanta had 39 ozone violations, or days when ozone concentrations exceeded the 2008 ozone limit set by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under George W. Bush.

Thirty-nine violations are bad enough, but the real public health tally is actually much worse. EPA’s Clean Air Scientific Advisory Committee (CASAC), the group charged with making science-based recommendations to EPA on air quality standards, unanimously concluded that the limit for ozone should be significantly lowered. After several delays, in July EPA submitted its recommendation for a stronger standard to the White House.  On September 2, public health scientists and advocates were dismayed when President Obama announced that he would not consider the recommendation at this time, postponing a stronger standard for several years at least.

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Learning from Gulf Coast Community Leaders

This Blog originally appeared on the DOE website.

Yesterday, we had the opportunity to meet with leaders from the gulf coast to learn from their successes in rebuilding their communities from the ravages of hurricanes, the BP oil spill, and the national economic recession, as 18 gulf coast Champions of Change gathered at the White House for the Gulf Coast Sustainable Economies Roundtable.

After hearing the stories about the work that these individuals and their organizations have done, it’s clear to me that they are changing the paradigm of gulf coast recovery. People like Byron Bishop, the director of Workforce Works, and Tamara Jones with the Southeast Energy Efficiency Alliance are changing the way buildings are developed in the gulf, creating a generation of green builders in New Orleans who work closely with low-income communities. David Perkes’ Gulf Coast Community Design Studio is using intricate knowledge of architectural design to create affordable, sustainable housing plans.

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ADEM Minimum Penalties Removed

On June 9, Governor Bentley signed Act No. 2011-612 (HB106, passed by the state House and Senate on May 31) repealing the mandatory minimum civil penalty that the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) should issue violators of Alabama environmental law.  Previously, ADEM was required to issue a minimum penalty amount of $100 per day of violation.  Pursuant to § 22-22A-5(18)c of the Code of Alabama, “any civil penalty assessed or recovered . . . shall not be less than $100.00 or exceed $25,000.00 . . . Each day such violation continues shall constitute a separate violation . . .”  This has been established law for over forty years.  The new legislation eliminates the minimum penalty entirely, leaving only a maximum.

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An Alternative solution to Georgia's Water System Interconnection, Redundancy and Reliability Act

In May 2010, Governor Sonny Perdue signed into law the Water System Interconnection, Redundancy and Reliability Act (SB380). The objective of the Act is to complete a thorough and detailed engineering study that develops an emergency water supply plan for all qualified water systems within the Metropolitan North Georgia Water Planning District (the District). With this Act, Georgia affirms the importance of comprehensive water emergency planning and the value of effectively sharing our current water resources through well-considered redundancy and interconnection planning. This is the link to the GEFA (Georgia Environmental Finance Authority) announcement for the RFP.

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Work on the Gulf Coast Continues

Dolphin Skull on Navarre BeachWe are approaching the 1-year anniversary of the blowout on the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig that resulted in an unprecedented oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.  Although this is not an issue that is talked about much outside the coast these days, its impacts are far from over.

In the past few months, we have continued to connect with people in local communities to stay abreast of what is going on along the coast.  During the UGA Oil Spill Symposium in January, I met a local resident from the Florida panhandle who is steadfast in updating her network on the latest developments and she has graciously included me in her outreach.  I also recently connected with Simone Lipscomb, a photographer that has been documenting the impact on wildlife along the coast. She has posted some incredible images as well as some stark reminders of just how serious this issue continues to be.  Check out her photos here and her blog here.

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Observing the Details

Since the Deepwater Horizon Disaster, I have visited the Alabama Gulf Coast monthly to document, through photography, video, and writing, the effects and recovery of the ecosystems. At first, it was difficult to do anything but record the obvious—thick oil on sugar-white beaches, tidal pools filled with brown sludge, oil-covered animals, and the smell…if only I could accurately describe the hot-diesel smell that made my eyes, throat, and lungs burn.

But eventually, as I was able to cope with my own trauma reaction regarding the disaster, I concentrated on details of the seven sensitive land areas that have been my focus. Intricate parts of their ecosystems began to show signs of the struggle to survive and recover from the toxic effects of crude oil and chemical dispersant.

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