Clean Water

Nine out of ten Georgia voters* are concerned about water quality where they live; 62% of voters are "very concerned" about the quality of water. How do you propose to ensure that communities have clean and safe water supplies both now and for future generations?

Do you support legislation to protect Georgia's water supply from the impacts of all pollution sources, including livestock and suburban runoff?

Georgia is the fastest growing state east of the Mississippi river and Atlanta has led the nation in single-family home construction since 1991.This explosive growth is putting a strain on Georgia's most important natural resource - clean water. A poll conducted in January 2000 by The League of Conservation Voters Education Fund shows that Georgia voters' chief concerns about water quality are pollution of rivers and of the drinking water supply.

Urban and suburban land use has the biggest negative impact on Georgia's water quality. The 1996 US Geological Survey's report, "Water Quality in the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint River Basin, Georgia, Alabama, and Florida," found that as Georgia's percentage of land use increased within a watershed, harmful nutrients, pesticides, trace elements and sediments were more prevalent and occurred at higher concentrations in streams. Their report also reveals that "the continued urbanization of forested and pasture land surrounding Metropolitan Atlanta is likely to be accompanied by increasing detrimental effects on water quality in area streams, including the area's source of drinking water."

Some of the nation's most endangered rivers run through Georgia. Two of Georgia's river basins, Alabama-Coosa-Tallapoosa (ACT) River Basin and the Apalachicola-Chattahoochee-Flint (ACF) River Basin,, are ranked as the 5th most endangered rivers of 2000, according to American Rivers. The most significant threats to these rivers are water withdrawals, dams, urban growth, and non-point pollution.

The biggest challenge to making our rivers, streams and drinking water safe is runoff from "non-point" sources such as dirt washed off construction sites, fertilizer run-off from lawns and farms, failed septic tanks, and livestock waste running off pasturelands. Creating stronger buffers between these environmental hazards and our drinking water supply is an effective way to protect us from the problems that occur from over-development and sprawl.

Clean Air

Under current federal law, fossil fuel power plants built prior to the Clean Air Act amendments do not need to adhere by the same air quality mandates as newer power plants. Would you favor requiring all Georgia's fossil fuel power plants to conform to the new environmental standards to reduce ozone (smog), acid rain, particulates and global warming?

Automobiles, trucks and sport utility vehicles are a significant source of air pollution in Georgia, and 75% of Georgia voters agree that these mobile sources should be held responsible for clean-up. Coal-fired power plants are also a significant source of air pollution, and Georgia voters overwhelmingly agree. What are your plans to reduce the pollution of the air that all Georgians must breathe?

Do you support strengthening fuel economy standards for automobiles and funding public transportation alternatives as means to reduce air pollution?

Unhealthy levels of air pollution plague a growing number of Georgia communities. The American Lung Association's State of the Air 2000 report ranks Atlanta number 9 in their "Top 25 Metropolitan Areas with the Worst Ozone Air Pollution." Fulton County was the 5th ranked county in the nation with the highest average number of high ozone days in unhealthy ranges for humans. This translates into over 3 million people living in areas where it is unhealthy to breathe the air. While Metro Atlanta's air has been unhealthy for years, the air in cities such as Macon and Augusta will soon be declared unhealthy, especially during the summer, when emissions from SUVs, cars and trucks, coal-fired power plants and industries send fine particles and smog (ozone) into our lungs.

Our children, the elderly, people with respiratory problems, and African Americans are the first to feel the deleterious effects of ozone and other air pollutants, but all people can be affected. Cases of asthma are rising for both children and adults. Scientists estimate that fine particulate air pollution from power plants
is responsible for more than 1,600 premature deaths in Georgia each year. More Georgia deaths can be attributed to air pollution than car accidents. Elected officials have a chance to quick-start the transformation to the next generation of automobiles and fuels. By encouraging the development of new fuel-efficient technologies, utilizing current technologies and promoting public transportation, we can all begin to breathe easier.

Green Space Protection

Open spaces and clean water make Georgia a great place to live. But, Georgia's rapid growth is leaving natural area protection far behind. Only 8% Georgia's 37 million acres are protected from development. How do you plan to strike a balance between growth and the preservation of natural resources for future Georgians?

Will you work to support a permanent funding source for green space acquisition to adequately protect our natural areas for wildlife habitat and human recreation?

During the next 25 years, Georgia's population is expected to increase from 8 million to nearly 10 million residents. Georgia is the 13th fastest growing state in the nation. Uncontrolled sprawl is threatening the state's natural assets that make Georgia such a great place to live and visit.

Green space is defined by GA Senate Bill 399 as protected land and water including: agricultural and forestry land that is in its undeveloped, natural state or land that provides the benefits of water quality, flood, stream buffer, wetland, or archaeological and historic resource protection, erosion reduction, or serves as a place of passive or informal recreation such as hiking, fishing, biking, or hunting. These natural areas protect our drinking water, provide recreation areas and wildlife habitat for future generations.

Green space protection is also good for business. Many communities are now investing in watersheds, farmland or historic sites, which attract tourists and new businesses. Elected officials - from zoning boards and county commissioners to governors and state legislators - must address suburban sprawl and related open space preservation, land-use planning and transportation issues, well into the new century. By protecting green space in Georgia, we can protect the quality of life that most Georgians cherish.

Over-Development & Sprawl

Nearly 9 out of 10 Georgia voters are concerned about growth and sprawl where they live. Georgians are concerned about losing what they love about Georgia - their quality of life. Certain policies in Georgia encourage sprawl, such as the current property tax system that pushes farmers to sell their land rather than pay rising taxes. Will you support efforts to reduce such incentives for increased sprawl and over-development?

Sixty percent of Georgia voters believe that local government should take the lead for managing sprawl and growth issues. Many communities have been forced to raise property taxes or sales taxes to pay for new schools needed for rapidly growing populations. Would you support local governments being able to impose impacts fees on new development to help pay for new school construction?

Numerous studies have shown that conversion of farmland to residential subdivisions and low-density development cost more to provide services and force increases of local tax rates. Will you support the requirement of local governments to conduct fiscal impact assessments before approving major re-zonings and changes to the comprehensive plans?

Environmental Justice

Many studies have documented that minority and low-income neighborhoods bear a much higher number of landfills, incinerators, sewage treatment plants and other polluting facilities than white and/or wealthier neighborhoods. Do you have plans to combat this apparent injustice?

The groundbreaking 1987 report "Toxic Wastes and Race" by the United Church of Christ's Commission for Racial Justice, documents that race is the most significant variable to the location of commercial hazardous waste facilities nationwide. Since then, and despite the grassroots movement and growing national attention, there exists even greater racial disparity between communities with commercial hazardous waste sites and areas without these facilities.

Environment and the Economy

The costs of pollution are borne by us all, and many health effects are hard to quantify. The polluter best pays the costs of pollution reduction. Who do you think should bear the costs of clean-up: polluters, taxpayers, or pollution victims?

Economic studies have shown that there is a positive correlation between environment and economy - states that have strong environmental laws tend to have healthier economies. Thus, we need not sacrifice our health and environment in the name of economic prosperity. The LCVEF Georgia poll revealed that almost 3 in 4 Georgia voters believe we can have a clean environment and a strong economy at the same time without having to choose one over the other.

Stronger Environmental Laws

82% of Georgia voters believe that environmental laws in Georgia are either too weak or not strongly enforced. Given this political will for stronger environmental protections, will you work hard to strengthen the law and back that with a law enforcement commitment?

Georgia voters strongly believe that we need tougher environmental laws in order to be good stewards and afford our children and grandchildren with the same scenic beauty and diversity of wildlife that we enjoy today. Relaxed laws also threaten the health of Georgia's children; voters understand that we need stronger water and air quality laws to ensure that our children live in a healthy environment.

*All poll data refers to the results from Beth Schapiro & Associates' January 2000 poll entitled, "Georgia Voters' Opinions on Environmental Issues" prepared for the League of Conservation Voters Education Fund.

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