From Walter Jones with Morris News Service, Feds might yank Ogeechee permit, Isakson says:
U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson is reviewing whether to call for federal involvement in blocking a permit to discharge into the Ogeechee River by the company responsible for the state’s largest fish kill.
The Georgia Republican assigned his staff to research the issues regarding federal pre-emption of state authority in the matter.
“I’ve got one of my staff people in Washington working on it,” he said.
The Georgia Environmental Protection Division issued a permit this month to King America Finishing. After the 2011 fish kill, the company agreed to give the state $1 million for environmental recovery but denied any wrongdoing.
State officials say the new permit has tougher restrictions than the one the company was using when it exceeded previous limits on contaminants that killed thousands of fish.
The Ogeechee Riverkeeper and a broad swath of the general public have already reacted strongly to the EPD’s issuance of the permit, which basically allows King America Finishing to discharge pollutants directly into the river, subject to certain conditions.
I’m sure there must be someone in coastal Georgia who is satisfied that the state has taken appropriate actions in this case and is confident that the state can be trusted to monitor the river’s health from here on out. But I sure haven’t seen any of my myriad online contacts — right, left, or center — make those arguments publicly.
Advocates for a healthy Ogeechee were in a better mood in July, when a judge said that the Ogeechee Riverkeeper and its members had the right to sue the EPD. That overturned a previous ruling, and it gave some hope to the small property owners who line the river that they could somehow stand up to state regulators and to the manufacturer.
State Representative Jan Tankersley seems content to take a wait and see approach, but citizens seem generally disgusted with the whole process. I’ve been surprised by the eagerness with which some reliably conservative voters are calling for federal action, but we can leave discussion of that irony for another day.
Right now, many coastal residents — and many whose property values are being decimated — fear that we are looking at “a dying river,” to quote a good friend far more knowledgeable than I about all this.