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Atlanta Environmental Law Blog

What is a wetland and why do you need to care?

With more than 7.7 million acres of wetlands in Georgia, landowners and users need to know what a wetland is and what can happen if work is commenced without knowledge of the law.

Any time you move earth to alter the drainage pattern of land, wetland regulations and permitting should come to mind. Penalties for wetland violations can be costly, and involve daily fines, restoration costs, and even criminal prosecution. If you participate in federal programs, any cost sharing or payments received will have to be repaid to the government agency.

What will new coal ash self-regulation permits mean for Georgia?

On June 18, 2018, Oklahoma was granted the country’s first permit to self-regulate coal ash by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Coal ash is produced by burning coal, and it contains the carcinogenic toxins lead, arsenic and mercury.

Coal ash was previously regulated by the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, which used federal regulatory laws to govern its disposal. With the change in oversight, the state is now in charge of coal ash regulation and can create its own rules regarding it. Environmental activists believe the federal regulations are not strong enough regarding coal ash, and Oklahoma has not done a proper job of providing oversight on these regulations.

Zoning issues can stall projects

Starting a new project here in the Atlanta area may provide a sense of excitement, but it also provides numerous tasks and potential obstacles that require attention. For instance, zoning issues can be particularly tricky to deal with, especially if a request to rezone the property is contemplated. Issues could arise that may stall or even stop a project before it even has a chance to get off the ground.

For instance, a developer wanted to build an apartment complex here in Georgia, but the property needed to be rezoned for the project to move forward. Currently, the property is zoned for commercial use, and the request was to change that to multi-family residential. After hearing a presentation from the developer, the City Council in the area where the complex was to be built never even considered the request.

Business relationships matter in real estate development

In today's political and economic climate, growth is a critical goal facing both municipalities and private industry. It is a prominent expectation given the increase in the Savannah metro area's increasing job base and demand for quality housing.

The new residential community Mosby Lakeside is example of real estate developers and community leaders coming together to meet such an expectation. According to a recent report, the new project will be an apartment complex with 316 units consisting of one, two and three bedroom residences.

Risk of chemical exposure high from black women's hair products

Any woman, whether here in Georgia or elsewhere, who has walked into a hair salon knows that numerous chemicals are used in order to achieve the styles they desire. Some of them come with the potential for chemical exposure that could cause harm to both salon workers and their customers. It turns out that those who face the most risk could be black women and children.

Many new developments in Georgia encounter zoning issues

Over the years, many industrial businesses have gone out of business here in Georgia just as they do everywhere else. Sometimes, those properties stay empty for years until a developer comes along and wants to make use of the land. Unless the developer uses the property for its original zoning purpose, the new project will more than likely encounter some zoning issues.

For instance, a company wants to convert an old building site into a mixed-use development. The plan is to put in an amphitheater and apartments, along with spaces for restaurants, warehouses and retail establishments. It is intended to be place where the residents can work and live without having to travel too far from their neighborhood in order to shop or enjoy entertainment.

Environmental law news: Forest biomass recognized by EPA

Solar and wind energy basically cornered the market on clean energy here in the United States until recently. The Environmental Protection Agency decided to recognize another form of clean and renewable energy that some say will benefit the state of Georgia -- forest biomass energy. During a time when many are concerned about the direction of environmental law, the Georgia Forestry Association applauded the EPA's decision by saying that it would be good for the state.

Georgia has millions of acres of privately-owned working forests. The communities around those forests may benefit from greater economic viability, sustainability and health due to biomass energy markets that receive a boost from the EPA's latest announcement. Forest biomass is said to be a carbon neutral and renewable source of energy.

Sediment pollution could get your business into trouble

Whether you developed the land yourself or purchased a standing building, it was probably necessary to clear the land first. The removal of trees, vegetation and other natural land formations to make way for infrastructure and buildings removed a barrier to storm water.

As the water moves, it picks up sediments that could end up in Georgia's waterways and could contaminate the water eventually. If you fail to take steps to prevent this from happening, you could find your business in trouble with the Environmental Protection Agency as well as the Georgia Environmental Protection Division.

Apple is protecting the environment through recycling old iPhones

Recycling is not just for Georgia residents. Large corporations, small family businesses and anyone else can get into the habit of recycling as a way of protecting the environment. In fact, many companies already participate in these types of programs, and Apple used Earth Day as an opportunity to announce its newest recycling robot, Daisy, in advance of the day itself.

Many of the components of iPhones can be reused in future products. Back in 2016, Apple unveiled Liam, which  was used to disassemble old phones so that their parts could be reused. Liam worked well enough for Apple that when Daisy was being built, she was given reusable parts from Liam as well. Daisy is designed to take apart nine different versions of Apple's iPhones at a rate of approximately 200 per hour.

Scientists warn of exposure to contaminated ground water

Toxic chemicals are used every day in industries across the country, including many here in Georgia. For several years now, scientists have warned the government, and specifically the Environmental Protection Agency, of the dangers of perchlorate, which is a chemical component in explosives. This toxic substance is used in food packaging, airbags and fireworks, not to mention munitions and rocket fuel, among other things. The current uses of perchlorate have left approximately 17 million people at risk of exposure to contaminated ground water.

This toxic chemical compound most often affects the thyroid, which is needed for normal development and growth. The presence of perchlorate in the water supply could potentially put children at risk right alongside adults. The campaign to get the EPA to regulate the use and monitor the spread of this chemical compound has gone on for decades. In fact, in 2016, one group, the Natural Resources Defense Council filed a lawsuit, attempting to force the EPA to set safe standards for perchlorate.

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