Contact Your Representative today : A Call to Action.
Help Protect Archaeological Sites in Georgia! The public needs to share its concerns with the media and elected officials by contacting members in the House of Representatives and sharing the press release with your local news outlets. There are only 10 days left in the session to defeat this bill. Read on to learn about the current status of the proposed exclusion in the Environmental Policy Act.
On crossover day, the Senate voted on SB 346, and it passed to the House of Representatives. The bill still includes a $100 million provision that would exempt 75-80% of state funded transportation projects from environmental studies. The bill author claims that there would be no threat to environmental or cultural resources because there are still federal projects that would receive study and because required studies are still in effect when other environmental acts regarding wildlife, sediment and erosion, known burial sites, endangered species, and clean water are involved. This is a misunderstanding on the part of the author because the state funded projects would not be subject to federal laws with regards to all archaeological resources. The legislation does not protect previously unknown or undocumented archaeological sites, including unknown burial places. No archaeologists will be employed in an effort to locate and record sites when studies are exempted by the current legislation. Our elected officials are in need of an education on the environmental process in place in the State of Georgia.
Current GEPA legislation acts as an insurance policy against unforeseen consequences that can and do take place when cultural resource studies are not conducted. The lawmakers are concerned about keeping costs in check; however they fail to recognize that when studies are not conducted there is a real possibility of encountering burial sites, prehistoric sites, or other resources of great concern to local communities. When environmental studies are not completed, planners have no guidance for how to avoid sensitive resources, which are then encountered during construction. Consequently, work stops, costs escalate, and involved parties may be subject to litigation. Ultimately, even though millions are spent, projects die simply because no environmental studies were completed. The Georgia Department of Transportation has received a large amount of money as a result of the previously passed Transportation Funding Act of 2015 that allows the department to tackle needed road projects. The “paperwork” that the author seeks to eliminate is an absolutely necessary facet of the environmental process that is time-tested and has prevented the loss of important resources that are integral to Georgia’s heritage.
The GCPA and SGA are working to better advise the members of the House of Representatives and the members of the Transportation, Natural Resources and Environment, and Budget and Fiscal Affairs Oversight Committees. A comprehensive understanding of the GEPA process by these lawmakers should allow them to be better informed to advise the House of Representatives and allow them to consider amendments that would accomplish the goals of the Senate lawmakers by keeping necessary studies in place while providing common sense examples of ways to streamline projects that are needed to improve transportation for the state. While we oppose changing the environmental review process in any way overall, we do not want to obstruct badly needed transportation improvements that are slated to begin as a result of the previously passed Transportation Funding Act.
WE NEED YOUR SUPPORT.
Let the legislature know the that public opposes the bill because it would bypass laws in place to ensure studies are undertaken on state funded transportation projects in order to protect natural resources like archaeology sites. The passage of this bill would have national implications for cultural resources. The unique cultural resources of the state national treasures. It threatens to impact small businesses in Georgia. The legislation also directly threatens environmental resources overall, as it would exempt studies for environmental effects reports for state funded transportation projects. Let your voice be heard and contact the committee to share your stories and concerns. You can contact your Senator by consulting this list and your Representative consulting this list. It’s not too soon to begin contacting Representatives in the House, particularly the members of the House Transportation Committee. Please use the contact information below:
House Transportation Committee:
Christian Coomer (District 14), email@example.com, 404.656.7153
Valerie Clark (District 101), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0202
Bubber Epps (District 144), email@example.com, 404.656.3947
Ballinger, Mandi L. (District 23), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0254
Benton, Tommy (District 31), email@example.com, 404.463.3793
Bryant, Bob (District 162), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0298
Burns, Jon G. (District 159), email@example.com, 404.656.5052
Carson, John (District 46), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0287
Deffenbaugh, John (District 1), email@example.com, 404.656.0202
Dempsey, Katie M. (District 13), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.2247
Gardner, Pat (District 57), email@example.com, 404.656.0265
Harrell, Brett, (District 106), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0254
Hitchens, Bill (District 161), email@example.com, 404.656.1803
Jones, Sheila (District 53), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0126
Jordan, Darryl (District 77), email@example.com, 404.656.0116
McCall, Tom (District 33), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.5099
Nimmer, Chad (District 178), email@example.com, 404.651.7737
Prince, Brian (District 127), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0116
Rutledge, Dale (District 109), email@example.com, 404.656.0109
Rynders, Ed (District 152), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.6801
Setzler, Ed (District 35), email@example.com, 404.656.7857
Sims, Barbara (District 123), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.7855
Taylor, Darlene K. (District 173), email@example.com, 404.656.0178
Waites, Keisha (District 60), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.0220
Watson, Sam (District 172), email@example.com, 404.656.0213
Williams, Al (District 168), firstname.lastname@example.org, 404.656.6372