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Activists petition legislators

By Michael Davis

Saving the state's environment from rampant, unchecked development was on the minds of dozens of activists who descended on the state Capitol Thursday to take part in Green Day.

The day was billed as a day to lobby state lawmakers to reject several pieces of pending legislation opponents say would take away citizens' rights to know about proposed development and its potential harm, and activists from several environmental conservation groups e-mailed and showed up in person to oppose the bills.

"Today really highlights Green Day at the Capitol. Over 70 citizens from across the state have come up to lobby their state legislators, and, at the same time, highlight the activities of local environmental and conservation groups," said Jason Rooks, executive director of the group Georgia Conservation Voters.

Rooks' group appeared with Gov. Sonny Perdue at the signing of a proclamation declaring Thursday a day for the environment in Georgia.

"We believe everybody is downstream from someone, and downstream property rights are as important or more important than upstream polluters' rights to pollute," Rooks said.

"And it's clear that Georgia's economy will only continue to grow as long as it has a healthy environment that makes our state such an attractive place for businesses and individuals to move to," he added.

The presence of even those who could not attend was felt, as e-mails flew out to legislators.

Jonesboro resident and advisor for the Clayton group Georgia Kids Against Pollution fired off more than a dozen messages to local lawmakers in support of House Bill 550, a measure to put fees collected from environmental permit issuance into the state Environmental Protection Division coffers, she said.

She said more and more regular Georgians are beginning to realize the impact state legislation has on the environment.

"I think people are starting to get it as to how all of this is connected, whether it's zoning, development or growth," she said. "In terms of the environment and quality of life, we're waking up."

Bills on the watch list of environmental groups include Senate Bills 190 and 191 as well as House Bills 218 and 401.

Georgia Conservancy policy analyst Shana Udvardy said her group also has been watching and promoting Senate Bill 122, which would extend the collection of tire disposal fees to provide money to clean up landfills and toxic waste dump sites. A version of the bill passed the Senate earlier this week.

"Today was a day of the environment and we got citizens together to get together with their legislators and talking about the bill that are important to them," Udvardy said Thursday.

On the net: State Legislature

http://www.legis.state.ga.us