Senate Bill 269: Georgia’s rivers and streams for sale to lowest bidder

One would think that if an elected official, like Jesse Stone of Senate District 23, had an opportunity to introduce legislation that would create stronger safeguards for the already polluted rivers in his district, he would. But in fact, as a co-sponsor of SB 269, he hasn’t.

The Ogeechee River, which experienced the largest fish kill in our state’s history last year, meanders through Stone’s district. Reedy Creek and Brier Creek also pass through the district, and both were recently polluted with spills (the Reedy Creek spill happened over New Year’s weekend).  Stone sits on the Senate Natural Resources and the Environment Committee, so he certainly has access to and influence on a committee that should be attuned to clean air and water issues.

SB 269
, which Stone co-sponsored, as written now, would allow the director of the Environmental Protection Division (sometimes referred to as the Environmental Pollution Division among citizens) to negotiate a settlement with a polluter (both private companies and local governments) rather than imposing a stiff fine or penalty. SB 269 would allow the EPD director to notify “any person” (i.e. the polluter) and offer to negoiate an agreement    In short, the polluter and the EPD director can ignore penalties and just settle on some type of corrective action.

The director may also extend the period of time for clean up in six month increments with no limit on the number of extensions allowed.

So who has Jesse Stone’s ear? Of local interest were Stone’s campaign contributors Ben Tarbutton, Jr and Hugh Tarbutton, both donating $500.00. Hugh Tarbutton chairs the Washington County Industrial Development Authority. (The Tarbuttons have been advocates for coal fired Plant Washington, organized by Power4Georgians since it was announced over four years ago.)  Ben Turnipspeed, an engineer who has worked for the cities of Sandersville, Davisboro, Deepstep, and Louisville, donated $200.00 to Stone’s campaign.

The citizens of Georgia know that the EPD failed completely and absolutely to conduct proper inspections at King America Finishing during a five year period when the company dumped unpermitted fire retardant chemicals into the river. The EPD tucked its tail between its legs and entered into a $1M consent agreement with King Finishing, when the penalty could have been as high as $91M. And now Stone supports giving the EPD even more freedom to negoiate way our natural resources?

Right now I don’t have a lot of confidence in the inspection and oversight conducted by the EPD, or its ability and willingness to pursue companies and local governments responsible for spills and dumping which endanger the drink water supplies of both municipal water systems and home and farms depending on well water in the aquifer. Drinking water alone is a reason to have and uphold the highest regulations and penalties possible. Add the damage to wildlife, recreational areas, and businesses connected to the rivers, and the damage is even greater. Georgia can’t afford to have dirty water.

I called Stone’s office and left a message that will leave no doubt in his mind how disappointed I am in this bill and his support of it. The bill now moves to the Senate Rules Committee. Citizens across the state are contacting Rules Committee members Jack Hill, Buddy Carter, and Johnny Grant by phone and email to urge them to VOTE NO on SB 269. These three senators know and value the rivers in our state. We are counting on them to stand up for clean water for all Georgians. Apparently we can’t count on Jesse Stone to do that.

Breast cancer survivors for Planned Parenthood

Last year in January while I was recovering from a lumpectomy and waiting to start radiation (because early detection saves lives and contributes to better outcomes), a group of friends wanted to make a donation in honor of a young friend (32 at the time) who had just lost both breasts to cancer (she has the BRCA gene). We got the comfort food and flowers to her, but wanted to really do our homework on which organization to donate to in her honor.

Several of us checked Charity Navigator and Charity Watch (Guide Star is also good) to learn what percentage of funds are used for admin costs, research, providing screenings and other preventive care, and education (we agreed on the National Breast Cancer Foundation).

At the same time, Steven Colbert gave a Tip of the Hat to Susan G. Komen and their use of at least $1M of donor dollars a year to sue mom and pop groups working to support cancer research and cancer patients. That’s a lot of money spent to essentially bully small efforts to help sick people be healthy.

Fast forward almost 13 months later, and Komen has caved to pressure from anti-choice advocates and Rep. Cliff Stearns of Florida. Yesterday the GOP primary candidates were competing with coverage of Komen’s decision to defund Planned Parenthood.

Komen’s funding has been used to provide breast exams to women who rely on Planned Parenthood for healthcare services. These women are often poor, underinsured or uninsured, and do not have access to a family doctor or gynecologist for regular care.

Now Komen, an organization established to honor a breast cancer victim, has said it won’t help fund preventive care services like breast exams (and cervical cancer screenings, which is one of the most difficult cancers to identify because the cancer is usually advanced before the patient suspects a problem).

There is no evidence that Planned Parenthood misappropriated the funds for abortion or other services.  What is known is that Komen Vice-President Karen Handel, who served as the Secretary of State for Georgia before resigning to launch a failed bid for the GOP nomination for governor here, campaigned long and hard against state funding for breast and cervical cancer screenings which went to Planned Parenthood. Unfortunately what she couldn’t accomplish in Georgia she has now managed on a national level.

And, because it bears repeating by women who grew up while the battle was waged for safe and legal access to abortions, or came to adulthood not long after the dust began to settle, the issue isn’t whether abortion is good, moral, a form of birth control, etc. Really desperate women who want to end a pregnancy will find a way to do that regardless of whether it is safe or legal. We endanger lives without access to safe and legal abortion.

This defunding is a result of politics driven by such socially, politically, and religiously conservative officials that they will strip away access to preventive health care for poor women. If the lost funds aren’t made up to Planned Parenthood, how many women will not find the cancer soon enough? How many young children will suffer, and perhaps be left without a mother who makes pancakes from scratch on Sunday morning before going to church?

I donated to Planned Parenthood last night. I am remiss in not giving them even a small donation in the past.

Later today I am stuffing all my Komen Race for the Cure t-shirts and the return address labels they have sent me into an envelope and sending them back to:

Nancy Brinker
CEO, Susan G. Komen
5005 LBJ Freeeway
Suite 250
Dallas, TX 75244

I support access to preventive health care and good health information for all Americans. Especially for the mothers, daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, and godmothers, now more than ever.

Moving from one site to another

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