SAVANNAH, GA – May 30, 2017 – Former Ogeechee Riverkeeper Emily Markesteyn Kurilla traveled to Atlanta to attend parts of the 2017 Georgia Assembly session, focusing on legislation at the state level. Ogeechee Riverkeeper staff has also been paying close attention to propsed federal changes that have the potential to greatly affect the nonprofit organization – the Frivolous Lawsuits Act and proposed federal budget cuts.
The Frivolous Lawsuits Act (H.R. 1179) will deter the public from filing citizen suits against polluters – a right provided under the Clean Water Act. The Clean Water Act states that it is unlawful to discharge any pollutant into navigable waters without a permit. The Frivolous Lawsuits Act bill states that citizens who take legal action against water polluters for Clean Water Act violations would be forced to pay the defendant’s legal fees if they lose the case for any reason.
The Frivolous Lawsuits Act will greatly affect citizens and nonprofit groups like Ogeechee Riverkeeper, putting them at risk for financial ruin and discouraging them from taking legal action against polluters. If this bill had been in effect during 2011, it would have discouraged Ogeechee Riverkeeper and landowners from taking legal action against King America Finishing for discharge violations.
Any budget cuts for the Federal Environmental Protection Agency will negatively impact protections for natural resources and put even more of a burden on the state government. Currently, Georgia’s Environmental Protection Division is already underfunded and understaffed. These federal resources help pollution investigations, beach water quality monitoring, and a host of other protection programs. Federal budget cuts would leave Georgia citizens without important environmental protections for their property and families.
“It is important that citizens and small, nonprofit organizations like Ogeechee Riverkeeper are able to be heard and have a voice – the proposed budget cuts and Frivolous Lawsuits Act would greatly affect that,” Markesteyn Kurilla said. “That is why it is vital that these issues be brought to the attention of the community.”
The mission of Ogeechee Riverkeeper is to protect, preserve, and improve the water quality of the Ogeechee River Basin. For more information about this organization please visit www.ogeecheeriverkeeper.org.
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