AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – It came to light after a historical Augusta church complained it wasn’t notified when a biofuel plant was looking for approval to move in nearby.
“Now, we’re beginning a real discussion about how that needs to change. This is just the first step in a very, very long journey,” said Savannah Riverkeeper Tonya Bonitatibus.
Last month, commissioners directed the administrators to study the impact of an Environmental Justice Ordinance and the regulations requiring new industries to provide additional information to city leaders and the surrounding community.
The administrator had the Planning and Engineering Departments, along with the Chamber and Augusta Economic Development Authority, weigh in, and the four said, they do not support new regulations.
“It would make everything almost impossible to get permitted as it asks for a lot of data with no clear sources on where to get it. If you don’t provide one piece of information, your request just gets denied,” said Cal Wray Executive Director of the Economic Development Authority
Commissioner Jordan Johnson feels a compromise can be struck.
“We can do it in a way that won’t hurt business. I don’t buy this notion that helping people will hurt business,” said Johnson.
Bonitatibus says the city should have gotten input from more than just city departments and industry recruiters.
“I would urge the health community to be involved. As a neighborhood community, there should have been a wider breath of stakeholders at the table,” she said.
“It gave multiple ways to kill a project, and very few to actually go through the process and be successful,” said Wray.
The conversation is underway, but based on the administrators report, it’s not talking up an Environmental Justice Ordinance.