ATLANTA – Legislation environmental advocates fear would prohibit Georgia cities and counties from setting clean energy goals for their communities has been introduced in the General Assembly.
Under House Bill 150, local governments in Georgia would not be allowed to adopt building codes based on the source of energy they use. The legislation also would apply to state agencies.
More than 40 cities across the country have banned gas in new construction in an effort to encourage clean energy. Natural gas derived from fracking, which involves injecting liquid at high pressure into subterranean rock, has been a particular focus of environmental groups.
While cities in Georgia haven’t gone that far, Atlanta, Augusta, Athens, Savannah and Clarkston have adopted measures committing to a goal of 100% clean energy tied to certain target dates in the future.
“ I would think that the local governments that have passed 100% clean ordinances will strongly oppose House Bill 150,” Mark Woodall, legislative chair for the Georgia chapter of the Sierra Club, wrote in an e-mail. “You can’t get to 100% clean without moving homes and commercial locations off of fracked gas.”
An identical “preemption” bill was introduced in the Georgia Senate last year shortly before the coronavirus pandemic struck the state, forcing the General Assembly to take a two-month break. As a result, the legislation failed to make headway.
Georgia Power Co. has long championed an “all-of-the-above” approach to power generation that includes coal and gas, but also wind and solar as well as nuclear power.
“Georgia Power supports House Bill 150 and similar legislation that promotes and maintains a diversified mix of energy supply options for local communities,” said John Kraft, a spokesman for the Atlanta-based utility.
For local governments, the bill cuts both ways. Cities that run their own utilities – members of either the Municipal Electric Authority of Georgia or the Municipal Gas Authority of Georgia – would see it as beneficial to have preemptive legislation that ensures gas remains part of the fuel mix, said Charlotte Davis, deputy director of governmental relations for the Georgia Municipal Association (GMA).
But philosophically, the GMA opposes legislation at the state level that takes away local control, Davis said.
“We’re the first to scream when it comes to preemption,” she said.
Davis also noted that none of the Georgia cities that have set 100% clean energy goals has imposed an outright ban on gas or any other forms of energy.
House Bill 150 has been assigned to the House Energy, Utilities & Telecommunications Committee. The committee’s chairman, Rep. Don Parsons, R-Marietta, is among its cosponsors.