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Legislature OKs exempting road projects from state environmental law

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Installation of the Juniper Street bioswale. Courtesy of Midtown Alliance.

A bill passed by the General Assembly Tuesday allows the Georgia Department of Transportation to waive environmental reporting requirements when determining the potential impact of a proposed road project.

The law only applies if the road project is fully state-funded.

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Dustin Sloan of E.R. Snell Contractor works on diverging diamond at the Pleasant Hill Road overpass along the I-85 expressway in Gwinnett County on Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2013. HYOSUB SHIN / HSHIN@AJC.COM

Senate Bill 346 passed the House by a vote of 146-22 and now goes to the Governor’s desk for signature. Critics of the bill said it creates a lack of transparency and accountability that could ultimately be a threat to historical sites. However, the law’s sponsor, Sen. Brandon Beach, R-Alpharetta, said it was merely a cost-saving measure that does not negatively impact the environment or historical treasures.

The bill lets GDOT avoid complying with the reporting requirements of the Georgia Environmental Policy Act (GEPA) when building road and airport projects that cost less than $100 million. However, GDOT would still have to complete an evaluation if the department determines the project could damage a historical or cultural site.

READ PAST COVERAGE: Critics say Georgia bill threatens historic sites with bulldozers.



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